Self-Printing Promotion: Book Trailers


I’ve blogged before about book trailers and to summarize what I said then, here are some handy bullet points:

Today I’d like to draw your attention to bullet point number four. In my previous book trailer posts, I ranted about live action book trailers, i.e. the ones that act out scenes from the book and show us what characters from it look like, sound like, etc. I said I didn’t like these because I felt like I didn’t want to know what anyone looked like or sounded like; I wanted to form my own pictures in my head as I read the author’s words. The book trailers that intrigued me were the ones that had nothing to do with what happened in the book, like Roland Denning’s On Meeting an Agent and The Making of a Book Cover for Gail Carriger’s Blameless, and the fact that I’d never seen a live action book trailer that didn’t make me cringe might have also had something to do with it.

Then I saw this, the book trailer for The Dating Detox by Gemma Burgess, and I completely changed my mind.

[I’ll wait patiently now while you go and watch it.]

This, I think, is pretty much the perfect book trailer. (And judging by what I’ve seen of other people’s reactions to it, I’m not alone in thinking this.) It’s funny, smart and stylish – just like the book! – and rather than flashing us a choppy montage of people and places from the book, it actually plays out a scene from it. As it ends on a cliffhanger, we want to know what happens next. We’re already rooting for the book’s main character, Sass. And if we do one thing in our life, we’re going to find out where she got those shoes.

The Dating Detox is published by Avon, but Gemma took it upon herself to produce the trailer and even wrote the script. You can read more about how she went about it on her blog, but you can tell by looking at it that she didn’t resort to dressing up members of her family and/or digging out the old Camcorder – this was a professional operation. It also has a fantastic book trailer site to go with it. (I SO want one.) And do you know what this means, self-pubbers? It means you can do it too.

So three months have passed and my Mousetrapped trailers have been kicking around the web for even longer than that. Were they useful? It’s hard to say. I know I got plenty of ‘Oooh, I love that little video you have on your site!’ type comments but it’s impossible to determine if having the trailer actually translated into sales, or if it did, how many of them. But there’s so many places you can upload it to you’ll never know who’ll come across it and – bonus! – I have Google Video search results.

Let’s watch my mini-trailer one more time, shall we? Just for old time’s sake…

As for Gemma, in only a few days The Dating Detox trailer has had thousands of views and heaps of praise; I’d be shocked if it hasn’t brought her some sales. I think we can all agree it was worth her making it, don’t you think?

Read Gemma’s blog, visit her official site, follow her Twitter or buy The Dating Detox.

Next on Self-Printing Promotion: Making the most of Amazon (Wednesday)

10 thoughts on “Self-Printing Promotion: Book Trailers

  1. Marcus says:

    Very professional trailer that. Thanks for blogging about it. Would be interesting to know what it cost (way too much for most self-publishers I suspect).

    Have you seen the trailers for “One Day” by David Nichols? They are also little bits enacted by the two protagonists. Also very professional. They only show the faces briefly, which is a good trick. It probably helps that Nichols is a pro screenwriter.

    The vids are on youtube.
    They encouraged me to get the book, so trailer marketing worked in that case. Still, the main thing for me is still a sample chapter and a personal recommendation.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Hi Marcus,

      One Day is actually one of my fave books but I’d never seen the trailer. I just had a look and I do like it (it’s this one, I think?, but I’m more interested in what writers can do by themselves with limited resources. (I would assume that Nicholls, being a bestselling, hugely popular author, would have a marketing team working with him and, if not, plenty of £££ to make a trailer! We can all dream…!)

      But you’re completely right about the chapter/recommendation. I think book trailers are a great way to spread the word about the existence of your book, but I don’t know if they alone are enough to make people buy, especially since they have no connection to the writing of the book, i.e. they give you no idea whether or not the writing is good or bad. And I’m going to do future blog post about first chapters – I released mine into the wild pre-publication and I know for a fact I got sales from it (unlike my trailer).

      I don’t know if Gemma is up for revealing a ball park cost (Gemma…?) but my brother is an actor and I know that you can get professional services for cheaper than you might think. There’s plenty of young actors out there looking for professionally produced shorts to put on their showreels, and trainee editors, etc. looking to build a portfolio. They help you; you help them. (That’s also how I got my book cover so cheap.) It’d be interesting to find out though.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

      • Gem says:

        Hi there!

        It’s me, Gemma. (The author.)

        Completely agree with you re: book trailers vs quality of the writing, but I hoped to show the tone and humour – since, after all, the voiceover is a bit like first person narrative. I wanted it to be compelling, with characters you could immediately identify with, and leave you with that ‘what happens next?’ feeling. Most of all, I hoped (with my fingers very tightly crossed) that people might find it funny enough to send on to their friends.

        I think people can assimilate visual storytelling very quickly, which is an advantage book trailers have over extracts. I don’t think anyone has cracked the best way to give people tasters of books yet. I once received a mini-book of paranormal first chapters with an Amazon order, and if I was more paranormally-inclined I would probably have read it and ordered something. Sadly, they did the market research all wrong. Tant pis.

        Anyway! To the point.

        Am very happy to divulge costs.


        Hiring the camera equipment was £320 – it’s an amazing lightweight digital camera that was invented, like, yesterday.

        The website was created by a friend for £100.

        I begged the actors to work for free, and the extras are friends and family (and me) who were wonderful enough to spend nine hours standing around drinking wine, two days in a row (real troopers). I bought them all lunch both days and a lot of wine on the Sunday – not sure if you want to include that as a cost…

        The biggest cost really was the time investment. I work full time, was finishing my second book and got married the week after we filmed this, so this wasn’t exactly a priority – I had a lot of early mornings where I’d work on the script at 5.30am (not fun). My friend Sam is the director and he edited it at home around his day job, too. (I am buying that man dinner. And an island. Just as soon as I make some money.)

        I think I was pretty damn lucky. When I said to people ‘I’m making a trailer, like a short film, to see if it can sell some more damn books, my budget is absolutely nothing, want to help?’ they all said ‘YES!’. And that was it. I think anyone could do the same.

        As for whether it sells any more books – time will tell. I’ll come back here to report.

        I wrote a little piece about debut authors and self-promotion (AKA book-pimping) for BookBrunch and I think it might be interesting for SP authors, too… (I hope you don’t mind my posting this Cath?!)

        Thank you for having me and thank you again for such a lovely post.


      • Marcus says:

        Hi Catherine,

        I think the trailers for “One Day” actually required less resources than Gemma used — which only speaks for her abilities.

        There are only two actors. Each episode is less than a minute without the titles.

        Locations are: a bedroom, a flat interior (desk, a mattress on the floor), a phone booth, and Arthur’s Seat overlooking Edinburgh.

        Travel costs aside, those are props and locations anyone has access to for free.

        There are four episodes. Here is episode 4 which is filmed on Arthur’s Seat.

        It does depend on the type of book. If it’s based in the present day with a realistic plot and characters, then the locations may be free to access, no costumes are needed. If you can pay for camera hire and get actors willing to work for their showreels, then you are on almost equal footing to what a publishing house can offer.

        Let’s face it, the trailers done by publishing houses or featured in TV book review magazines, are generally not that marvelous.

        Hmm, I’m thinking one could approach an Indie filmmaker and see whether they want to collaborate. They want to showcase their skills too. If someone can offer a good script and pay for meals, transport fuel etc, then they might bring along the equipment. Or at least they might do it for a small fee, no more than website design. Worth considering.

        I did a bit of amateurish movie making at university and back then student actors joined in for the fun of it too. Today, cameras and editing software are all cheaper, lighter and easy to use. I think it’s realistically doable and affordable by a self-publisher.

        Speaking of amazing stuff on a low-budget. Have you seen “Conversations with Other Women” with Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart?

        This was done by an Independent filmmaker on a shoe-string budget. It looks great too. A man and a woman meet at a wedding reception. A very unconventional one-night-stand encounter, using various split-screen techniques to tell it from each characters POV, simultaneously at times!

        On the DVD the director and editor give an encouraging pep talk to would-be filmmakers. They tell how all the editing tricks were done at home on two computers. Sounds amateurish, but you will not be able to tell. It looks better than many Hollywood productions. Helena Bonham Carter seldom looked so good, one of her best movies too, IMO.

  2. catherineryanhoward says:

    Thanks so much Gemma. (And OF COURSE I don’t mind you posting that link – all very helpful stuff!)

    Thanks for sharing your costs. (Lunches and islands excluded!) It’s not an insignificant cost but I think if you’re a self-published author who is serious about sales you have to spend money somewhere, and in terms of your current view count that price is a bargain. I actually thought, based on the finished product, that it would be a lot more than that. (But what did I know about your bargaining and bartering skills?!)

    I got one of those things too from Amazon and went on to buy the book. First chapters aren’t everything I suppose because the book – by a fairly famous bestselling US author – was pretty much awful after that! 😦 And I’m guessing you’d need a fairly high profile and/or track record for your publishers to fork out for thousands of those things…

    Word of mouth still seems to be the best bet, but we need someone (somewhere!) to start spreading it, and things like book trailers help that happen.

  3. catherineryanhoward says:

    Oh my God, Marcus – Conversations with Other Women is one of my favourite movies!!! I have literally never met another person who has even seen it, let alone liked it too. I found it on Netflix when I was going through my Aaron Eckhart phase (which continues, if I’m honest!) and I just adored it. It sounds so weird, it’s hard to explain it to people, but I wish they’d watch it. I had NO IDEA it was so low budget! (Must order the DVD. Is Aaron featured on the extras…?! LOL)

    You’re absolutely right though. Publisher book trailers Vs author book trailers – the publisher can’t compete. Writers are obviously creative people and who better to make a trailer than the person most intimately familiar with the book.

    I’ll say it again… well done Gemma! 🙂

  4. Marcus says:

    Hi Catherine,

    That’s great you already discovered “Conversations”. It’s one of those rare gems. I heard about it on a movie mailing list I co-moderate. Hardly anybody knew of it there either. I had to wait two years until the UK DVD appeared.

    The DVD extras are worthwhile. I think Mr. Eckhart gives an interview 🙂 There’s a director commentary too.

    The bit where the filmmakers talk about how they pulled it off on a low-budget, thanks to the prices of filming equipment nowadays, was done at the Sundance film festival. All very encouraging stuff.

    Speaking of authors successfully filming their own books, I think “Fanfan” with Vincent Perez and Sophie Marceau is a great example. (Note, *not* “Fanfan le husar” also with Vincent Perez, and Penelope Cruz, which is below par.)

    Fanfan is a French film. Not sure the DVD is available in the UK, but the book has been translated into English. The author, Alexandre Jardin, had several bestsellers in France and was quite a literary star there.

    Interestingly, the film was originally going to be made in the UK, but the French producers didn’t want an Anglo-American style rom-com, so…Jardin who had never directed a movie, brashly decided to do it himself…and did a great job.

    Fanfan is wonderfully quirky and playful, yet reveals psychological depths.

    A bookworm friend said she thought the movie was far better than the book in fact. It proves visual authors are quite capable of doing their own books justice.

    Oh, just found the whole movie is in parts on youtube. French only though. Type “fan fan part 1” in the search bar.

    • Marcus says:

      Hi Gemma,

      Thanks for all the details. Like Catherine, I could have no idea as to the extent of your network of filmmaking friends.
      Your trailer is an inspiration to all self-publishers.

      One minor niggling observation I made, and this may be the conundrum of book trailers, was a struggle between what to enact and when to bring on the “book voice”. When Rick has boringly waffled on about himself, it’s totally clear to the viewer that he’s a self-obsessed dickhead. The actor did a great job. Sass then says it too in words.

      I realise Sass on-screen is doing this to connect with the “book voice”, but it was too much a commentary of the obvious, which stopped the flow for a moment. She could have reacted to it strongly rather than merely echoing it in words.

      Sass has gained the viewer’s sympathy at this moment. It’s the opportunity to connect with the viewer even further, maybe get a laugh.

      I think one may need to stray from the book in a trailer, or risk a tug-of-war between two different media. I hope you know what I mean. It’s only very minor, but thought I’d mention it all the same.

      It would surprise me if you don’t get any sales from this great trailer. I think you will…increasingly over time.

      More than only book sales, this short film is a perfect pitch to movie producers! You don’t have to even get past the screenplay slush-pile. A six minute film is so much better to get their interest. You ought to ask your director friend and your agent how to approach producers with it. You could try “Working Title” Films for a start. See if somebody knows somebody…just have to get it in the right hands and I’m sure they’ll be interested.

      • Gem says:

        Hi Marcus

        Thank you so much for your feedback. I really appreciate it!

        The funny thing is that if you’d asked me, I wouldn’t have thought I had any filmmaking friends – most people I know work in advertising or the city. But when you ask hundreds of people ‘anyone know an actor?’ ‘anyone know a pub we can film at?’ you’d be surprised what can turn up… (God bless facebook.)
        You never know until you try, etc…


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