Talking Trailer Trash

By Elaine Viets

    All the cool kids have book trailers. If you’re lucky, your publisher will pop for one. If not, should you spend your money for your own trailer? If you’ve never done an exhibition trailer hire for one of your projects before, now may be the right time to make a call like this.

    I think it’s good advertising.
     A book trailer is an animated version of the elevator pitch. It’s fun to show off your trailer on your Web site and Facebook page, like tooling around in a new car. Of course, you have to Tweet it.
    Then what?
    The book trailer is just starting its work. I have four trailers now and find new uses for them with each book.
STL Public Library Central

    –  Signings at bookstores and libraries. Most bookstores and libraries will run book trailers on their Web sites and Facebook pages. Unlike author photos, which seem to feature identical “Is the ordeal over yet?” smiles, book trailers look fresh and different. Nobody ever says, “You don’t look like your book trailer.”
    – Media interviews.  Send the station your book trailer for their Web and FB pages. Some TV stations will use it on air. Others will post it on their Website, promoting your book after your interview. Newspapers use them, too. 
   – Special events. I do a number of charity events when my mysteries debut.  Some of the e-vites feature the book trailers.

   – Sites that show off book trailers. My favorite is Shelf Pleasure More free publicity. (That’s its name. I’m not pulling your leg, or anything else.)
    How much does a book trailer cost?
    A one or two-minute trailer can run $5,000 to $7,000 and up, especially if it has original video and a professional  announcer. Even with stock footage and photos, book trailers can quickly rack up price tag between one or two thousand dollars.
    If you’re clever, like TKZ’s Nancy Cohen, you can make your own book trailer. Nancy described how she made her trailer for “Shear Murder” here:

    I use EZ Book Covers. Kelly Nichols, one-half of the mystery duo PJ Parrish, is easy to work with, partly because she’s also a writer. Over the rumbles of rolling logs, I hope you’ll hear this: She’s good. I wouldn’t recommend her just because she’s a friend. I’ve paid less than $500 for all four book trailers, including music and photos.
   Pumped_for_Murder My first trailer, for “Pumped for Murder,” a Dead-End Job mystery about extreme body building, was  nearly two minutes long: 1:58.
Kelly had to really search to find photos of women body builders, but she got some doozies.
    Then mystery author James Swain told me that book trailers don’t have to be so long. He recommended short pitches to get the message across. He’s right. Here are the short trailers for “Final Sail,” set aboard a yacht:

    And “Board Stiff,” a paddleboarding mystery.


Thankfully, there’s no video of me taking standup paddleboard lessons.
    I have a show on Radio Ear Network, so I narrated my videos.  I also assembled a focus group of writers and friends to look at the rough cuts. That’s essential. Sometimes, I got so wrapped up in the video, I lost track of the story.

My new trailer is for “Fixing to Die,” my November Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mystery. This short trailer was different from the Dead-End Job mysteries, which are set in anything-goes South Florida. Josie is a St. Louis single mom who’s newly married and renovating her first house. The trailer and the music needed a sitcom feel.
    Six months worth of work and seventy thousand words reduced to 57 seconds: That’s the art and the goal of the book trailer.

24 thoughts on “Talking Trailer Trash

  1. Those are some great suggestions on where to use a book trailer, Elaine. I hadn’t thought of some of them, so thanks! I’ll view all your trailers later. It’s good to watch these to get a feel for them and to get ideas for your own. It can be fun searching the royalty free sites for photos to match your characters and locales. If you purchase these for the nominal fee, you can use them on a story board at Pinterest.

    • Nancy, your mastery of the digital world continues to amaze. My Webmaster wants me to start a Pinterest page, and I know it’s a good thing, but I’m not ready to go there yet.

    • I have a pinterest page of my book covers. Once you get a page, it’s easy to pin to it, but Nancy is really really using Pinterest. Creating image boards that inspired the book, characters, or settings can be gorgeous. Buying all those images is the right thing to do. but it can be costly. Nancy, my hat is off to you, girl.

  2. Great post, Elaine. I love your trailers. So funny. Perfect tone. I didn’t know Kelly had a side business either. Very cool.

    Your suggestions for trailer use are really good. B&N allows book trailers on your book page. No restrictions. I had my publisher PR contact to make the request.

    Amazon allows them on your author bio page and may consider a trailer for your actual book page if it doesn’t have the author’s website or any other online mention. I’ve heard big box stores like Target may also post trailers, but may have restrictions similar to Amazon.

    There are also online places to cross post them like Vimeo. Kelly might know some of these. I’ve done my own trailers before ( to keep the promo budget in check) but the two companies I paid to do a trailer uploaded them to 6-8 online spots.

    There may be no evidence that trailers sell a book but the name exposure is a good reason to get a trailer out there in many locations. Hundreds of hits in multiple locations is not bad traffic.

  3. Interesting way to spend my morning but I’m going to bookmark these sites and worry about them later. It looks like it might be fun but I’m not there yet. I’m still trying to get my head around line editors and content editors and juggling four books.

    Not complaining, though. I’m enjoying myself. Just like to whine once in a while.

  4. Feel free to whine, Amanda. I couldn’t write without an occasional whine & wine sessions. And tell me how you juggle four books. I’m having trouble with two.

  5. Be careful who your hire. Take a look at their portfolio. There are college kids who will do a trailer for $500. Make sure your brand and book shine through, not the top ten effects in iMovie.

    Also, I didn’t realize Dr. Ted was so… hunky.

  6. Wow… I must’ve hit the book trailer lottery! While mine doesn’t feature original footage or voice-overs, it’s very good and didn’t cost near $1000… if anyone is looking for a good, budget friendly trailer, Check out Erin Kelly @
    If you look under video editing, you’ll find her pricing.
    Thanks for the tip about B&N and Shelfpleasure!! 🙂

  7. My sister is very creative on the visual stuff. As I have mentioned here, she also does ebook covers at very reasonable prices and ads for conference booklets and such. And as part of her price, she posts the trailers to many sites that take them. With B&N and Amazon, of course, you are on your own. But we found it wasn’t too difficult to get ours posted not just on author pages but on the book pages. Like Elaine, we also run the trailers at our signings as folks are coming in to get their seats. They always congregate and watch them. At the least we take a laptop and loop it. But on our Michigan tour, we also took a small plasma TV and hooked it up to our computer so we had a large screen to work with. We open our talks with our trailers and also show slide shows of our book locations (like Mackinac Island). Readers really like this.

    • Taking a TV is beyond my ability. It’s hard enough to remember to bring a pen and a newsletter sign-up sheet to a signing! But I like yours and Elaine’s ideas about showing trailers at signings. I’ll have to figure out how to access it on my iPad.

  8. We LOVE book trailers over at Shelf Pleasure, and we’re so happy to showcase the trailer for ‘Board Stiff’ today! It makes us feel like summer will never end. We’re always looking for other trailers to feature – as well as new books and authors to promote in other ways – so please keep us in mind!
    – Kristen, Co-Founder, Shelf Pleasure

    • Kristen, how would one go about submitting trailers for your review and placement? Would you take a quick look at a few of ours? We just did a really cool one for a former police officer for the first in his two-book series, Wannabees! Love it. That will be our style from now on. Nothing long. No one has the attention span for long these days. Thanks! Sandy

  9. When the Benny Hill theme started on your Pumped for Murder trailer my morning brightened. I used to spend a lot of hours in the gym on the weight stack but never put that song to my workouts…workouts will never be the same again.

    I’ve only ever made one trailer for my book 65 Below whilst sitting around recovering from surgery last year. Not fancy, but it was fun nonetheless and I think gets the story across.

  10. Hey, there. Just to let you know… Good trailers do not have to cost as much as you quote. Those are for what we like to call feature film-type trailers. If you don’t have the budget for something like that, there are MANY options. I promise you. You can take a look at ours, for example. Very effective, and we teach people how to use them. Like you say, the trailer only works if you work it. Well, you didn’t say it in those words, but that is the deal. I would not spend thousands of dollars on a trailer unless it came with four wheels and a place to sleep four. Seriously, the value of the book trailer is to tease the reader into wanting to learn more. In my experience, readers are swayed to hit the buy button when such button is placed close to the trailer. Trailers also work well for series books. And they need to be short trailers. The imagery and scripting have to be very targeted, but I’m telling you that you can get PROFESSIONALLY created trailers for a few hundred dollars. Our FCM BLINKS™, for example, are 30 seconds (sometimes a bit longer) with about 8 images that we select (and you approve once we’ve compiled) and music. I personally write the script. That’s a whopping $350. These are showcase pieces for us and for the authors. So, it works out well on both sides of the fence.

    BTW, I landed here by mistake. Until recently I owned a business called Kill ZONE Gaming Centers!! So you caught my eye. That was a business my sons ran. Was fun, but I’m all about books and authors!

    I’ll bookmark your blogspot. I invite questions and comments. People can visit our site, too, at Thanks!!!

Comments are closed.