Promote Your Book… the You Tube Way

By Mike MacLean

Even bestselling authors don’t have many avenues to promote their books.  There are reviews of course, and signings.  A few score local radio spots; fewer still are lucky enough to nab some TV time.  But a national commercial?  Unless your name is J.K. Rowling, Steven King, or James Patterson, forget about it.

Maybe this is why more and more novelists are turning to You Tube and promoting their latest offerings with video trailers.

"The battle is ongoing to grab some attention," said Shotgun Opera author Victor Gischler.  "I’ve been told my novels are very cinematic, so maybe a trailer was the natural way to go."

9954745 According to Gischler, the  "fine folks" at Bantam Dell surprised him by producing a trailer for Suicide Squeeze.  He was so pleased with the results he asked them to do another for his novel Shotgun Opera, which was later posted online. 

"I didn’t even know about the Shotgun trailer at first," said Gischler. "A friend e-mailed me and said, ‘Dude, I just saw your book trailer on the Onion AV website!’  I was thrilled.  Not only was the trailer cool, but it was apparently getting in front of the right demographic."

Monster novelist David Wellington claims his own demographic as "The entire population of planet earth." 

"It’s a very competitive industry out there and it’s not just a question of periodically crossing over into another audience anymore," said Wellington.  "These days you have to be constantly broadening your appeal and finding new markets to serve."

After brainstorming with his Webmaster and wife, Wellington came up with 12698706 a concept to showcase the anti-romantic vampires of his newest book Thirteen Bullets.  The result was a You Tube trailer entitled the "Evolution of Horror."

"I’ve tried a lot of different ways to reach people with my books," said Wellington.  "…putting them online, putting them on iPods, putting them in bookstores, and now this video."

Author Don Bruns didn’t stop at You Tube when promoting his upcoming crime novel Stuff to Die For.  A 30 second version of his trailer will also play in 20 theaters in the Miami area.  According to Bruns, four grad students from the University of Miami produced, wrote, cast and directed the video, which has already created quite a buzz.

"I think anyone who is intrigued with action and adventure will like the video," said Bruns. "It’s well acted, has plenty of action and hopefully it will attract new readers."

12711785 Bruns went on to say that he has received very positive feedback from the trailer.  He even heard from several agents who thought it had feature film possibilities.

But the question remains, will these trailers actually garner increased book sales?  And how can their success be measured?

Both Bruns and Wellington have been contacted by readers who bought their books after seeing the trailers, which suggests the videos are doing the job. 

Yet Victor Gischler perhaps described the possibilities of video promotion best, saying, "If you can produce a really cool trailer, get readers jazzed for your story, provide a link to Amazon or something … hey, I have to think it’ll help."

To check out Victor Gischler’s trailer click HERE.

To check out David Wellington’s trailer click HERE.

To check out Don Bruns’ trailer click HERE.

And this just in, a first look at Alexandra Sokoloff’s trailer for her upcoming release The PriceDownload ThePrice_v004.wmv

As always Murder fans, I have questions.  To the writers, would you ever consider creating a video trailer?  Do you think this is a good vehicle for book promotion?  To the readers, could a video trailer convince you to buy a book?

And, if you know about any great book trailers out there please feel free to post a link in your comments.

21 thoughts on “Promote Your Book… the You Tube Way

  1. Rob Gregory Browne

    I created a trailer for my first book, Kiss Her Goodbye. But one of the problems I have with book trailers in general is that they’re usually a visual experience and are something quite different than reading a book.

    When I see a book trailer with actors and locations and props, etc., I’m now looking at someone else’s interpretation of the work — something my own imagination would normally do. So I come to the work with my perception colored by what I’ve seen.

    Toni Causey did a very well produced video trailer for her first Bobbie Faye book and as much as I admire Toni and her crew for putting it together, and as much as I appreciate the final product — the actress playing Bobbie Faye is NOT what I pictured as Bobbie Faye at all. I, in fact, pictured Toni, and am glad I didn’t see the trailer before I read the book.

    Also, when I look at a fully dramatized book trailer, my brain seems to think it’s looking at a trailer for a MOVIE, and this ultimately — I think — does the book a disservice.

    Of the three examples you posted, I think Gishler’s works best, because it relies on the written word to get its message across.

    I tried to do the same thing with the Kiss Her Goodbye trailer, using sound and music to enhance the words, but have no idea whether it’s effective.

    Do any of these videos help sell books?

    Beats the hell out of me.

  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Very funny that this should be your topic of the day, Mike, because I just yesterday finished a trailer for THE PRICE, which Circle of Seven Productions did for me – and I’m hoping to get Sheila Clover of COS to do an interview for us!!

    I was really not sold on the whole book trailer thing because I’m so used to movie trailers that cost millions and I didn’t think book trailers could compete. My web designer, Beth Tindall, did a great flash movie for THE HARROWING – http://alexandrasokoloff.comthat I’ve gotten tons of postive feedback on and I know it’s helped sell the book.

    But I kept hearing fabulous things about the trailers that Circle of Seven did for author friends like Heather Graham, Christine Feehan, Cherry Adair, Deb LeBlanc, Kayla Perrin. If you notice a pattern there, you’re right – all women, all tremendous sellers, and though they’re thriller, suspense and paranormal writers they have a huge following with romance readers.

    When I went to Romantic Times this year, at the mass book signing, these and other trailers were projected on the wall throughout the entire signing. I was so mesmerized I was having trouble focusing on my own signing. Hell, yeah, the trailers made me want to check out some of those books.

    That’s when I decided to do a trailer for THE PRICE, and I’m over the moon about how it turned out. I don’t have it on YouTube yet (too soon – THE PRICE doesn’t come out till January). But I’ll send it to you as an attachment and maybe you can put it somewhere that other people can see, because it’s quite different stylistically from the three trailers you have linked.

    I have to say I’m not a fan of the live action trailers, myself, which might just be personal preference, because I’m a sound freak. What really bugs me about book trailers is the poor sound quality, and the hardest thing of all to get right in these things is dialogue. I’ve never seen it work well and it’s a turnoff, to me. But again – personal prejudice. I’ll be very interested to hear what other people have to say.

  3. Mike MacLean


    I totally get what you’re saying. Once you see a character on film, it’s very hard to picture them any other way. Think Harry Potter. Creating a perception of characters through our own imagination is unique to reading. It’s something that a movie, or a play, or a video game, or a comic doesn’t allow us to do. So your point is well taken.


    Both your trailers are great. They set the tone through sound and imagery without giving too much away. They really make you want to grab the book.

  4. pari

    Mike,This is something I’ve considered for my new book, but am not yet convinced. To me, the main plus is that you can distribute in a lot of ways without having to pay for many of those outlets.

    The downside includes all the comments so far — and the fact that it often costs so much to produce the darn things.

    I’m going to check in throughout the day to see what others have to say.

    Thanks again.

  5. Naomi

    I enjoy watching book trailers, although I haven’t quite purchased a book because of them. Here are a few that have caught my eye–

    a tongue and check treatment on Lisa Gardner, very different and funny:

    And two live action trailers for YA books:

    What’s interesting is how teens are making their own book trailers for books they love (just check out the trailers for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight on youtube).

    It seems as if this a great medium for already popular books. I’m not quite sure how midlisters can best capitalize. Murderati should definitely have a section for its members’ book trailers. It also would be helpful if less known books can somehow be linked to more popular book trailers that are similar in content and possible fan base.

  6. Louise Ure

    At first I felt that a visual promotion of a printed product would not be true to the medium … and then I realized how often I use photos and illustrations in my blog posts to get my point across.

    I think that book trailers will soon become as mandatory for authors as websites are.

    I’m going to try one for The Fault Tree.

  7. toni mcgee causey

    Thanks, Rob. (Um, I think. You pictured me? blowing up things? and still spoke to me at TFest? You are a brave man.)

    I’m glad I did one last year; it accomplished some stuff I wanted (some in-house, regarding sales reps). I’m not sure if it helped with the actual customers. I’ve gotten some mail that said it did, but some that said they’d have preferred thinking of the characters images on their own. There’s no way to know how many people view a trailer and decide not to buy.

    If I could edit that long one, I’d cut it by a minute. There are some pitfalls I would avoid next time, though; some things I’d do differently. I’m not sure yet if I’ll do another one. At least, not yet.

    Mollie Smith, who created the Early Ink site, is working on a way to sort of do a mini-you-tube thing for authors (for free) where they can put up their traielrs along with their book information (also for free). Sort of like a book channel where everything’s collected in one place. If a site like that (hers or someone else’s) became the hub / place to go for book buyers wanting additional information, then trailers and/or podcasts might become extremely valuable tools. As they stand now, they’re still hit or miss as to whether or not they promote the book to the audience you’re targeting (or, hell, any audience for that matter).

    Just like film and TV, distribution channels make all of the difference in the world.

  8. Mike MacLean

    I agree with Louise that book trailers may soon become as mandatory for authors as websites. I wonder, however, how effective they will be as a sales tool once everyone does them.


    If you don’t mind me asking, how much did it cost to produce your own trailer? Do you think you will get a return in terms of sales?

    It was the one question I neglected to ask David Wellington. David, if you’re reading this, I pose the same question to you.

    Thanks everyone for the comments.

  9. Naomi

    I actually don’t mind the voiceovers for book trailers because they signal to me a strong narrative POV, hallmarks of a book. I couldn’t see your trailer, Alex–something weird with my Windows Media Center. How do I set it up to view downloadable videos?

  10. Candace Salima

    Thanks for blogging on this today and I appreciate all the comments that have been made. As an author, I’ve been playing around with this idea for awhile, but worried about how cheesy some of the trailers were. I liked some of the links–you’ve all given me something to think about.

  11. Mike MacLean


    I didn’t get it either. And to be honest, I really didn’t get the video. But the blog title “Smart Bitches who Love Trashy Books” is a keeper.

    Thanks for the trailers today.

  12. gregory huffstutter

    I particularly liked the David Wellington trailer. It doesn’t spoil the book — and is executed in a way that makes me think: “If the commercial is this clever, I bet the book is too.”

    For writers considering their own video spots, I’ve got a link to the ’12 Master Format’ creative executions here:

    Also, check back to ‘Buzz, Balls & Hype’ this Thursday as I’ll be covering how videos can be used for viral advertising.

  13. Sheila Clover English

    When Circle of Seven first started doing book trailers years ago we Googled the term and there were zero returns on it, except for a couple that called Book Mobiles “trailers” on occasion, but nothing about book video. So, COS trademarked the term and went about trying to convince people that book video would sell books. Now if you Google the term Book Trailer you get 24,100,000 results.

    We’ve come a long way! lol

    Now, the term Book Trailer has become so common we don’t even worry about trying to enforce the trademark. It’s impossible. But, it does give us a few benefits, like having NPR or Newsweek find us for interviews.

    People are still so interested in the visual part of the trailer, and rightly so, that they often lost sight of the half of the equation – Distribution.

    If you have the greatest trailer known to man and it is a $50,000 production what does it matter if it isn’t effectively distributed? It could still “wow” the sales team and look good on YouTube and your site, but if that’s all the use you’re getting out of it you need to rethink the strategy.

    Book Trailers sell books. We just did a survey recently and we know this to be true. The survey results are now in the hands of Borders and BN and I’m very interested in getting feedback from them.

    Our average book trailer is seen by tens of thousands of viewers. If we do Long Tail distribution it will be seen by about 100,000 or so. This is even more significant when you realize that the viewers are a targeted audience of readers and potential readers. And to realize that someone had to engage themselves with the video by clicking that play button, which is more promising than a casual glance in a print ad that will soon be thrown away and forgotten. Your video is up for years.

    Borders, BN and many other booksellers take our videos as content and in batches. Our online tv station, Reader’s Entertainment TV has become very popular with readers and we get fan mail for author videos daily.

    Even if you don’t like the live action videos (though 78% of those surveyed prefer them) we do relatively inexpensive videos like The Price, which booksellers love btw, that get great results. We’ve had booksellers take even our simplest videos ($250 and it was seen by tens of thousands of established readers) though the preference goes to something with a little more excitement to it. The point is, they are not as expensive as you might think.

    Book video is an effective way to promote your book, but it is a tool and you need to use it as such. If you’re not utilizing it beyond your site and YouTube you’re missing out on some great opportunities.

    If you have a video yourself and would like to have it put up on Reader’s Entertainment TV please upload it to and send me an email at and I’ll have our station manager add it. REC TV shows more than just COS videos. And we advertise in USA Today online as well as other popular venues. And we currently don’t charge anything to add video to our Guest Book Video station.

    Here are a couple of examples of our trailers-

    A live action trailer- The Lady of Serpents

    Another live action one, but with a different creative aspect to it is Ultra Violet which is more humor based-

    Here is a mini teaser-

    and a level 2 mini teaser-


  14. kristi

    here’s an interesting thing an author is doing with a trailer-

    rather than making a single trailer herself, sarah langan is making fans create the trailer.

    this is a simple example of how a trailer’s success depends what the author does with it. if he/she’s just posted it on his/her site and leaving it up there, i think it might be pointless and perhaps even take away from any cooler content on the site. if it looks cheap, well, that’s not so good either. but if the author involves fans, it could greatly bring attention to the book and also incite a viral effect, getting a plethora of new fans to check out the author and even use the book as a creative outlet.

    if the author puts it on a social networking site, it could do wonders. if an author involves

  15. kristi


    fans, it could create a viral effect or create an appreciated creative outlet for fans. relevance is key.

    do you think these work?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *