Why Size your book video trailer


Grab your readers with a video hook

I’m a sucker for videos of cute baby animals. Kittens, elephants, bears. Thankfully, the Internet is full of these and millions of other videos that help pass the time between waking up and when the caffeine kicks in. I must confess that I’m miserly with this bit of morning time. Before I watch a video, I check to see how long it is. Over two minutes? I won’t even click play. Doesn’t matter if if features a dancing penguin kissing a polar bear.

Certainly, I’m not the only fussy video viewer out there. With our social media feeds being bombarded by video, viewers are pickier than ever with their viewing diet. So, if a two-minute video about something that I know interests me isn’t going to get watched, how much worse would it be for a commercial endeavor such as a book preview?

Book video trailers have been a staple in publishing promotion for nearly ten years now. And like regular commercials, some are terrific and some stink. Most fall into the middle ground. They are good representations of a book, but fail to hook viewers. 

And no hook = no views. That’s the sad reality of promoting on social media today.

So how do you hook viewers? First rule: keep it short. 

Think about it. Would you sit through a two minute commercial if it interrupted your favorite sitcom? I’d probably get up and make a snack. We have a little more leeway online, but keeping your book video to the one minute mark will ensure that more readers hit the play button. And like medicine, it doesn’t matter how good your promo is if readers don’t digest it.

Hold on, you say. There are many book videos that are two minutes and longer. That’s true. And, just like commercials, longer videos can work. Take for example the Budweiser ads or Friskies “Dear Kitten” series. But these commercials aren’t pure promo. They tell a story. And viewers watch them for the same reason that I watch baby elephants taking a bath; they’re fun. 

Longer book videos that tap into the fun, cute or inspirational vein can work well. Likewise, videos that offer something more, such as an interview, often need more than two minutes. In fact, while researching this article, I looked at the view count for many trailers I’ve made over the years. The ones with the higher view count weren’t always the 60 second trailers. I’ve made many successful trailers of 2 minutes or more. But these videos use visual and audio cues to hook the reader along throughout the video, prompting them every few seconds to keep viewing, much in the same way that a good novel prompts you to keep turning pages. 

Unfortunately, many book video trailers fail to hook the viewer. These tend to be the longer videos that could have easily been trimmed to a shorter, more effective promo. Let’s take an example. A friend of mine (we’ll call her Leslie) made a trailer for her self-publish memoir. Leslie’s video was two and a half minutes long with images of her early life, landscapes of the farm she grew up on, and sweet music playing in the background. Each image stayed on the screen for over ten seconds, far longer than I needed to take it in. The accompanying text did a good job of describing the book, but the slow pace soon made my finger itchy to click “next video.” Because Leslie is a friend and I wanted to learn about her book, I watched it to the end. But those were 150 seconds of my life that I will never get back. A snappier, sixty second, video could have related all the same information and left me satisfied rather than grumpy.

So while the length of your video is not the final deciding factor of its success, consider it as the first and most important hook. 

Feel free to post a link to your trailer in the comments below. I’ll offer a short and honest critique of all trailers posted. 

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And watch some book video trailer on our YouTube channel.

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