You’ve spent weeks, months and maybe even a year writing your book and now you’re ready to publish it. What’s the best way to market and sell your book?
One way is to create a book trailer. That’s a short video about your book – just like a movie trailer.
While having a video with moving images for a book with static words might seem like a funny fit, they do go well together because a video can bring your book to life in ways that your words alone may not.
In this post, I’ll share:
- The big mistake you want to avoid in creating your book trailer
- A simple four-question framework for putting it all together.
- And two book trailer examples from Tim Ferriss.
The Big Mistake Authors Make
The big mistake a lot of authors make in creating their book trailers is that they treat them like a book summary. They try to tell you the story of their book but in fewer words.
That’s flawed. A photo is not the person. A map is not the territory. And your book trailer is not your book.
Think about a movie trailer for an action movie. They might lead with a question that defines the context of the movie, like ‘Can farm boy Luke fight the evil empire and save the galaxy?’ But otherwise, it’s just a bunch of big explosions, car chase scenes and guys fighting with swords.
Importantly, the trailer doesn’t follow the same story arc as the book. It might even be a random mashup of action shots that aren’t even in the same order as in the movie.
Stop calling it a Book Trailer
I think the name ‘book trailer’ is misleading. To trail means to follow. And the point of your book trailer is not to follow. You want your potential reader to start with your ‘trailer’, not finish with it.
A better way to think about it is as a book teaser. It’s like a strip tease as foreplay to get you excited about having sex. Your goal is to seduce your reader into buying your book.
Think of the four questions in this video as four-play and your trailer as a teaser.
(Above: Does the book trailer for The Lincoln Myth appeal? Does it follow the four-question format of this post?)
The Best Four-Part Book Trailer Format
Previously, I shared the four phases for creating the Ultimate Product Sales Video. They were based on the 4-Mat model created by Bernice McCarthy.
I use the 4-Mat for most of my presentations because it’s based on four types of motivation. It’s perfect for a sales process and that includes your book trailer – I mean, your book teaser.
The four questions here are based on that framework.
Question 1: Why – It’s not about the Book
The first question asks why your viewers should care about your book.
But you don’t answer this by talking about your book. You need to go bigger than this and talk about the bigger problem that your audience is facing.
What’s the general, universal, existential problem that people face that your book addresses? In other words: What’s the problem?
I’ll use my book The Done Game Plan as an example. This book is a way to plan your projects. But in the why phase, I don’t want to launch into this yet. Before I do that, I need to connect people to a big goal or problem they want to tackle. This is something they care about.
Question 2: What – It’s still not about your book
In the second question, you provide a solution to the problem you’ve just raised.
Again, you don’t want to dive into your book yet either. Instead, you want to talk about the usual solution. You want to ask: How do people usually solve this problem? In other words: What’s the Usual Solution?
For The Done Game Plan, usually, when people want to tackle a big project, they do some planning. Great! Smart move. What I’ve done here is confirmed people are on the right track. They’re probably agreeing with me right now.
Question 3: How – Now you can talk about your book
And now, finally, in the third step, you can start talking about your book.
Think about the natural flow that we’ve set up here. Hopefully, your reader is now interested because you’ve talked about something they care about. And then you’ve confirmed what they probably already thought by talking about the usual solution that most people take.
Now you want to switch things up by talking about your solution. This is where your book comes in – it’s the real solution they need. You’re asking: What’s your solution?
For The Done Game Plan, people want to tackle a big project. And they’ve decided they need to create a project plan. But the problem with most project plans is that they’re designed as long to-do lists. A better way to plan your project is to design it as a game. You’ll be motivated for longer and this means you’re more likely to succeed. And (naturally), my book tells you how to do that.
Question 4: What Else – You must end with this
Hopefully, this naturally leads to question four: How can I grab a copy of your book? This is the call to action you must end your book trailer with. This is the point of your teaser, right?
Book Trailer Examples
My interest in creating a book trailer was inspired by the book trailers Tim Ferriss created for his books. And given, I had books to promote, and I was creating videos for YouTube it seemed like an obvious creative project to tackle. Here are two book trailers examples from Tim Ferriss.
1: The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss
To be honest, I’m a little confused by this book trailer. It’s for Tim’s book, The 4-Hour Chef.
I do love the quality of images, the fast pace of this book trailer and the dramatic music. Plus, it’s all over in 60 seconds. Plus, it’s not an overload of words, instead relying on the pictures to tell the story. That’s a classic trailer-style video right there.
The book is a deep and thorough self-paced course on how to become a self-trained chef. And it’s filled with brilliant learning tutorials about this – and other things.
While he opens with the line, ‘This isn’t just a cookbook’, (which is accurate) this book trailer seems like a mashup between a cookbook and some other book. Even though all that other stuff, like memorizing a deck of cards, is in the book, I found it a little distracting in the trailer.
If I was creating this trailer, I would have concentrated on the cooking and merely hinted at the other things. What do you think?
2: The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss
This book trailer for The 4-Hour Body is much closer to the framework I’ve shared in this blog post. It opens with clues as to how Tim created this book:
- Ten years of experiments
- 100+ scientists consulted
- And himself as a human guinea
Plus, we see Tim hard at work, as if he is studying. Then he poses some big questions (like in Part 1 here). He says, ‘Imagine if you could…’:
- Hold your breath for 5 minutes
- Life 500 pounds
- Run 100 miles
Even if you have never imagined doing any of these things, they’re compelling questions about what you’re truly capable of. This sets up the big picture. Then he offers his solution: do the impossible, now you can.
And did you notice, the book doesn’t appear until almost 90% of the one-minute clip is finished.
The Four Questions
To recap, the four questions you need to ask in your book teaser are:
- 1: What’s the big problem?
- 2: What’s the usual solution?
- 3: What’s your solution?
- 4: And how can I grab a copy of your book?
And your book teaser doesn’t need to be very long. You can answer these four questions in one to two minutes. Both of the Tim Ferriss book trailers are around the one-minute mark.
Remember, it’s a book teaser, not a book summary.
More on how to create a book trailer
A book trailer is a lot like a product sales video. In these two previous posts/videos, I apply the book trailer approach I’ve shared in this post to a product sales video. It shows the process in more detail.
- Two Essentials of the Ultimate Product Sales Video
- Four Phases of the Ultimate Product Sales Video
- And here’s my example of a Product Sales Video applied to my Book Rapper book summaries.
Also, if you’re writing your book for the first time you might enjoy my best ten tips:
What’s your big takeaway from this post? Have I saved you from making the big mistake most authors make in creating their book trailers?