WIS: Sins & Virtues of Trailers & Clips

Book Trailers & Corporate Clips

What are they?  Trailers & Clips are small marketing videos that we can post on Facebook and on our internet sites for people to enjoy.

Videos and clips are a benefit to static websites because people naturally watch what “moves.”  Short videos on Facebook always capture attention, especially when they are well-done.

 What can I say?  I am very intrigued by well-done short videos.  I especially enjoy the ones that present books.  I slow down in my internet surfing and on Facebook to watch the shorter advertising for certain products and services.

Yet when things with such advertising go wrong, they go very, very wrong.  It’s as if the short form exaggerates the problem rather than flashes past it.

How do we avoid the sins of the worst advertising?  We have to understand the virtues of the best advertising.


Sin 1] the trailer or clip that goes too long.

Statistics claim that most people have a 15-30 second attention span.  We can stretch this to 45 seconds.

This statistic is true for me.  My attention span for book trailers, something that intrigues me, lasts about 35-45 seconds.  For the ones that aren’t interesting, I turn off somewhere around 20 seconds.  TV commercials affect me in the same manner.

When I started researching book trailers, I found several interesting ones–but the ones that ran a minute and more totally lost me.  Totally.  Beautiful graphics, enchanting sound, intriguing words–but I clicked out before those trailers where halfway through.

Melissa Marr has a lovely one for Wicked Lovely by COS Productions.  You can see it here:

Wicked Lovely trailer  (You may have to watch an ad prior to viewing.  Sorry.)

Marr’s trailer seems to be PERFECT.  It runs about 40 seconds.

Sin 2] the NARRATED book trailer.

Please don’t.  Voice is such a powerful element when it’s done correctly.  Few people do it correctly.  It requires pauses and intonation.  And the voice itself must be attractive.  Unfortunately, most narration for short advertising comes across as either flat or artificial.

Especially do NOT narrate if you are reading the text on the screen.  Please ~~ don’t.  In the meetings where presenters read aloud their PowerPoints to the participants, everyone cringes.  Then we get restless and turn off our attention.


Study video trailers that you like.  What you like about them will be boiled down to three cardinal virtues.

A} Graphics

Most people use elements of their book cover or logo design for their short advertising.  K.M. Weiland does this very well with her book trailer for Dreamlander.  Examine the cover, then study how she uses the different parts to create her graphics for the trailer.

For products or services, the company’s logo and the packaging for the product or a stock image depicting the service can be used very similarly to the book cover.

Weiland’s trailer runs over a minute.  As interesting as it is, that length is beyond my attention range.  Her book seems greatly detailed in plot, however, so the minute-long trailer may be necessary.  You can see Weiland’s trailer here:


B} Text

Limit text.  You want to present your protagonists and their opening conflict question OR your product / service and the need it fulfills.  Sparking curiosity is also essential.  Another blog here details the instructions for creating a script.

Marr’s trailer sparks curiosity very well.  Mystery and intrigue are deepened with the simple text that accompanies the images allude to the book cover.  Weiland’s trailer also does the curiosity spark very well.

Sketch your 12 key points out and expect to spend the necessary time to polish them to a fine edge.  Keeping the word count down will keep the interest level up.

C} Sound

Believe it or not, sound is the trickiest of these three elements.

Sound is so personal.  People listen to certain types of music and rarely are eclectic enough to accept other types.

The sound you select should also represent the tone of your work.  Heavy metal will rarely work for historical fiction.  Preppy pop music will not fit a doctor’s office.  Soft piano will not work for epics.  Lilting Irish harp doesn’t equate with auto repair.

Sound ::  Problems with Voice

Narration, as already noted, can come across flat or artificially dramatic.  I personally don’t like it.  Neither of the book trailer options I have referenced use narration.  However, a nontypical voice or one that has a feature that stands out might possibly work.  Might.

“Featured” voices include accents.  Should you be tempted by an actor who can do a Scottish accent (or Irish, Cockney or Australian)?  After all, you might tell yourself, my book is set in Scotland.  I should hire someone–or get someone from the local little theater?

Or you might think, “My customers aren’t rich;  they’re just home folks.  A little country accent in the narration might go down well.”  Well, a country accent might turn-off a lot of customers who think it doesn’t sound “educated”, and it might NOT turn-off customers who like that “folksy” feeling.  How can you know?  You can’t, not without a survey of every customer you serve. 

So stop.  Just stop.  Will the narrator’s accent take away from the text?  Ask yourself this question before you find someone to do a narration for you.  Voice is personal.  If it’s not just right, it will turn away your viewers.  After all, most of Disney’s animated feature flops did not use people with distinctive voices.

If you’re desperate for voice, watch one of Pixar’s animated features.  They use voices that work with the characters, not with “big name actors”.   Pixar is the whole package.  Voices (not actors) are selected for how well their cadence, timbre, and tonal quality match to the characters.

Go enjoy Up,  Finding Nemo, and Toy Story  for the nth time.  The voices of the primary characters evoke the personality through tonal quality.  Ed Asner, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tom Hanks are big-name actors whose voices capture the personalities of the old man, Dory, and Woody.  These are FINE actors, not just people with a name.

In my research, I cringed through several narrated trailers.  It’s hard to do voice well.  Please stop that idea at its birth.

Instrumental music avoids the multiple problems of voice.

But, you ask, where can I get music that is 30 seconds or 45 seconds or 68 seconds long?  Try audiojungle.

On the audiojungle website, you can search for music types and for various lengths. (You will first need to determine the length of your trailer before you decide on a music selection.)  The cost will range from around $10 to $19 for 30 seconds to a minute.  Support these indie musicians, and don’t infringe copyright.  They are artists struggling to make a living, just as you are.


So, we decided to create book trailers for everyone here at Writers Ink Books.  We all want more promotions for our novels.  Book trailers seemed to be the next step.  I volunteered, and that was a four-hour learning curve.  Sigh.

The four-hour learning curve had nothing to do with the difficulty of computer program.  That was me and not the software.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of the software I used (MS MovieMaker) because these rudimentary helps are intended for the general user, and various software programs abound.  I picked MS MovieMaker since the program came installed with the version of Microsoft Office that I had.  MovieMaker, unfortunately, is no longer supported by Microsoft.  If you find the program on your computer or download a version, you will work through the learning curve then find it very simple.

However, I don’t advise venturing into the “no longer supported computer software” world.

In the most recent book trailers, I have used MS PowerPoint without a learning curve;  however, I was already extremely familiar with the program.  I found it simple to create slides then transfer the ppt to a movie form.

In PowerPoint, text manipulation is much easier than it is with MovieMaker.  Even though we don’t have a lot of text in our trailers and clips, we do want it to shine.

  To see what I have developed so far, here are three videos.

The first video is the one I developed for Edie Roone’s “A Matter of Trust”, with MS MovieMaker, a video following the first two cardinal rules of graphics and text, I hope.

Next is M. A. Lee’s Digging into Death, developed using MS MovieMaker.  Finally, here is M.A. Lee’s The Key to Secrets”, with MS PowerPoint, Both of these videos follow the cradinal rules for graphics and text and sound.