What to Diss when going DIY with your trailer

Trailers for books are increasingly part of the modern author’s tool box of promotional aids and many authors choose to make their own.  It has a lot of advantages, but it can also have some pitfalls.  So if you are traveling down the DIY route, here are some things to consider…

1. Seen It – which trailer is which?’: DIY often sees the same thing over and over. Music with a still pic, then text, transition, basic effect, still pic, text, transition etc.  The risk with these trailers is that your one can look just like the next one. Use your tools creatively to make your product stand out.

2. Trailers are ads – not cliff-hanging synopses. Synopses are to sell to an editor/agent – trailers are to sell to readers. Consider this: How do insurance companies/mortgage companies/credit card companies try to sell to you in a competitive market? What are the differences amongst what is essentially the same thing? You’re selling your product, along with everybody else on the web – not just authors. Remember the first point above.  There are a lot of trailers out there now. They can easily become a familiar blur. So be creative with your approach.  You are trying to sell your book through the trailer rather than tell the story.

3. Incohesive resources result in a disjointed viewing experience. Jumbled colour schemes, hotch-potch images and title designs that don’t relate to the rest of the material make for a harder viewing experience. Beware of basic effects that try to do what you wish but don’t quite hit the mark or – again – look just like every other indie trailer. With effects, sometimes less really is better. Let’s not forget unfinished pieces of music that end mid-phrase either – it leaves the viewer up in the wrong kind of air. Mind the sound effects too. Are they the right one at the right time at the right volume? It’s all about an easy flow.  Just as you choose your words carefully so as not to jolt your reader out of your story, you need to choose trailer elements that provide a smooth viewing – and listening – experience.

4. Reading or Watching.  How many trailers have you seen that aren’t legible? It’s not just about font size or font choice but how many words and what words are used too. In most DIY’s there’s too much of everything. Inject the KIS (Keep It Simple) principle. Remember: You WATCH a trailer – you READ a book.  Think movies and ads for inspiration, not written material.

5. Duration. The aim of your trailer is to capture the reader’s interest, retain it and make them act in some way (ideally by buying the book). And in these time-poor, instant-gratification times, you don’t have long to do it.  We all change lanes frequently in the information superhighway. As a reader, I won’t look at a trailer if it goes over 1 minute 45 seconds. MAX – especially if it’s just a series of still pics, text, transition… etc. So don’t go too long.  But don’t restrict yourself arbitrarily, either. Consider online sequencers (automatic compilers etc) very carefully. They may only provide you with restricted duration – either too much or too little. And mind the thirty-second trailer – they are a different vehicle all to themselves and best done with experience under your belt.

6. Harken, dear reader back to ye sage days of yore from whence the adage cometh to all fiction writers; the great-eth and glorious-eth age-old lesson of Show-eth don’t Tell-eth.

For Trailers it’s exactly the same. More so, in fact, as trailers are a visual medium.  Show the viewer what’s happening. Telling takes the route of the synopsis and remember point two-eth?

So, to sum up…

The points above aren’t meant to discourage you from making your own trailer, but rather to help you avoid elements that make for a disjointed viewing experience and your trailer ripe for “click-off”. Boredom comes cheap and lane changes are fast and furious on the web.

And one more thing…

Just because you, your best friend or crit buddies think your trailer is great doesn’t mean it necessarily does the job it’s meant to.

From my experience, DIY trailers are like newly finished manuscripts, freshly written songs, a painting that still has the smell of linseed oil and a sculpture whose creator still has medium underneath their fingernails. It feels like the greatest thing to have just done it – you put a lot of effort into it and you’re so proud of yourself!!!!! Cue smiley face emoticon.

Only to discover that looks like every other trailer out there and it’s not put up anywhere – see the last trailer post.

Take a step back and ask yourself: “Does the trailer do its designated job?” Does it tick the boxes? Are you sure?

Making trailers is a thoughtful process. They are another part of the machine that works to represent you, your book, your brand, your publisher and when it comes down to brass tacks, your present and future as a writer/author. This isn’t meant to frighten you off, but to make you think about what you want representing you and your writing out there in the cyber promotion space. It’s all about branding. Make sure your trailer does its job as well as your writing does.

Good luck!

Gabrielle Battistel

Leave a comment


  1. This is a fab post – thanks Gabrielle for your insights 🙂

  2. Hi Joanne, thanks for your comments. When you have no other choice but to go DIY, then it’s always helpful to give yourself the best choice. Those who make trailers for a fee (which I do) know these tips and more… but sometimes authors have no choice but to do things off your own bat. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

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