The 13th Floor

Creepy Horror Book Trailers: Do They Really Scare Up Sales?

Over the last decade or so, a relatively new way to sell novels has expanded into the marketplace: Book Trailers. The thinking in the beginning was that if trailers sell movies, why wouldn’t they work for books?

Suddenly self-proclaimed experts were dropping out of the sky with suggestions on how to make a fine book trailer that would translate into impressive sales (for a fee, of course). Production houses loved the extra business and revenue, and publishers liked the fact that they seemed so cutting-edge, using state-of-the-art marketing technology (even as they fought the technological inroads made by Amazon and eBooks).

Like anything else, when you look at the figures, the trailer idea doesn’t seem to hold up to scrutiny. The major difference between book trailers and movie trailers was the film previews were shown at the movies, not only for a captive audience, but for more of the same product film-goers have already shown a fondness for by buying a movie ticket in the first place.

You don’t see book trailer while getting ready to read a book; you have to search them out, either on YouTube or the author’s page. To do that, you already need to know about the book or the author…. although having book trailers pop up every so often while reading an eBook might not be a bad idea.

I decided to poll four horror writers whom I knew had trailers produced for their books, asked about how much these trailers helped their sales, then took an average of their answers. Here are the results of that poll.

How many times have you had a book trailer made?

Average Answer: 2.

Was there a noticeable difference in sales for the books that had trailers?

Average Answer: No.

Did an uptick in sales offset the cost of making the trailer?

Average Answer: Didn’t spend on making the trailer. It was either made by friends or the publisher paid. One author said, “I’ve never spent serious money on a trailer, and I can’t imagine that I ever would.”

Where was the book trailer first screened?

Average Answer: YouTube (although one author pointed out that they played it at the booth during a convention).

Was it successful or unsuccessful, in your opinion?

Average Answer: Unsuccessful. Two biggest reasons cited: “People don’t really seem to be influenced by book trailers,” and “Too many trailers are too long and have endless amounts of text onscreen, and they don’t put the book in a good light. I mean, who wants to buy a book if the trailer bored them silly?”

How would you do it differently next time?

Average Answer: There won’t be a next time, or unsure.

Do you think using trailers to sell books is a passing fad?

The answers here were all over the board. My favorite: “I saw a book trailer recently in the movie theater, either before STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS or JURASSIC WORLD, can’t remember which. I also can’t remember what book it was for, so I guess it wasn’t that effective.”

Anything else you want to add?

Best Answer: “A book trailer is merely one more tool in the writer’s toolbox.”

I discovered that, in many cases, the publishers hire third-party production companies to make the trailers, and there just isn’t a lot of hands-on involvement for the authors; their input is frequently kept to a minimum. But you, the reader and viewer, are the ultimate judge.

Have you ever watched a book trailer before? Have you ever purchased a book solely based upon the trailer? I have my own suspicions… I just don’t know how they can quantify a trailer’s impact.

I did receive one reply from a well-known horror author who wrapped it up for me: when I asked him if I could ask him a couple of questions about a book trailer I’d seen for one of his books, he replied, “Not aware of it… and not made by me.”

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