Guest Post: Darcy Pattison on Creating Book Trailers

By Darcy Pattison

Exciting news! School Library Journal has created a new award for book trailers. Dubbed “the Trailie,” the awards in each category will be voted on by the public, and the winners will be announced at the School Library Journal Leadership Summit on the Future of Reading on Oct. 22 in Chicago.

For once, I’m ahead of the game, because I’ve been thinking about book trailers this year as I worked on The Book Trailer Manual and discussed book trailers with authors, readers and librarians.

Objections to Book Trailers

I’ve found a couple basic objections to book trailers.

First, some say it’s an oxymoron to use a video, or moving images, to promote a book which is written text. The very idea of a book should rule out the use of a video, right?

Not necessarily. Everyone I know listens to the radio, watches TV and YouTube and reads books. We get our information and stories from many mediums. Why not cross-promote?

School Library Journal says it this way:

“The bottom line is that there are more and more activities that take children and teens away from reading. Book videos are a fantastic way to entice them to read. Multimedia incorporates all types of media into a cohesive whole. It isn’t ‘at odds’ with the printed word but rather in concert with print, using music, pictures, and words to get people of all ages interested in picking up a book.”

The other objection to book trailers is that they usurp the reader’s role in imagining a story.

I agree: if the trailer depicts the characters or situations, it can do exactly that. But in my opinion, that’s a poor book trailer. Trailers should evoke interest in the book, without putting such images into a reader’s head that they can’t imagine it for themselves.

Once you watch the “Twilight” movies, it’s hard to imagine anything but that Bella, that Edward, that Jacob. Okay, once it gets to the movie stage, I’ll give in; but let’s not do that in the book trailer stage, please.

I came away from the objections with an openness about using trailers to promote books, some guidelines about what to include in a good trailer, and a determination to try creating some.


But I still didn’t know what to put into a video. To answer that, I researched what generally works online, I watched tons of book trailers on YouTube and thought hard.

For me, research usually goes through a couple phases: reading everything on the topic I can; repeating the party line about the topic; and finally, assimilating the information into some original ideas.

One idea that developed is that it’s unfortunate we have the moniker, “book trailer” for these videos that promote books. It evokes the movie trailer in all its splendor. But and online videos have a different aesthetic than movies. They are informal, quirky. Think: talking squirrels. Spoofs. Instead, the typical book trailer is an animated slide show.

In fact, I came away with about fourteen ideas on what to include in a book trailer.

My favorite is the author talking about how his/her aspirations and beliefs have led them to this place. Lois Kelly, author of Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing (AMA Com/American Management Association, 2007), says it’s the number one topic that people want to hear about.

As an author, my own aspirations and beliefs are something I can talk about informally.

My second favorite content for a book trailer is using odd quirky things. I have a new picture book coming out next year, Prairie Storms (Sylvan Dell, August, 2011). It’s a nature book about how animals survive a year of storms on the prairie. I’m looking for odd video clips that might form the core of a book trailer.

So far, my favorite is a clip of buffaloes ice skating. For real. They wander onto a frozen pond and have fun skating around. It’s going to be a fun book trailer to put together.

Cynsational Notes

Darcy Pattison is the author of the teen fantasy The Wayfinder (Greenwillow, 2000), now available as an eBook for the Kindle/Nook/ePub. To illustrate different programs for making trailers, she created a couple trailers for The Wayfinder; here’s one of them:

For more on how to create book trailers see