How Publishers Are Using Book Trailers to Sell Books

Publishers are increasingly using “book trailers” to raise awareness for their books. We are certainly using them here at Thomas Nelson. For some projects, they are very, very effective.

Yesterday, we held our Quarterly Team Meeting at Thomas Nelson. This is a meeting with all our Nashville-based employees. In the meeting, we report on our most recent quarterly performance, recognize our top performing divisions, preview a few of our “coming attractions,” and then hear from one of our authors. (Yesterday, we heard live from Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect.)

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In the “Coming Attractions” section, we always introduce a few of the books we are about to publish. Several years ago, we started doing this via video. Initially, it was simply the author talking to our team. But over time, these videos have become more and more sophisticated. Today, they rival movie trailers.

In the old days (three years ago), these videos didn’t provide much utility beyond our quarterly meetings. However, today we use these videos to raise awareness for titles well beyond the company’s walls. They often become the launching pad for the marketing campaign.

Depending on the author’s platform and our assessment of how social-media-friendly the topic is, we produce these videos months before we publish the book. I believe they provide five benefits. They provide a means to:

  • Sell our internal team on the project.
  • Create intrigue and initial buzz.
  • Provide a tool for fans to use in spreading the word. They can post links on Twitter and Facebook or even embed them in their own blogs.
  • Generate ancillary content and promotion on eRetailer sites.
  • Introduce prospective readers to the book in a way that can’t be done traditionally.

These videos have become so popular that we have created our own YouTube Channel.

In addition to the Majestie trailer by David Teems that I embedded at the beginning of my post, here are a few of my recent favorites:

Slave by John MacArthur:

The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead:

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas:

Immanuel’s Veins by Ted Dekker:

Plan B by Pete Wilson:

Question: Have you ever watched book trailers? What are some of your favorites?
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  • Andrea Aresca

    I’ve never watched book trailers before and I was really IMPRESSED by watching the ones you shared!
    They touch my feelings, my emotions… and create a great motivation to know more about the book, the author and, of course, read the book.
    Thanks for sharing, Michael.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Awesome. That is exactly what we had hoped!

  • Lee Buford (@LeeBuford)

    I love the increased use of these trailers for publicizing books. In fact I can say that I’ve made quite a few decisions to purchase recently based on seeing a particular trailer (and now MacArthur’s SLAVE is on the wish list). I believe the fact that others have the ability to post and share these trailers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook only help drive sales and popularity of the books, at no additional cost to publisher or author. I include trailers where possible on the book reviews I write for my site.

    Thanks, Mike…always a pleasure to read your work!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lee. I particularly liked the Slave one. I am really surprised how inexpensively these can be done now.

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  • Colleen Coble

    Authors are always talking about whether book trailers sell books. We’d like to think so. When one of my books gets one, I’m always excited about it. I’m not sure they actually sell books at the consumer end though. I’ve never had a reader tell me they saw the trailer on my website and just had to buy it though they’ve never bought one of my books before.

    But you raise some really valid ways they are useful internally and with stores. I was talking with some CBA executives about stores being the “launch pad” for books and if they go away in a digital age, we will have lost our launch pad. Book trailers could be playing in stores that have download centers, maybe? I’ve been noodling on the whole topic since Curtis mentioned it. It’s a real danger.

    And along the same line of technology, I’ve been enjoying my Kindle, but I have found I still like certain books “in the flesh” so to speak. My Bible. Research books which I thought I would LOVE on the Kindle seem to be better in a real book. Health books or books I think I might want to share with someone. I just bought two actual books from Amazon and they came yesterday: Maui Revealed and Bill Bryson’s At Home, a Short HIstory of Private Live (for research) and I was excited when they got here. I really like reading novels on my Kindle though, as well as some non fiction books like the one I’m reading now by Sproul.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Colleen, I agree with you on the Kindle. The Bible is especially an unsatisfactory experience on the Kindle. I have tried them all, even from other publishers. It’s just too difficult to flip around.I think this will eventually get better, but I think it will take a touch screen like the iPad.

  • Scott Williams

    I totally agree, me and the folks over at New Leaf Publishing Group (They Are Publishing My Project) have been having this discussion about my project. I agree with all of your points.

    As the world has become social media & e-reader friendly the way authors engage the people is oh so important. I would argue that book trailers have become more important than movie trailers. We used to watch movie trailers on TV, but in the world of DVR we only catch movie trailers when we watch another movie at the theater. I think a book trailer can become as important as the book cover, especially if you plan for your book to have an online presence, which I would say that includes every book.

    Church Diversity – Confront The Elephant In The Pew Coming April 2011, Book Trailer Coming Soon! :-)

  • Tony Alicea

    What a fantastic idea. How have I not seen these before? I loved them all!

  • kellycroy

    RT @MichaelHyatt: New Post: “How Publishers Are Using Book Trailers to Sell Books.” I included my favorite samples:

  • Mary

    Im glad you posted this article on book trailers. Ive been asked to do a boook trailer for my next book in my home when my book is completed next year. I look forward to this type of advancemennt and Im curious to know just how affective it will be for my audience since my work is geared for 3rd to 5th graders. In His Love and Care, Mary

  • Robert

    I couldn’t agree more. Videos make the welcome experience to an author’s work even more enjoyable.

    Here is a video I really enjoyed:

    Thanks for a great article.

  • Pat Layton

    I loved seeing your favorite trailers and learning of the TN You-Tube location.

    I have definitely been inspired to go weekend book shopping. Love Pete Wilson’s Plan B!! And Max Lacado’s new gift book.

    At the same time…I am a bit partial to this one!!


    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s a beautiful video, Pat. Love it!

  • Greg Gilbert

    Michael, I love these trailers. Many times I make my decision to see a movie based on the trailer. Although this is not always successful neither is reading the front and back of the book.

    I have never made a bad decision to attend a movie or purchase a book. I made the decision based on the trailer, book covers, reviews and other information available at that time. Now as the movie or book unfolds, I sometimes realize I had too little information, but at the time I made the decision, I have to say it was right or I would look pretty foolish.

    Recently I paid my publisher to make a trailer for a book I wrote a two years ago, If Your Baby Could Talk…Would You Listen? A Baby’s Thoughts On Raising Good Parents. Hopefully it will pay off. One major positive is that if the book is timeless and based on Biblical principals, so is the trailer.

    Thank you for what you do. I just recently stumbled on your life plan post and ordered Harkavy’s book. I received it this week and have read Chapter 5 many times. I want to read the rest of the book but can’t seem to get away from this life plan. Scheduling my day away this week.

    God Bless,
    Greg Gilbert

    • Michael Hyatt

      Greg. That’s cute. Thanks for sharing.

      I’m glad you are enjoying Daniel’s book!

  • Stephanie L. Jones

    Book trailers are great! I did an audio trailer for my book (simple read like the author of Slave). I then sent it to a professional sound company in Atlanta to add sound effects (like door slamming shut, etc…). I sent it to the media and it landed me a ton of interviews, including a 30-minute interview on a large CBS station. The host said that it was so powerful that he had to have me on his show.

  • C.J. Darlington

    I have watched many book trailers as I’m contemplating what works and what doesn’t. B&H Publishing have some really great ones these days. I see trailers as another form of advertising. Maybe we don’t have numbers yet on how effective they are, but they are a string in the tapestry of marketing. What is that rule that says you have to see or hear about something seven times before you’ll actually buy? A book trailer is one of those times. Maybe the cover of a book is another. A review another. If done well, they are wonderful tools, in my opinion. It’s a matter of creating one that really grabs and looks professional. Your company’s are always top quality and something to emulate.

  • BarbaraBoucher PTPhD

    Goodness but this is powerful!

  • Deborah

    I’m amazed by these! I would have good reason now ro read ANY of the books you highlighted – and I want to see them in movie form as well.

  • Kory Welch

    This is so encouraging and true! My company had the privilege of producing the Slave trailer and have been thrilled with the response from the great folks at Nelson as well as a number of other publishing groups. In this age, this type of marketing is critical to creating awareness and as Mike said, compared to feature film trailers, very cost effective. Thanks for the opportunity.

    Kory Welch

    • Michael Hyatt

      Kory, you guys did a magnificent job. Thank you so much!

  • Lynn Rush

    I enjoy book trailers. Actually, i’ve purchase a book or two just because I’ve enjoyed the trailer so much. Shade, by John B Olson is an example of that. The trailer hooked me so I sought out the book, read a few pages and bought it. :-)

  • Laurinda

    The only book trailers I’ve seen before were on TV for James Patterson. I’ve never read anything by him. I love the ones above! If I hear about a book that’s good to read the first place I go is Amazon to read more about it. It would be great if Amazon allowed book trailers too.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Actually, Amazon does allow book trailers. In fact, we have quite a few of ours on Amazon.

  • Abby

    This is one of my favorite book trailers for one of the books by Mark Hitchcock called “Cashless”:

  • Gary Taylor

    You’ve walked into my life in a remarkable way, Michael. You’ve become one of those guys who I’ve not met, but have lifted you to my “best friends” group; a small group, indeed. (note semicolon). Stuggling to ACTUALLY WRITE the book of my passion, I dip in to your generous posts often to prode me further, a page–sometime a word–at a time. The latest encouragement: Trailer. WOW on “Immanuel’s Veins”! We(My co-author/soninlaw and I) put a video intro on our book site. Hey, if you publish us, we’ll let you redo it for our trailer.

  • Amy

    These are AMAZING, Mike! I have never even heard of this before. I put half of them on my “immediately get” list! Can’t wait to start reading them. :)

  • April Rowen

    Confession – I’ve never watched a book trailer until now and *blink*… WOW! With every trailer, I thought, “It is MANDATORY that I buy this book.”

    I’m going to go daydream now of my own shnazzy book trailer for my first novel…

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s exactly what we were hoping! Thanks.

  • Erik Bjorge

    Thanks for sharing this Michael. I had not been aware that this option for reviewing and sharing books had expanded so greatly and with such quality. Nice work!
    It seems to me that these book trailers truly are a great tool particularly in a time and with a generation who increasingly connects and feels connected through electronic media. It’s no secret that the combination of visual cues, auditory cues and content can not only grab your attention, but they can take you out of whatever mood, situation, frame of mind, etc that you are in and take you somewhere else (even if momentarily) to deliver a message. Maybe even a message God has been trying to tell you but you just weren’t listening before.
    As such, these book trailers can be particularly powerful for authors like Pete Wilson and his book Plan B. Especially when done in such a simple, powerful, and emotional way like this one. The ability to connect on an emotional level with people, in just a few minutes, and create a desire to explore more in an area of a person’s life that they might, or might not have otherwise wanted to engage, is incredible and valuable. The ability to do so at almost any time in a persons day, in such a way that as to temporarily suspend whatever else is going on, and engage them (the reader/viewer) is invaluable. But only if used appropriately and sparingly and in a spirit that reflects the heart behind and within the book that it is representing.
    Otherwise it can just be a really nice marketing tool for the same reasons and would be well suited for stuff like Stephen Lawhead’s book, The Skin Map.
    Then again, for those types of books, the danger, I believe, is that many people desire to use their own imagination to craft some of the details of the characters, settings, etc using imagery that they connect with. I suppose many even argue that the power in reading is often just that. And yet this type of marketing could have the potential of robbing people of (some) of that.
    Of course those are just my thoughts, and you are far more experienced in the industry than me.
    Thanks again for sharing these and exposing me and others to this medium through which to share books with others!

  • Lynn McArthur Blaock

    Wow! I have some book odering to do…but the trailers also have inspired me to pick up my pen and journal to write, resond and possibly create. Thank-you and God bless you, Michael Hyatt. Creativity begats Creativity!!!!!

  • Brian Hinkley

    I really like this idea. Just wish I could here that narators voice in my head while I am reading the book.

    • Stephanie Giancola

      You can hear the narrators voice in your head while you’re reading the book–listen to the audio book while you read!!

  • Brian Hinkley

    I hate when I make spelling errors
    I really like this idea. Just wish I could hear that narrator’s voice in my head while I am reading the book.

  • Jessica

    Wow! These are amazing! Slave, Bonhoeffer and Plan B. all gave me chill bumps. I didn’t really know these existed, though it makes sense that they would be a powerful marketing tool. I can imagine these going viral on FB and through reader’s blogs. It gives us a lot to think about. Thanks Michael – as always – a wonderful post!

  • Jeremiah Warren

    As a videographer, I’ve thought of doing some book trailers, and have searched online never really finding anything professional. Most of it was fan made. I really like the “Plan B” trailer, along with some of the other examples here.

    Oh, and if for some reason you guys need someone else on your “book trailer team”, I’d be interested in helping out. ;-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great. We’ll keep that in mind!

  • Sandy Partridge

    I didn’t realize that publishers were doing book trailers! I found these trailers to be extremely well done and very inticing! They really touched me in ways I didn’t anticipate. And, the trailers really stirred my appetite to read the books. Looks I will be loading my Kindle with some excellent reading material!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Awesome. That’s exactly what we were hoping for. ;-)

  • Amy Hanson

    One reason I think a book trailer was important for my recently released book (Baby Boomers and Beyond (Jossey-Bass & Leadership Network) is that the topic of my book brings to mind a lot of stereotypes. One goal of the book is to break through those stereotypes. In order to get people to even take a peek at the book, you have to communicate that the book is NOT what they think it will be about. The video has helped to do that. It helps people say…”Oh, Maybe I do want/need to take a look at this.”

    Here’s the link to the book trailer.

    Thanks for this post and all of your posts!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Amy. This is an excellent use of a book trailer.

  • ThatGuyKC

    Whoa! The Skin Map is probably my favorite. Added to wish list.

  • violet

    They’re very compelling and well done. I can see why you like them and why they work.

  • Heather

    As a blogger, I really like having the trailers…they help me see the book and share it…So many people want the ease and quickness of video. I understand that:) As a reader, sometimes I’d rather not have a preconceived notion of what everyone looks like. Ce la vie:) Overall, I think the time has come that publishers should do these, but carefully. I recently reviewed a good children’s book, from the Arrethtrae Series that lends itself to an awesome trailer. I was sad the publishers didn’t have one. Hmm. is your comment system still intense debate? this seems different…I’m off to research that. Love your stuff. Have a great weekend!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I just converted from WooThemes to Standard Theme. In the process, I re-evaluated what commenting system to use. I opted to go back to the native WordPress system. I loved IntenseDebate, but, unfortunately, it mad my blog slower.

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  • Derek

    I watched the one about Bonhoeffer. Very effective. Good job!

  • Gail Hyatt

    I’m really excited to read Majestie, by David Teems!! Can’t wait to get a copy.

  • John Richardson

    Wow these are powerful, Michael! I especially liked Plan B with the emotional connection and Bonhoeffer with the moving historical timeline. These convey so much more than any book cover ever could.
    Question: Do you do any of these in-house? If so, what software package do you use?

    • Michael Hyatt

      John, most of these are done out-of-house. However, the de facto software standard is Apple’s Final Cut Pro.

  • Robin Williamson

    Thanks for the books links. I am a Christian school administrator and am currently training my teachers to help older students get excited about reading. I think book trailers could really help engage students. I will share these with the teachers. How can I find other trailers and are they out there for older books? I love your website – I won the Orange Revolution for my teacher library – I have read it and it was helpful, thank you.

  • Bob Hankins

    Great post Michael. Outstanding example of how effective video is to share a story or message. Creates excitement and a desire for more. Video is not going to make video go away, instead video is going to help books move to the next level and stay relevant in a digital world!

    • Bob Hankins

      Typed too fast. Video is not going to make “Books” go away. Sorry for the typo. That’s why we should always proofread!

  • FGHart

    I love movie trailers and book trailers seem like one of those natural extensions that left me wondering why no one ever thought of it before. I saw my first book trailer on youtube and mistook it for a movie trailer. I remember my jaw dropping open when I realized I’d just seen a promo for a book. And yes, book trailers definitely have the desired impact of piquing my interest and influencing my reading/purchasing decisions. In this age of multi-media and social networking it strikes me as a brilliant means of advertising.

  • @NowInANutshell

    This was the first time I’d heard and read about book trailers. It was a treat to actually see one. I hopped in to your YouTube channel and clicked on a familiar title, Outlive Your Life.

    There is something about motion that captivates our emotions, and I think that’s what you got there. How the words in a book are translated in the world of motion–words that frame our world. And this brings hope–the hope that we can still change the world, even through the words we write…and speak.

  • Mike

    My pastor, Darrin Patrick, recently came out with a book called Church Planter from Crossway and the trailer, done by Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is excellent:

    Thanks for all your posts Michael!

  • Edward Bolme is an aggregate website for all the promotional book trailer for Christian books. We have all these trailers plus about 1,000 additional book trailers for Christian books. It’s a great website to look at what is new in Christian books.

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  • Rob Eagar


    As always, I appreciate your blog. However, I’ve got to call you and your marketing team on the carpet about your discussion of book trailers to sell books. When I watch all of the videos that you displayed, they’re all gloss and no substance. And, you guys should know better. Here’s why:

    You’ve got great video production and a fair amount of tension-building in some of the videos. But, every video that I watched failed to answer the most important question that book shoppers ask, which is: “What’s in it for me?” In other words, your videos look good, but they don’t compel me to purchase the books.

    Readers don’t care as much about the topic of the book as they care about the value of the book. So, I’d encourage your team to re-assess how they produce these book videos and infuse them with a larger dose of value. By doing so, you will turn your videos into much stronger marketing tools.


    Rob Eagar
    WildFire Marketing

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your input, Rob. I will pass this along to our marketing directors.

      • Rob Eagar

        No problem, Michael. I’m happy to help you and your team boost book sales.

  • David Gennard

    Hi, great post, it’s nice to see book trailers being done well! I’ve shot a couple for my own unpublished novel, The Compostela Key, check them out here on my youtube channel

    The biggest trouble with book trailers however is getting them seen, which if money is being spent on them kind of defeats the object and renders them more of a luxury.

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  • Kyle MacRae

    Hi Michael

    I agree entirely with your 5 reasons why book trailers can (done well) sell books. I suspect that your first reason – helping the internal team feel enthusiastic – is probably much more important than it might seem at first.

    One open question is: who should pay for a book trailer: the publisher or the author? We’re running a survey over at Blether Video in an attempt to find out. So far, virtually every author who has responded says it should be the publisher, and – inevitably – vice versa!

    If any of your readers have a moment to take the survey, we’d love to get more feedback. And there’s a chance to win a free book trailer :)


  • Paul Wilkinson

    I haven’t been able to implement this myself, but if you are in retail and have an actual account with YouTube — that is, you’ve uploaded pictures of the kids or your pet cat to the site — and you also have the ability to stream off the internet into a store monitor without it lagging, you can create your own playlist that will go from one video clip to the next seamlessly. I recommend alternating book trailers with Christian music videos.

  • Cheryl Derrick

    I love watching book trailers. I really makes or breaks whether I read it or not. When Ted Dekker started doing them, I couldn’t wait to get to the book. Now that I have watched some that you posted, I have a pen and paper and a list for my next trip to Borders.

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  • Keith

    Plan B, was really powerful. I will start looking at more book trailers, thanks for sharing this!

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  • Reno Lovison

    I think book trailers are the future of book selling. Here is a book trailer for one of my books.

  • Ari K

    Where to you get good book trailer companies in Nashville, TN?