A couple months ago a friend asked me about doing a book trailer for his latest novel. At the time I was swamped with work and unfortunately had to say no. But it also got me thinking – are book trailers even useful anymore?

When Helen and I first started this blog we did a post called “The Fine Art of the Book Trailer.” In it we discussed the (then) recent phenomenon of book trailers for promotional purposes and the dangers of making one. But in general we felt book trailers (done right) were a good idea.

There are many stats and research to show you why you should create one:

  • Readers are 64% more likely to purchase your book if they see a video that effectively promotes your book.1 (Key word here effectively).
  • Visitors to your author website stay an average of 2 minutes longer than on author sites that do not use video.2 (Great! But are they buying your book in that two extra minutes?)
  • Some authors who have used book trailer videos in email campaigns experienced Open Rates [increases] from 19% to 300%!3 (Yeah, but open rates aren’t click through rates. And click through rates aren’t sales. And I don’t have an email list anyway.)

But, ultimately, is it worth it? If you’re the average author (not some mega-star, massively successful author) the answer is no.

A Bad Book Trailer Is Worse Than No Book Trailer At All

With a decent camera on every cell phone, it’s really easy to make your own videos. But that doesn’t mean you should. A book trailer only works if it is done very, very well. And most aren’t. If you have a low-res, badly shot book trailer on your website people are less likely to want to buy your book.Think about that first stat again. Video only works when it effectively promotes your book. To quote ourselves, “Better to have nothing out there then something that might make your viewer assume the book was written by a precocious four-year-old.”

Book Trailers Are Expensive!

So instead you decide to pay someone to do it. Great idea! But have you ever looked up prices for book trailers? They are very expensive. And not just high-end, cinematic quality book trailers. If I considered the time and effort put into one of the book trailer we made back in the day, it would have cost upwards of $1,000. We are not professionals.

To put it into perspective, here’s some cost options to show you just how expensive they can get:

Do you have $1,000 in your budget for a book trailer? I didn’t think so.

There’s Little Return On Your Investment

Even if you do pay for a high-quality book trailer, chances are the benefits won’t outweigh the cost. Let’s do a little math exercise.

  • Assume you make 10% royalties off the listed price.
  • Your book costs $20.
  • You get $2.00 from each book you sell.

To break even on a basic book teaser (cost $850), you need to sell 425 books. To break even on a full book trailer (cost $2,000), you need to sell 1,000 books. For a high-quality, cinematic trailer you’d need to sell upwards of 2,500 books! And that doesn’t include other promotional costs like advertising, book tours, book launches, signings, promotional materials, etc. You are, effectively, putting all your eggs in a book trailer basket.

For the average author, book trailers just aren’t a practical option. They are too easy to do badly, cost too much to do professionally, and very hard to make the cost worthwhile.

But don’t panic. There’s still lots you can do to promote your book that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you’re feeling disheartened, check out these 10 marketing things you can do for free (or very cheap) to promote your book!


  1. Source: ComScore
  2. Source: ComScore
  3. Source: Forrester Research
Like what you've read? Share it with your friends! (Or enemies. We aren't picky.)