How one author created her funny book trailer

When I saw Valerie Alexander’s book trailer via a link posted in a LinkedIn discussion group, I knew I needed her to tell us how she did it, especially since she noted that she had used an iPhone to capture the video. She graciously accepted my invitation to write this guest post. Valerie is a screenwriter, film director, and author whose book, Happiness as a Second Language, takes a fun, original approach to happiness by teaching it as if it’s a foreign language, which to most of us, it is. Learn more on her website, where you can read her blog, see her adorable reader gallery, get info about her speaking engagements, and someday soon sign up for her mailing list. 

The Happiest Book Trailer Ever!

By Valerie Alexander

As a screenwriter, I know you can be sure that your script is good if someone who reads it wants to show it to someone else.

That same metric applies to your book trailer. It might be wonderfully filmed, seamlessly edited, and perfectly descriptive of your book, but it will not be fully effective as a sales tool unless someone who watches it wants to buy your book and then shares the trailer with someone else.

While I have no idea what will make a video “go viral” (I think that has something to do with kittens popping a balloon or a pop star twerking), I do know about making a solid, share-worthy book trailer. I’m sharing my tips here, but for them to make the most sense, please watch my trailer first:

1. Make people laugh or cry.

The most effective content is that which causes a reaction in the audience. Because my book is about happiness, I went for funny.

If you’re going for funny, make sure it’s really funny. Test the concept and the script out on friends. When I would talk about the segments I wanted for this video, my friends would be laughing by the second one. That’s when I knew it would work.

If you’re going for heartfelt, really tug those strings. Watch this video below and see how three minutes can completely undo an audience.

2. Don’t rush it.

Don’t rush to get your trailer out there. In truth, no one is waiting for it. Spend a lot of time and thought on the content.

In hindsight, I wish I’d put more thought and effort into my last segment (a re-shoot that I rushed to do), and every time I watch it, I cringe a little that the wording could have been more effective, funnier and sharper, and that I am not coming across as appealing as I’d like to be.

3. Get feedback and LISTEN TO IT.

First-time filmmakers often discover that the vision in their heads didn’t make it to the screen, or worse, what they think they’re saying is not at all what the audience is hearing.

The first cut of my trailer was hilarious, but it ended with me admitting defeat and being stuck with the cheesy Internet trailer, and no further mention of my book. I showed it to my book group and they all said it was hysterical, and that there was no way they would ever buy a book about happiness from the hapless woman in that video.

I had to admit that they were right, so I changed it. When one person tells you something isn’t working, hear them. If everyone tells you something isn’t working, fix it.

4. Production values only matter if they hurt the viewing experience.

My entire video was shot on my iPhone (not even using a special camera app), and with no external mike. I was the cameraperson, and when I wasn’t, it was a friend.

As long as it’s obvious in the picture what’s happening, and the sound is clear and not too distorted, your audience is along for the ride. Your trailer is not going to be screened in IMAX, so don’t sweat how it looks, as long as it’s mostly in focus.

5. Confession: My trailer was not 100% D-I-Y.

Happiness as a Second LanguageI have iMovie on my computer. I even know how to use it. But it mattered too much to me that this trailer be great, and I know a lot of amazing editors, so…I hired one. I paid him $100 and we cut the footage together, then he created the cheesy fake trailer according to my notes (I had shot the fake trailer girl already, but he came up with all of the onscreen graphics – which I love!).

Editing isn’t hard, and with a little practice and any number of free software programs, you can do it yourself. I could have done it, but it would have taken five times as long and not been as good, so I went the professional route.

There are amazing, skilled editors out there, and good places to find them are:

  • Elance
  • Fivver
  • Task Monkey
  • Your local college film program


There are dozens of sites that showcase videos, and you want your trailer on ALL of them. Why not be where anyone can find you, even if it’s just one person? My book trailer can be found on:

  • YouTube
  • FunnyorDie
  • Vimeo
  • DailyMotion
  • Veoh
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • My blog
  • My Amazon author page (a must!)
  • Places I can’t even remember now

This could be one of your most effective marketing tools, so make sure everyone can find it.

I know for a fact that my trailer has led to book sales. I don’t know how many, but the exact count doesn’t matter. Anything that gets people talking about you and your book is going to lead to increased sales eventually, and a trailer that someone sees and says, “I have to show this to my friends!” is going to make that happen more often and a lot faster. You can do it. After all, you wrote a whole book! How hard could a 1-3 minute trailer be?

What’s keeping you from creating the best book trailer ever? What’s holding you back?

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  1. Great article! I love the list of places to promote your trailer, so very helpful! Might I also suggest adding your book trailer to failblog. There is a section for Wins and it is a great spot to add your trailer. Also, pinning your trailer to your pinterest board for your book is another great idea, and of course stumbleupon!I have done that with both of my book trailers.

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