Posted On October 21, 2010 by Print This Post

Book Videos Part I

Good morning and welcome to our special feature with Jeannie Ruesch of Will Design for Chocolate.  This month Jeannie will share tips on creating book videos.

Take it away, Jeannie!

Hellloooo, RU crew! I’m happy to be back and today we’ll be talking video.  Not the latest DVD, but book videos.  Commercials.  Those things on everyone’s websites these days. 😉

If you’ve been following this column or any of the other wonderful articles offered on RomU, you’ve likely gleaned by now that publishing a book isn’t all about writing.  (I know, shocking. Or at the least, so not fair. Write a great book and you should be done.)

And along with all the demands on your time, choosing your marketing outreach is one of them.  Book videos, or mini commercials, are becoming common marketing tools. You know what they are, you’ve heard of them if you haven’t viewed a few yourselves.

But have you made one? Or had one made for your book? And should you? What’s the point? What’s the purpose?

comScore, Inc. reported that in September 2010, 175 million US internet users watched videos. (This was all videos, not just book videos). With a viewership that high, it’s impossible to ignore this area of marketing. It may or may not be right for your book or your budget, but it’s worth understanding.

What is a Book Video?

You’ve likely heard one of these terms: Book Trailer®, Book preview, Book Teaser®, book video, or book commercial. (Book Trailer and Book Teaser are trademarked by COS Productions.)  They are all the same thing, and at its core, a book video is a visual advertisement to gain interest for your book – the book equivalent of a movie trailer.

The technical specs of a book trailer include a short script about your book set to music, still images and possibly video, depending on how in-depth you want to get.   The process of building a book video starts with your script – which is the drilled down, shortened teaser of your book.  From that, you match it with elements – stock photography, video, motion graphics, and music – to tell a story.   It’s that story that compels the video watcher to take action: click on your link, visit your website, go directly to Amazon and order your book.

Is a book video right for me?

Book videos are not a cheap and easy way of marketing.  Getting one professionally done (and done right) will incur, at the least, a few hundred dollars. They range upward from there depending on the complexity of your video.  But saving those dollars and doing it yourself isn’t necessarily a smart option either. You have to account for the time you spend building the video (time you could be writing), the cost of images and music and possibly software, as well as the overall quality of what you produce.  So before jumping into this direction, you need to determine what you consider a positive ROI (return on investment) before you invest time and.

With a lot of marketing efforts, direct connections can be tough.  It’s not always easy to know how well your bookmarks are promoting your books or if a video is working to promote it.

If you are a numbers kind of gal (or guy) and need to see hard data for your investment (ie clicks for an ad), this might not be the best option for you.  Book videos have a purpose: to make the viewer curious enough to learn more about your book or about you.  The book you wrote still has to draw them in further.  It isn’t the book video’s job to sell the book.   But if you’re investing in brand and name awareness and recognition as much as a single book, a book video could further your goals by offering a compelling, different look at what you write.

Make it yourself or hire a professional ?

Let’s say you’ve decided, yes, I want a book video.  Now what?  Do I make it myself? Do I hire someone to make it for me?  On the surface, it seems like an easy thing to do.  Find some images, add some text and grab a free piece of royalty-free music to add some interest, then post it up for the world to judge.

But what is that telling people about you, the author? Does it match the image you want to sell?  Does it scream amateur? Is that how you want people to see your writing?  There are some hard choices you have to make here – dollars, time invested and brand consideration. Choose what absolutely matters most to you and decide from there.

TO help you make that choice, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. Do I have the time to invest in making this video?
It takes me anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to make a book video, depending on the length.  If you’ve never done one before, you could easily double that.  They take a tremendous amount of time to put together – if you want to do it right.  It takes research into finding the right music, the right pictures, video and animation if you use it, then time to create your script and your storyboard, edit any graphics you need to, and then put it all together in the video editing software.  It takes time.  Be sure you have it to give.

2. What is my plan for distribution?
What is your intention for your video? If you want it to put on your website, YouTube and maybe one or two other sites and call it a day, you can easily do that yourself.  For a book video to have the most effect, it needs to be seen.  COS Productions, the top book trailer™ company in the business gets tremendous traffic on their YouTube channel, in addition to the numerous other ways they distribute. For many who choose a professional, this distribution outreach is a big part of why.

3. Can I afford to have one made professionally?
I’ve seen various mentions in loops and such about the cost of getting a book trailer done for you.  They can seem expensive, especially when you’re working on a low budget, but when you factor in the time spent and the materials needed to be acquired, you’re adding up.  And an often forgotten factor involved in paying a professional is that you are paying for their experience. That counts for a lot, because it’s that experience that will help present your book and you, the author, in the best possible light.

You’re Going to Make Your Own

If you’ve determined that you want a book video and you want to try and make it yourself, then let’s look at the basic elements that go into making your video.  It’s just my opinion, but I don’t believe a book video will sell a book by itself.  If you had to assign different jobs to items in your marketing plan, the job belonging to “book video” would be “Make them curious.”   It’s what any good advertisement does: teases you with just enough information to make the reader want more.

It’s not to reiterate the book cover copy (too long), it’s not to tell them the entire story.  It’s to connect to one or more of their emotions quickly, so they will take action by clicking on your website, going to Amazon to search out the book or maybe just add your name and book to their mental “check out later” file.

Research, research, research

Before jumping in to make one for yourself, take the time to research what goes into them.  Look at the videos in a constructive way, as a creator, not a reader, and be specific about the elements that you like and don’t like.  Take notes.

Head over to YouTube, do a search for your favorite genre to read.  (romantic suspense book trailers, for example.)  Click on a few random links and really study what’s being done.  Keep a file of the videos to refer back to.

Some things to think about:

  • What emotion is invoked from it?  Is it an emotion that goes well with the book?
  • Did you notice the music?  Did it blend well with the scenes on the screen?
  • Was the script easy to follow, easy to read? Too long? Too short? Just right?
  • Did the images match the story? Where they compelling? Why or why not?
  • Did you stop watching before the end? When – note the time into the video and figure out what stopped you.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

If you’ve established what you like and don’t like in videos, now start to focus on the elements you need to include:

The Script

You have the creative flair, the knack to create compelling sentences and yet, it’s usually the one thing I see most wrong in book videos.  There are a lot of reasons that could bore you – the imagery is dull, the music is annoying, it takes too long… but there’s one definite reason you would stay despite any of that.  If the words compelled you to find out what happened.  If they forced a question in your mind that you couldn’t not get answered.

Movie Commercials are a perfect example of how to take a story and cull it down to a few sentences that will engage the intended audience.   Don’t be intimidated by the imagery they use – instead, watch movie trailers with an awareness to the emotions they are creating in you.

Let’s look at this video:

The Movie Blurb: In Columbia Pictures’ The Karate Kid, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) could’ve been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother’s (Taraji P. Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying – and the feeling is mutual – but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre’s feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts “the karate kid” on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.

Trailer script:

A life he never wanted.

A challenge he never imagined.

A teacher he never expected.

This Summer




The Karate Kid.

Watch the video a second time with the sound turned off, so you won’t hear the audio from the scenes or the music.  Watch for the video and the text.   Pay attention to the emotion, what the images tell you, what sense of focus you get from the script.

Life. Challenge. Teacher. Honor. Courage. Strength.   This script maintains sentences that are five words or less.  And the words are powerful, evocative.

Does it seem impossible to take your book blurb and drill it down to a handful of sentences? It’s not, I assure you.  But you have to shift your intent and focus from summarizing (telling) the story to pulling out the emotion.

Points to Remember when crafting your script:

  • Work from your elevator pitch, not your book blurb and expand as necessary.
  • Use short sentences that grab attention.
  • The first sentence will likely make or break your viewer’s interest. Make it count.
  • Consider the emotion you want your viewer to feel.  Craft sentences with intent to yank on that emotion.
  • Leave room for the call to action.  Your script needs to end with what you want your viewer to do: click on your website to find out more or go search for your book on Amazon (if it’s available.)  Be sure to add a date if the video is for an upcoming book.


Finding the emotion in your images is just as important as the script. One of the mistakes I see in videos is that the image is an exact replica of the words, or it doesn’t relate at all to the emotion you want to convey.  For example, let’s say that a line in the book video is:  “kidnapped from her bed”.  The most literal image would be, obviously, a bed – like the one below:

This is a stock photo of a child’s bedroom with no graphic changes , but it’s pretty bland.  It tells you exactly what it is, but when you’re dealing with a phrase like “kidnapped from her bed”, you need to focus on what isn’t in those words.  What is the underlying emotion?  Think keywords–Alone. Afraid. Sad. Frightened.– and then think of an image that might convey more of an emotional hit toward those words.   So instead of the pretty pink bedroom, perhaps an image like this:

A teddy bear left behind, in a dark corner conveys sadness, fear, alone to me.  For good comparison, here is a mockup of that slide with each image:

Which one yanks on that emotion more?

By choosing a strong image, you add an emotional punch to the script.  How much more specific or compelling could you get?  Now let’s say that the person kidnapped from her bed was a teenager.  Or an adult woman.  Or a grandmother.  How could you pull on a different emotion to convey that without stating the age of the woman?

Pull out each line of your script and get down to the bare emotion underneath it, and then find an image that amplifies that.

Understanding royalty-free copyrights

Any time you create something for promotional value, you have to be very careful that all the items you include, from images to music, come with the appropriate license.  Most important, this means you cannot just grab images or music from the net wherever you choose. Look for royalty-free offerings, such as for your images, and for your music.  Read the license carefully to understand what you’re allowed to do with your purchases before using them.

The Music

Music has the ability to take someone deeper, and often times, a song can contain a small element that you can’t really explain in the script or the imagery, but that holds a place in the book.  So after you’ve selected your images, fine-tuned your script, decide on what that extra punch of emotion should be.  Don’t think in generic terms like “funny”, “romantic” – go deeper than that.  If you need to show the humor in your writing, do you want quirky, silent-movie type of humor, or slapstick?  Each of those creates a different sound.  Get specific, because the more specific you are thinking when you search for the right music, the easier it will be to find a piece that speaks to that.

One advantage to most royalty-free music libraries is the search function by emotion/mood.   Experiment a bit on the music library sites – visit a few of them and test different elements of music.  Just like each of us is drawn to different music to listen to for enjoyment, you’ll find different elements by composers.  And while the free cost is often irresistible, I would suggest opening yourself to the idea of a music budget that allows you the freedom to choose what’s best for your video, not what is cheapest.  At the end of the day, if you’re creating this video for yourself, along with the hours you spend, you can still keep your budget under $50 and have a quality product.

Push Their Buttons…the right ones.

Every thing we’ve touched on has focused on emotion.  You have to imagine that each person watching the book has buttons somewhere you can push – one that tugs a heartstring, one that makes their body tense, one that pulls a smile or a laugh.  Those buttons are your goal – that is what you need to achieve with the video. The elements of your video, when picked correctly, will come together like a jigsaw puzzle.

But that puzzle needs to piece together to provide a clear picture of your book, your style and you as the author.  Never forget that this is part of your brand, part of your marketing and you absolutely need to stay true to your voice within the video.  As much fun as humor can be in videos, if you include it in the trailer, they will expect it in the book.   The book video provides an emotional cheat sheet that gives the potential reader clues what to expect from you and your book.  Choose the emotions you tug on wisely– always stay focused on your brand, your voice and what you want to teach the reader to trust in you.  If you’re a funny writer, use it.  Copiously.  If you’re not, avoid it like a bad blind date.  Stay emotionally true to your writing, offer them images, words and music that engages a physical response and your video will do its job.

And if you’ve noticed that this is Part I, that’s because the next post will be all about the pros.  What do you get from the professional book video makers, what do they bring to the table and what do they know that you don’t?


RU Crew, what do you think?  Would you give creating your own video a try?  We’d love to hear from you.

Special thanks to Jeannie for being here.  Join us tomorrow when Author Lisa Plumley discusses writing a holiday romance.

Jeannie’s Bio: It was a Saturday afternoon when Jeannie Ruesch gave up her illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader (after seeing the made for TV movie).  That day, she sat to write her very first story and when she was finished, she knew that pen ..or rather, pencil and collegiate-lined paper was the path for her.  She was six.  She finished her first two books in 7th grade—handwritten on 150 legal size pages and complete with hearts dotting the I’s, of course.

As an adult, however, she discovered the need to…well, pay for things.  In her words, she “paid a lot of money to go to school, get a degree and go beg for work.”  She began her career in marketing and design and continues to this day, with her graphic design and marketing business, Will Design for Chocolate.  She considers herself fortunate that her passion of writing and her other love go hand in hand so nicely.

In 2008, she sold her first completed novel (as an adult and written on a computer this time) to The Wild Rose Press– a historical romance that has been a labor of love from the start.  “It’s been through four or five revisions, including one complete scrap-it-and-start-over, and has been a wonderful tool for learning how to be a better writer.”

She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write.

Now with a few more tools in her author’s tool belt, her first published book, and a drawer full of emergency chocolate, she has a lot more stories to tell.  She lives in Northern California with her husband (who is likely tired of having his brain picked on the ‘male perspective’), their son and her brother, who she thanks every day (since he cooks and she hates to.)

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15 Responses to “Book Videos Part I”

  1. Hey Jeannie,

    Fantastic post on book videos! Several years ago, I made a video for my short story His Secret Desire. It was really time consuming, but I loved the process and finished product.

    Thanks again.

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | October 21, 2010, 5:26 am
  2. Thanks, Jeannie. I’m going to give this a whirl! Just don’t laugh at me when the screaming starts. 🙂

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | October 21, 2010, 7:57 am
  3. Morning Jeannie!

    Another informative post! Great information. I helped a friend make a video a couple years ago, and now technology has changed so much it would be like starting over again, I’m sure.

    For a beginner, who might be trying their own video for the first time, is PowerPoint a good choice?



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 21, 2010, 8:59 am
    • Uh, good late evening, a few days wayyy too late to be responding. Bad guest blogger! (Me)

      Truth be told, I’m not all that sure about Powerpoint’s capabilities in this arena any longer. I think you’ll still be limited to what you can do, and if you’re going to use Powerpoint, use the heck out of its strength: SIMPLICITY. Don’t go overboard, because PPT won’t have the oompfh to really back up fancy aspects. Keep the fonts choices simple, limit your movements and graphics to only a few. Think stark. Then, yes, you could probably pull it off.

      If nothing else, it would give you the ability to test your mettle in writing scripts for trailers. 😉

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | October 26, 2010, 1:30 am
  4. Hi Jeannie,

    So much to think about. My brother works with high school students. They use different media tools to make videos. Some are amazing. A good resource to check out.


    Mary Jo Burke

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 21, 2010, 3:24 pm
    • Hi Mary Jo — Teens and kids are going to be poised from some amazing stuff ahead. Just the other night, I was playing with my son (who is 4) and showing him my iPhone. I swear, the kid picked it up and knew…just knew how to use it. Of course, he’s a pro on the Disney playhouse computer games, too. They are growing up with things I certainly didn’t. LOL

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | October 26, 2010, 1:32 am
  5. Hi Jeannie,

    Very informative post. Sounds like a big challenge, if you are not a techie, but something to ponder. Thanks

    Posted by Cia | October 22, 2010, 7:39 am
    • If you’re not a technie and you want to be one, it’s probably a fun way to start learning. However, if you’re not a technie and you really think “geek” is a word you will never aspire to, this might not be a place to try out the skills.

      And ultimately, the point that cannot be forgotten is how well your efforts will showcase your writing and your style.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | October 26, 2010, 1:33 am
  6. Great post! I’m looking forward to part two!

    Posted by Robin Covington | October 22, 2010, 11:43 am


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