Did you know that trailers aren’t just for movies?
In case you didn’t know: book trailers are to books what movie trailers are to movies. And sometimes, they can even look like movie trailers, with full sets, actors, and dialogue. Some book trailers lean towards illustration and stylization without including voiceover, and some look like they came straight from a blockbuster studio.
- Related: How to Make a Book Trailer: 4 Must-Haves
- Related: How to Make Awesome Book Trailers (and WHY!)
They come in all different shapes and sizes, but their function is the same: let the audience know what to expect in the book, generate hype for the book, and ultimately, advertise the book!
I’ve put together ten of the best book trailers that do their job extremely well. These fantastic trailers cover a variety of different genres and target demographics, and I’ll talk about different styles and methods of making a book trailer, too.
Let’s get started!
9 Best Book Trailers
Lily Alone by Jacqueline Wilson is a children’s book intended for kids from 8-13. It follows the main character, Lily, as she tries to manage taking care of her younger siblings, since her mother is often absent.
If you watch this trailer on YouTube, you might notice all the comments saying ‘why don’t they make this a movie?’ This is because the production value on this trailer is superb—it really does look like a movie trailer, and that is part of what makes it so good. People will sit through a well-made product, and this trailer is definitely that.
It’s also giving the audience a strong sense of character. We get Lily’s character through her voiceover, as well as a taste of her inner conflict. We also get strong depictions of her siblings, as well as her mother. These are the people we’ll be following into the book, so getting this information in an engaging way makes the viewer want to read the book and find out more.
The One by Kiera Cass is the third book in the Selection series. It’s a romance which follows America Singer as she participates in a competition to become the princess (and falls into a love triangle along the way). In this book, she makes her final choice.
This trailer’s biggest strength is its atmosphere. The trailer opens with an actress, presumably America Singer, in a big, romantic ball gown, descending an ornate palace-like staircase. Sweeping orchestrals stir as the voiceover recites romantic dialogue—this puts you right in the story’s mood, tone, and setting. At the very end of it, the voice-over drops the bombshell that America will have to make her final decision—it’s the perfect cliffhanger that leaves the viewer scrambling to buy the book and learn more.
You’ll notice that the best book trailers will have a hook at the beginning, whether that’s an impactful image, quote, or piece of music, and they’ll also have a hook at the end. The hook at the end functions as a question to the reader, and ideally, that question can only be answered by reading the book. The example given here is absolutely perfect for a romance novel, and the tone in general sets up that series-finale vibe perfectly.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is the first in a series of three young adult fantasy books. The story follows our protagonist, Jake, as he seeks information about his late grandfather. On his journey, he stumbles into a group of exceedingly peculiar children who have been driven into hiding.
This trailer has it all. We get our main character and his grandfather right at the start, and the slightly off-kilter music tells us that things are a bit, well, peculiar. The trailer takes us through sepia-toned photographs as the grandfather explains the Home and that the children were hiding. Finally, at the end, we get our cliffhanger, leaving the viewer with the question: hiding from what? Not only do we get that cliffhanger, but we get an extra shot of something ominous. The music darkens, we get footage of belts and chains and a very spooky man lurching down a hallway. Ack!
This is also another example of high production value paying off tenfold. The quality of the camerawork, sound design, and color grading suck the viewer in in the exact same way a movie trailer would. This is not only pleasing for someone who’s already excited for the book, but it’s going to hook people who aren’t avid readers, too.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a memoir that describes Strayed’s 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Along the way, she grapples with the death of her mother and the struggles within her family—the book contains flashbacks to these points in her life alongside the description of the trail.
This is a great example of a long trailer done right. Generally, book trailers should be kept at a tight sixty seconds or less to keep the viewer engaged. Here, though, we have a format that feels almost like a documentary. It opens with Cheryl talking about the devastating losses that brought her to this journey of self-discovery layered over photos of the hike layered with photos of her family.
This all makes the reader feel invested in Cheryl’s story. Since we’re listening to her voice and we’re learning these personal details about her life (and seeing them in photographs), we feel a sense of connection to that story, and when the trailer ends, we’re inclined to pick up the book to hear how it ends.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is a young adult horror drama. It follows Tara, a teenager, who wakes up after a regular party surrounded by corpses. Believing she’s contracted vampirism, she sets out to save herself and the other survivors.
Right off the bat, you can tell this is a horror novel based on the music, the color grading, and the doomsday soundtrack. The camera follows a series of corpses scattered throughout the house, and just when the viewer is starting to wonder who did this, Tara tells us in voiceover that it was a vampire. She hurries into a car, and we get our cliffhanger: she has to go to Coldtown to get to the bottom of this. What’s Coldtown? Who killed those people? These are the kinds of questions you want your book trailer to inspire.
Scythe is a young adult dystopian novel set far into the future. In it, natural causes of death have been eradicated, and society is controlled by a computer system called the “Thunderhead.” They decide who dies, and they recruit scythes to carry out this death. The novel follows two teenagers who have been recruited as scythes.
This trailer does an excellent job at giving us a futuristic vibe with the white buildings, minimalist character costumes, and Tron-esque soundtrack. We also have costuming and weaponry that echo to a different age, which gives some complexity and depth—we want to know more about this world. Who are these robed people running around with weapons? What’s going on in this society? The trailer ends with a cliffhanging question: “What kind of scythe will you choose to be?”
Starlight by Hannah Lee Kidder is a short story collection including fantasy, horror, and contemporary short stories. The book grapples with themes of intimate violence and familial abuse, and running through all of them, even the contemporary stories, is a sense of otherworldliness.
This trailer captures that energy perfectly. The voice-over gives the viewer samples of the different stories they can expect in the book, all while the background music and eerie, ghostly illustrations make the reader unsettled in the best way possible. We get the book’s atmosphere, we know what the collection is about, and we get a sample of the phenomenal stories and artwork to come! This trailer ends with the voice over whispering a clobbering hook: “I brought a lantern to shine between the cracks because I knew well that the darkness was the worst of it all.”
The Girl in Room 105 by Chetan Bhagat is a mystery/thriller that follows Keshav, an IT tutor who discovers his ex-girlfriend dead in her room on her birthday. The novel follows him as he seeks justice, and along the way, it discusses political issues in India.
This trailer is another example of a long trailer done well. We start with energetic music that keeps us focused while our protagonist, Keshav, talks us through the circumstances that brought him to the plot’s beginning. His conversational, casual tone keeps us listening, and we watch his life as he describes it, including his lovely ex-girlfriend. Then, at the end, the gears shift. His ex-girlfriend is dead. We get images of people with guns intercut with old footage of his girlfriend, and Keshav gives us the call to action: come read my crazy story.
And how could you not?
What’s Your Next Step?
Now that you have some examples of great book trailers, it’s time to take action.
Storyboard your book trailer, find a professional AV person, and get started.
Need to learn how to sell more copies of your book? Check out this free training from our friends at Self-Publishing School.