Digital Advertising in the Publishing World

Digital Advertising in the Publishing World

There are trailers for books, seriously?

Book trailers have emerged as a new way for authors and publishers to market newly released titles and even well-established ones.
Many approaches to this new digital marketing format have been seen in recent years. Some authors appear in their own trailers to pitch their books, like in this trailer for the popular book, The Other Wes Moore:

Other trailers use artwork and digital animations ranging in quality and execution. Still, others feature voice-overs and even live actors in a fashion similar to trailers for films. The trailer for this Teen/YA Mystery novel Buzz Kill, uses both actors and digital animation.

Most often, the approach seems to be a sequence of images, graphics or live footage paired with on-screen captions, usually with a hook leading into a brief synopsis of the story. Here’s an example pieced together for independently published Cyberpunk novel, Starlight City:

Some publishers and marketing companies offer book trailers as a service, but it can be pricey. Dog Ear Publishing’s book trailer package runs at a solid $899, promising a relevant trailer with high digital quality and marketing efforts across multiple channels. For the Starlight City trailer, the trailer needed to be something visually appealing yet as economical as possible. My idea was to enhance the brief synopsis on the back of the book with animations. After selecting some relevant stock graphics sequences on for about $80, and purchasing a royalty-free audio track for .99 cents on the trailer was pieced together with some basic video editing in iMovie.

Marketing attempts for the trailer were brief and limited, and while the initial response from viewers, mostly other authors, seemed positive, the impact on actual sales is unknown.

Aside from book trailers, there are other digital and interactive channels through which to advertise and market books. Some newly successful authors say that using an author website as a hub for all marketing funnels, along with engagement on Facebook and even Twitter increased the chances of their books being discovered by readers. This was especially true when offering free promotions.

Amazon in particular has revolutionized the publishing market with its online platform, and most if not all authors consider an Amazon listing to be a necessity for success. On Amazon, readers can preview books by flipping a digitized version of the cover to the front or back side and can also explore the inside of the book. Some titles on Amazon even have a sample of the audio version users can click and play. There are also other tools like Book Buzzr that let readers flip through digital pages of a free chapter or excerpt from the book.

One of the more effective interactive marketing approaches has been author blogging and book forum activities. This is not surprising as it reflects the emerging customer-focused tactic of engaging in two-way dialogue with consumers. Stephen King’s engagement on Facebook is a great example of how authors can use this approach. (Official Stephen King FB Page)

A few copies of Starlight City were sold through this method using the Bookblogs.ning platform, (now This blog site was designed for authors to reach out to new potential readers and authors who joined. Authors could opt to receive emails from the Book Blogs site with links to the pages of new members that joined. This allowed authors to post welcome messages on new users’ pages with promotional links to book material. Using each member’s first name when sending out welcome posts  and embedding the YouTube video of the book trailer seemed to have a positive effect on the likelihood of message response. The result was a lot of compliments for the trailer, and a few readers even responded with interest in purchasing the book.

Still, the effect of the trailer on those sales is unknown, though it seemed to at least be eye-catching to viewers. With that said, can using book trailers to advertise books actually increase sales? One blogger on went the extra mile to create the trailer for the novel, Sellout, by James W. Lewis, spending about $2,000 on actors and a film crew. He sums up his experience on the blog, writing:

. . . while I can’t say the book trailers break-even on the investment it costs to produce them, I still believe in the book trailer as an important tool in the book discoverability toolbox, and if done right, [it] can really help boost your book’s visibility.  A good book trailer can create/improve brand awareness, interest, buzz, target audience engagement, anticipation, and excitement – all positives. A bad book trailer, however produces fatigue, irritation, stomach upset, projectile vomiting, headaches, boredom, and the book discoverability killer – apathy.

The blogger says after posting the book trailer on YouTube, the trailer appeared near the top of Google search results each time he looked up keywords for the book.

Despite the visual appeal of book trailers, some book fans and writers have questioned the tactic on a deeper level.  Are book trailers a good thing in a publishing market that has become more digitized, or is it bad for the industry? On, blogger Shirin Najafi addresses uncertainty about the impact of book trailers. Najafi also includes a list of preferred book trailers she feels are setting the bar.

Editor’s Note:

Finding ways to engage and encourage consumers to share ad videos on their social networks can be an effective marketing approach. For articles on online consumer engagement, check out the JIAD: 

Mobile social networks bring a different elements to digital marketing and advertising and can require different approaches then traditional web campaigns. For more on advertising and mobile social networks, check out this JIAD article:

“The Impact of eWOM Message Characteristics on the Perceived Effectiveness of Online Consumer Reviews”


Volume 15 – Issue 2

Journal of Interactive Advertising


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