Linda Aksomitis

Linda Aksomitis kayaking in Fort Wayne.


I read an article today that described self-publishing e-books as a triathlon. I have to agree–and unfortunately, writing the book in the first place is the easy part.

Selling books has always been the hard part, whether it was the author or traditional publisher doing the selling. Today, with e-book publishing becoming mainstream, authors can jump into the self-publishing ring with little to no investment, so there are many of us out here in cyberspace looking for the best way to promote ourselves and our books.

How exactly do you go about selling e-books? Well, book trailers, like movie trailers, are one way to get the word out. So, for the next few blog posts I’m going to be examining some book trailers from YouTube to see what makes them tick, with the intent of incorporating some of the elements into my own book trailers.

Here’s the first: Brad Thor’s Black List:

Why study the book trailer for Black List?

I selected Black List for a few key reasons:

  • Today, August 14, 2012, this title is ranked #25 in the Paid Kindle Store; #1 in the Kindle store under political fiction; #1 under all books, political fiction; and #5 under all books, United States.
  • The author, Brad Thor, has a website with a (today) Alexa rank of 753,495, which is 78,498 less popular than this website’s current Alexa rank of 674,997, so it appears we have a similar reach with our established web presence.
  • Black List is genre fiction, which is what I’m also writing, although not the same genre.
  • Brad Thor has 18,419 followers on Twitter–I’m nowhere near that point, but I’ve never been a New York Times best selling author either, so I’m content to wait awhile.

At any rate, on with the examination of the book trailer and how it may or may not have impacted e-book sales for Brad.

Features of the Book Trailer for Black List

The first thing I noticed about this trailer is that it’s short, just 1:22. That, I figure, seems like a doable period for the publisher and the reader. As a YouTube user, I’d say less than one minute is pretty short to make more than a single point and more than two-and-a-half or three minutes loses my interest. But that’s me.

Like most trailers, the book is the first thing shown, which is a good branding technique. Also, of course, a lot of thought and work go into the book cover, so showing it immediately takes advantage of marketing work that has already been done.

The next image on the video is the author–against a black background–which works at setting a mood of political intrigue. One thing that surprised me, though, was that the author didn’t identify himself with any sort of introduction (verbally or on-screen), so I wondered for awhile if the speaker was an actor or publicist or Brad. His website does give a full photo of him, so perhaps the video creators assumed potential readers would recognize him.

Rather than introducing himself, the author tells listeners that all of Brad Thor’s books promise immediate action and intrigue, then goes on to talk about the incidents that gave him the idea for this book. He also tells listeners that it’s like he’s watching a movie when he writes his books, with the assumption, of course, that the reader will have a similar experience.

As well as a visual background, there’s also a low-key audio track playing that’s designed to develop the idea of intrigue and espionage–it enhances Brad’s voice, rather than detracting.

In his closing words, Brad tells us that readers always comment on the authenticity and action of his books, once again emphasizing the theme he’s carried from the beginning. The last 20 seconds of the book put the cover in front of us again, using that branding technique, with the soundtrack increasing in volume to build in an increasing expectation of tension.

Does this book trailer work?

The book trailer hasn’t drawn a lot of viewers in the two months it has been available online–just 651 until today. There are a few comments from fans, but with the limited number of views it’s likely a safe guess that the link to the trailer hasn’t been circulated to others.

I read thrillers, particularly techno-thrillers, although it’s unclear whether Black List actually falls into this category. However, there wasn’t anything in the trailer that got me interested enough to even check the cost of a download on Amazon, never mind click and buy it–okay, I had to go check it out and I can guarantee that I certainly wouldn’t buy it at the $18.57 Kindle price listed today.

So, since the book is a best seller in the Kindle store, my conclusion is that Brad already had a following of readers before this book trailer or book came out.

So finally, please feel free to comment here on what you think about this trailer. Does it work or doesn’t it? What can we learn from it that will help us promote our own ebooks?

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