Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Kid Lit Can, with Susan Hughes: Book trailers: What're they all about, Alfie?

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Kid Lit Can with Susan Hughes

Last June, shortly after I learned that my nonfiction book Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World (Owl Kids, 2011) was nominated for the Diamond Willow children's book award in Saskatchewan, a local librarian asked all of us nominees to send her our book trailers or simple audio or visual recordings about our books. She wanted to compile them into a short film which she would use to introduce all the nominated books to the students in her school division. She hoped it would inspire them to read the books and participate in the voting process. She needed our offerings by summer's end.

Hmmm.... I wanted to help but I didn't have a ready-made recording or trailer. Nor had I ever watched a book trailer! At a loss, I asked (okay, begged) my then 16-year-old tech savvy daughter for help. She and I viewed several book trailers together and chatted about creative possibilities. Then she grabbed her camera and some of her pals' younger siblings — and came up with this trailer.

Not bad, eh? I sent it off to Saskatchewan — mission accomplished! But I also use it in schools when I give book talks — it spices up the presentation — and I'll send it along as a link when I'm communicating about Off to Class in particular or others I've written.

For me, creating the trailer was fun, easy to arrange and cheap. (Thanks again, youngest daughter!) But do book trailers have other purposes? Do they, for example, help sell books?

I spent some time actually viewing a variety of book trailers of Canadian children's books at the CANSCAIP website and at the Moving Stories website. And then I invited several people in the biz to pick the ranking which best described their view on Canadian children's book trailers — and then say why! Read what they told me, below, and then please share your two cents' worth of questions, opinions or reactions in the comments section.

RANKINGS: 1. Essential. You gotta do it. 2. Highly recommended. 3. Recommended. 4. Sure, why not? 5. Nah, don't bother.

Fred Horler, Marketing Manager of Groundwood Books, chooses #3: Recommended.

I would say our prime audience for children's book trailers are teachers and librarians. While it is difficult to predict whether anything is “here-to-stay,” I do believe that the popularity of book trailers is going to remain for a while.


With the easy access to video content now available, a book trailer is an easy, and sometimes even entertaining, way to get a quick snapshot of a book’s content. Adding music and a voice-over can suggest a mood that can’t always be achieved in a 100-word description — particularly with picture books where a video can share some of the book’s images.

Groundwood has been experimenting with trailers and some of our creators have had them done themselves. This trailer for Girl of the Wish Garden was commissioned by its author Uma Krishnaswami and does a wonderful job of expressing the beauty and magic of her book. 


The trailer Groundwood created for I Have the Right to Be a Child has had over 1,300 views.


Next is Denise Anderson, who is Director of Trade Marketing and Publicity at Scholastic Canada. Her book trailer ranking? "Somewhere between #3 and #2. Probably #2, Highly recommended."

We have produced a few trailers for our Canadian books. It’s great to have visuals to post on your website and to distribute via Facebook and Twitter and other social media tools. Costs can be prohibitive, depending on how "slick" you want your videos to be, and most videos probably won’t get the number of views you would expect or hope. There are exceptions, of course. If you can do it, they are a great way to augment your online marketing.


Holly Kent Sales and Marketing Manager for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, picks #4: Sure, why not?

I think that if you can afford to make a short, clever and most importantly sharable book trailer, go for it. It’s a fun element of a social media strategy. I don’t think that it’s a terribly effective way to sell books, and it’s not right for every book out there. My favourite book trailers are usually low-budget, funny and highlight the authors’ personality. I’m not alone in this — the laugh-out-loud book trailers are the ones that get shared. Evan Munday’s book trailer for The Dead Kids Detective Agencyincluded a plea for readers to buy his book to fund hip-hop dance lessons, which I just learned he’s actually taking — so good on you, readers.

It’s the more serious, carefully produced, usually expensive trailers that are crafted to look like movie trailers that don’t get a lot of traction, so don’t let it eat up your marketing budget.


Next is Hadley Dyer author of 15 children's books and Executive Editor of Children’s Books at HarperCollins Canada. She gives book trailers a definitive ranking of #3,  Recommended.

At HarperCollins, we love a beautiful trailer, which can be an effective way to spread the word about a book, and authors and devoted fans love them.

That said, it’s our experience that they don’t always have a measurable impact on sales, and we don’t feel they are a necessity for every title. Our marketing director, Cory Beatty, cautions that the distribution vehicle for the trailer, and the quality of it, are vital to its success. Indeed, it’s easier to do damage to a book’s success via a poorly-produced trailer than it is to add value.

None of my own books have had trailers. It wasn’t a common practice when my novel was published in 2006. Plus children’s publishers are more likely to produce them for literary fiction, commercial fiction and picture books than for the sort of school and library market-oriented nonfiction titles that I’ve written.

Finally, here's Eric Walters the best-selling author of over 70 novels for children and young adults. Seven of his book trailers can be viewed on the CANSCAIP website, including this 35 second trailer for Seven, a series of seven novels by seven different authors, which includes Eric's Between Heaven and Earth (Orca, 2012).

Eric's book trailer ranking? "I’ll go with #2, highly recommended." 

The most essential thing is writing a good book.  However once you write it you need to make it accessible and attract attention.  If a cover of a book is important think of a trailer as an expanded cover. 

Book trailers can be simple — made by yourself — or more complex; filmed on the location where you were doing research, or having people "act" out a scene.  A flip-phone camera and editing software on your computer can be enough.  Suggest to your publisher that creating a trailer should be part of the promotional budget for your book.

Perhaps most important,  allow the creativity you put into writing the book to flow into creating the trailer. Have fun, celebrate your book and help young people get to know about it!

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Susan Hughes is an award-winning author of children's books — both fiction and non-fiction — including The Island Horse, Off to Class, Case Closed?, No Girls Allowed and Earth to Audrey. She is also an editor, journalist and manuscript evaluator. Susan lives in Toronto. Visit her website, www.susanhughes.ca.

2 comments

The first book trailer I ever saw is still my favourite. I loved reading the book, too. In fact, the trailer is what alerted me to the book. And it's such a fun trailer that I've shared it in my networks many many times.

Some of the book trailers you linked to are engaging, even without bank-breaking production value. I hope this trend continues. Readers like to read, but when you're peddling hours and hours of peoples time (i.e., people are committing their reading time, not just to buying your book), SHOWING them that your book will be worth their time is highly valuable.

Cheers, and thanks for sharing.

Oh, and that book trailer I love is for Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars". Not a kids' book, but, nonetheless: http://youtu.be/Ie52BGvaDd0

I think it is highly recommended. As a book seller it would be an advantage for me to have book trailers available in the store for customers - book lovers - to peruse at their leisure. When I recommend a book this would add to my verbal description of the book, in a very positive way. When I sell books to kids to add a multimedia visual would be a bonus for sales.

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