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Making a Book Trailer That Goes Viral

22 June 2011

Passive Guy has to admit he thinks most book trailers suck.

Here’s an exception for a book by Gary Shteyngart. The trailer breaks some rules but makes some much more important rules. The trailer came out last summer, but PG completely missed it.

Here is some analysis about what made the video successful.


The style of the trailer reflects the content of the book. Shteyngart’s book is a satire; therefore, his trailer is satirical. Obviously, this particular trailer is hilarious, which helped it to become a viral sensation. At 150,000 views, this is not exactly Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday,’ but it’s pretty damn good for a book trailer. I’m not going to go super in-depth into the math since these things are always highly variable, but if the conversion rate on views-to-sales was 5% then that would make this book a bestseller.

Which, in fact, it was. The book charted at Number 11 on the New York Timesbestseller list the month it came out.

. . . .

Notice the trailer is packed with interviews. Interviews are cheap to shoot, easy to edit, effective, informative and engaging. That’s why. The convention grows out of common sense and is dictated by the generally small budgets we have available to shoot our book trailers.

. . . .

Note that Shteyngart posted his trailer on YouTube July 7th when his book came out on the 27th. That gave the trailer three weeks lead time before the book hit the stands, and the timing calibrated it to coincide to the weekend when most people would have been reading pre-publication reviews for Super Sad True Love Storyin The New Yorker and Harpers. I’m betting that Shteyngart’s agent told him to drop the video on that date.

Link to the rest at BookBuzzr


10 Comments to “Making a Book Trailer That Goes Viral”

  1. “…if the conversion rate on views-to-sales was 5% then that would make this book a bestseller.”

    Er, anyone who has worked in web/signup/sales situation knows that 5% conversion would be incredibly high, especially where there is not a direct funnel to the sales (ie. people are watching the trailer, but the book is not available yet). It could still be a bestseller, of course, since people can buy the book through other means than watching the trailer, and plus book sales can snowball with all the press, but even mentioning a 5% conversion rate on the trailer is misleading.

  2. Forget the 5%…this is the first book trailer I’ve ever managed to watch. I avoid them like the plague. This is more like a comedy skit. Hilarious! “I can’t read…”

  3. It’s a cute video and I’m guess that having James Franco in it certainly added to the number of views, especially if you’re a fan. Unfortunately, an aspiring author would be challenged to get someone so famous and good looking in their book trailer.

    • Jen – I think the script is what really made the video more than anyone recognizable.

      • I think you underestimate the star power effect (or maybe it’s sheer chance that the freeze frame is not only James Franco’s face but also his name?). Not to say the video couldn’t have gone viral without, though I am hard pressed to find many other 5 minute long comedy bits that have done so.

        If you check Funny or Die, you’ll see a few James Franco vids with nearly a million views, and one his mom recorded that has over 600,000. He’s an Oscar nominated, Oscar-hosting, pop-culture phenom (it was NEWS when he closed his Twitter account!), and it’s brilliant to have him in the video. BUT there are other videos every day that do the same 5 things right that don’t go even mildly viral. (And yes, there are other videos that go viral like the “vidlit” of the Yiddish Fun with Dick and Jane. That book, however, never became a bestseller).

        I hope they did get a 5% conversion. That would be new and news, I’d say.

  4. Karen (Karen LeRosier)

    Vast improvement on book trailers.
    Here’s my favorite, cracked me up. It’s kind of a spoof on book trailers and made for an Urban Fantasy, I think fifth in series. It did the job for me; I started reading the series (and the first one didn’t suck.) It’s funnier now that I’ve read them.


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