Building an Academic Book Trailer

I know what you might be thinking…

“A trailer for an academic book!

You kids have no imagination.”

To which I respond, “sure, blame the audience.”

The truth is, there are really important reasons why you should consider creating a book trailer the next time you publish. They have nothing to do with reaching unimaginative kids and everything to do with the changing digital academic landscape.

In this post I will…

  • share a book trailer I recently created for Stephanie Evergreen’s new book;
  • explain why you should consider creating trailers for published works;
  • show you some examples of successful book trailers;
  • go over the process Stephanie and I used to create her trailer;
  • and share some preliminary results.

I’m writing a book.

Before I get into the why, what and how of book trailers I wanted to share something. I’m writing a book! More specifically, I’m writing a handbook for the digital age. It’s going to be incredibly practical and based on my experiences working with researchers and evaluators on tech, design, and social media.

It’s an indie project and will be released exclusively online. If you’re interested, I suggest you sign up to get email updates. When it’s time to launch, you’ll hear about it first and receive the only discount I’ll be handing out.

Presenting Data Effectively

A book trailer is exactly what it sounds like.  A short video designed to preview a book.

Now that you know what a trailer is, here is the one I worked with Stephanie to create.

On Soundbites

Academic speak does not work on the web, at least not well.  It just doesn’t fit the format.   There is far too much competition for your audience’s attention.  Never expect that they will take an hour, or a half-hour, or fifteen minutes, or even five minutes out of their day to read what you have to say.

If you really want attention, you have to grab it.  If you can open the door, maybe you can get them to go a little further.   Comprehensive is the end on the web, not the beginning.

The beginning is the soundbite.  And one great way to create a soundbite is through video.

Neil deGrasse Tyson on the art of the soundbite from Maria Popova on Vimeo.

YouTube is Popular

According to Alexa, YouTube is the third most popular site on the web, behind Google and Facebook.  Considering Google and Facebook often feature YouTube content in search results and activity feeds, it’s not such a bad service to use for someone looking to reach an audience.

Attention battle

When you read an article on the web, how often do you read the whole thing?  How often do you just skim?  Do you listen to podcasts?  How often are you doing other work while you listen?

Video engages because it gives you something for your eyes and your ears.

Video is Spreadable

You don’t lift large segments of text off of one site and stick it on yours (well most of us anyway).  But online video is different, it’s inviting to share.  Through embedding, you’re encouraged to take the video and stick it on your blog, or stick it on Facebook, or stick it on your LinkedIn feed.

This is why video goes viral on the web and quotes rarely do.

Video has a Long-Tail

Most blog posts get most of their pageviews over their first few days.  Short little blog posts that don’t offer anything of long-term value tend to produce very few views after the initial posting.   Valuable content has a much longer shelf-life.  Videos, because of the popularity of YouTube, shortage of video producers (relative to writers), and overall spreadability, produce views for a much longer stretch of time.


There are lots of neat book trailers.  Head on over to brainpickings and search “Book Trailer,” you’ll find a bunch.  They come in all shapes and sizes but they’re usually short (1 – 5 minutes).

Here are just a few examples.

The Summary

The Scripted

The Story

The Anthology

WISDOM Trailer from Andrew Zuckerman Studio on Vimeo.

The Not Actually About a Single Book but Looks Like a Trailer

Our Process

Here was the general process Stephanie and I used to create our trailer.

  1. Look at examples
  2. Come up with a concept (we came up with a few and decided to go with the animated story)
  3. Write the script/story (Stephanie did this)
  4. Create a storyboard (I did this)
  5. Film/Record (Stephanie recorded her story and sent it to me)
  6. Edit/Animate (I animated and pulled the video together)
  7. Publish (I showed Stephanie the final, she published on YouTube then embedded on her site)


Preliminary Results

I asked Stephanie to share some preliminary data to get a sense of the trailer’s reach.  As of this moment the trailer has 366 views on YouTube.

Here is an analytics snapshot from Stephanie’s Book Page.   The arrow points to the trailer release.


So far, nothing earth shattering.

Stephanie shared the trailer on LinkedIn and it received 16 likes and a comment.  Likes and comments are important as they spread posted material to the update feeds of people who are not your connections.  This was the third time Stephanie shared info about her book on LinkedIn, the other shares did not generate nearly as many likes or comments.

It continued to spread a bit, Jane Davidson posted it on her Real Evaluation Facebook page.  There were also a handful of tweets and retweets.

The most important piece of evidence I’ve seen happens when you Google “Presenting Data Effectively”  (note: lots of factors change Google results, I always sign out of Google before testing).  With the YouTube clip, there is now a visual halfway down the page.  It also comes up at #2 on the video search page.

But that’s not all, now when you Google “Presenting Data”, the clip will come up on page 4 and is the first video shown in the results.  If you search “Presenting Data” on YouTube, the video comes up on page 1.    I did this same search a few days ago and had to skip to page 6 for the result.  If the views go up, and shares continue, the results will improve.

Like this post?

I plan to do a lot more posts like this one.  Did you like it?  If so, stay with me over email.


  1. Sara Vaca on November 27, 2013 at 3:52 am

    Hey! What a great idea!
    I’m also writing a book… also an e-book…!
    So I’ll maybe come back to you for help on the storyboard… =S
    Good luck with yours!
    Can´t wait to see it =))))

    • Chris Lysy on November 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

      Thanks Sara, good luck with your book 🙂

  2. Molly Engle on November 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I liked the way you split up the blog into many parts. I found I read all of it. I didn’t look at all the videos. The idea of a trailer is a good one. I am not writing a book–maybe a trailer for a blog???

    • Chris Lysy on November 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks Molly,

      It’s amazing what a few visuals and a little bit of spacing can do to a blog post 🙂

      Also, you can trailer anything, blogs, lectures, presentations, courses…

  3. Sheila B Robinson on November 30, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Love it! This is a great direction to go Chris and I’m having fun watching your new projects unfold. I really admire you for combining your talents, interests and knowledge of what’s going on in the world and forging ahead in a new and creative direction while still keeping your roots in blogging and cartooning. Count me in the “book club” (I hope) for I am in the very beginningest (ooh, the editors won’t like that word!) of conversations and plans for a book. 🙂

    • Chris Lysy on December 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Thanks Sheila 🙂