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Book trailer or no book trailer? The question that burns…

Book trailer or no book trailer? The question that burns…

Many of us think in words. Authors are like that. Our thoughts take on a distinct inner voice — dependent on mood, muse and cups of coffee.

So when we’re faced with the option of building a book trailer, with words and pictures and animations… well, it’s daunting.

With an NYU Film School education and several years of playing the Hollywood game, I’ve set out to craft a trailer for my upcoming series, The Camelot Kids. I’m delighted with it so far, so I thought I’d share some basic rules that have helped me focus.

Here are my impressions of what works, what doesn’t and how to avoid the common mistakes I spot in book trailers every day.


book previews donts

start-simplebook trailers terrify me



Here are some resources for you to dig into:

Tools for book trailer creation

Adobe Voice for iPad

A spectacular tool. I don’t use that word lightly. That’s the term I save in my quiver for special occasions.

The app on the iPad does everything and does it well. You can make a slick presentation within minutes. If you want to make a fast, elegant trailer that focuses on your writing style, character voices or humor then Adobe Voice can help you. Oh, and they have tens of thousands of stock images for free. The app adds the correct credit to the end of the video so you’re pretty safe.

I can’t recommend this app enough.


Some quality book trailers have been done with Prezi tools. Like Adobe Voice, the service will help you look slick. But unlike Adobe Voice, you don’t have simple and searchable access to free, accredited images.

Graphicstock and BigStock are (as of this writing) offering a free one week trial to their library of images. You need to give a credit card to get access, but you can cancel if you don’t think the service gives you enough value.

Blue Yeti mic for book trailerIf you decide that voice is a critical component of your trailer, then you really can’t go wrong with Blue’s Yeti mic. It looks great and sounds even better. While the sensitivity can be high it’s nothing that can’t be adjusted for with a little distance from the mic.

Book trailers that work

Fantastic book trailers and the reasons they’re so good

7 Brilliant Book Trailers

A funny piece in The New Yorker about book trailers


Have you made a book trailer? What do you think of book trailers? Let us know in the comments!

By Ben Zackheim


You might also like:

How to write an author bio that sells books

Choose the best genre for your book on Amazon

8 tips for a powerful book description (video)

Welcome to the first in a series of video tutorials!

The series will cover best practices for today’s author. I don’t want the information to be useful to one type of writer or another. I don’t care if you’re self-published, small press-backed, big publisher-backed… good info is good info. Authors are in this thing together. The more we share our common experiences, the better we’ll steer our own boats.

Let me know what you think in the comments!


Choose the best genre for your book on Amazon

Five steps to choose your book genre on Amazon

Cheat sheet. Use it once you’ve read the rest of this post!


In my last post, I covered the general rules of choosing the right genre for your book. I spoke briefly about Amazon’s categories. I’ll go into more details now.

The ground rules for Amazon categories are simple:

Every genre on Amazon gets to have its own tidy list of popular titles.

Each of these lists is often visited by fans of those genres.

Amazon scours their popularity lists for books to promote.


So how do you show up on a popular Amazon list?

Choose the right genre when you publish your book on Amazon.

Once you’ve identified which genres you belong in, you need to decide which genre is easiest for you to get in the Top 20. We’re shooting for the Top 20 because that means your book would show up on the first page of that genre’s Amazon page.

Good place to be…

After we find the easiest genre to place in, we’ll shoot for a tougher genre. Just to keep things interesting!


How to choose the right genre for your book on Amazon

Okay, let’s say we write a Mystery ebook for kids with a female detective (like oh, say, Shirley Link). Here are some of the possible categories on Amazon. I dug these up by rummaging through Amazon’s genre lists (seen on the left hand side of this page)

Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives

Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives

Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Action & Adventure

Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Beginner Readers

Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Chapter Books

Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Women’s Fiction/Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Women Sleuths

Any of these genres would work for the book. So how do we choose which genre we can get to #20 in?

Using Theresa Ragan’s sales estimator, I get a ballpark idea of how many books I’d need to sell to crack the top 20 of each possible genre.

So the #20 book in Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives is Nancy Drew & The Bungalow Mystery.

But, more important to us is the book’s overall Kindle rank of 39,589 (see image below).

Checking Theresa’s sales estimator, this means the book sells between 3-15 copies per day.

Nancy Drew: The Bungalow Mystery sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:



On the other hand, Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives is a tough one. The 20th ranked book has an overall Kindle sales rank of 3,239. This means the book sells between 30-50 books per day.

Spirit Animals Book 1 sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:


I think I can manage to sell 3-15 books per day, but 30-50 will take some ingenuity. If I can find a way to crack the tough Action & Adventure Top 20 list then that will mean much more exposure to more people. I’m willing to claw my way up that genre’s listings over the long haul. One good sales day could be a game changer.


It’s fine to choose low-popularity genres for your picks. You’re more likely to be seen by fans of those genres if you rank high! But don’t be afraid to experiment if you’re not happy with sales. Yes, it’s possible to lose sales because you’ve changed genres, but if you do it with a marketing plan to back it up then you can gain crucial customer knowledge.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. Don’t forget to use the cheat sheet above. And pass it on to a writer friend.

Thanks for reading!

By Ben Zackheim

Helpful tool: Sign up for EBookTracker to get details on any book’s ranking over time. The tool won’t help you see actual sales, but it will give you insights around your favorite genre’s movers and shakers.


You might also like:

Amazon has a bridge to sell ya!

The $1.1 Million question: Is KDP Select worth it?

5 steps to choose the right genre for your book

5 steps to choose the right genre for your book

How important is book genre?

Here’s a worst-case scenario:

1974: Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, is released. The publisher lists it as a Biography by accident. The book sits on the wrong shelf across the country.

2014: No one knows who Stephen King is.

Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but when you choose the wrong genre for your books on Amazon you’re choosing the wrong shelf. Simply put, that could destroy the book’s chances.

Luckily, we can change genres as often as we change writing software. Every online retailer allows you to genre-hop until you find your right audience.


5 simple steps you can take to choose the right genre:

1) Go to a bookstore!

Okay, this is going to sound trite. If it does, then head to #2. But it worked for me! If your book was inspired by a particular novel or author, then go find them on the shelf.

Now imagine that your book sits next to it.

Does it feel right?

It sounds loopy, but it really works! Especially if your book is a mix of many genres.


2) Armed with your best guess, head to the BISG site.

Click on the genre you chose in #1 and study the sub-genres on BISG.

Then bookmark BISG! Why? Because new genres pop up every year. The BISG site is the most transparent method of spotting a new mainstream, “official” market for your work.

And guess what? Most booksellers comply with the BISG list!


3) Head to the major online booksellers and find your niche.

These sites are your stores. You get a place on the shelf. You get a small display. You get a few seconds to make the sale. So know your store.

Luckily, with the BISG list you whittled down the choices so you don’t need to dig as much now that you’re about to dive into the morass of online bookstore genre lists! How big a mess are they? Well, here’s the Mystery genre list of four top online stores.



And check out this small taste of what genres each store offers: (all lists are from April, 2014)


Amazon genre list

[showhide type=”genrelist” more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Amazon genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide Amazon genre list” hidden=”yes”]

#s in parentheses are the total number of titles in that genre

Arts & Photography (939,077)
Biographies & Memoirs (691,601)
Business & Money (1,967,372)
Calendars (136,574)
Children’s Books (1,110,182)
Christian Books & Bibles (652,410)
Comics & Graphic Novels (410,241)
Computers & Technology (496,343)
Cookbooks, Food & Wine (187,337)
Crafts, Hobbies & Home (430,882)
Education & Reference (4,512,483)
Engineering & Transportation (710,286)
Gay & Lesbian (52,727)
Health, Fitness & Dieting (610,932)
History (3,805,653)
Humor & Entertainment (453,318)
Law (566,246)
Literature & Fiction (3,178,315)
Medical Books (771,156)
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (272,265)
Parenting & Relationships (165,447)
Politics & Social Sciences (1,597,281)
Religion & Spirituality (1,271,853)
Romance (435,075)
Science & Math (1,518,315)
Science Fiction & Fantasy (287,324)
Self-Help (309,223)
Sports & Outdoors (254,091)
Teen & Young Adult (279,009)
Travel (414,616)


Barnes & Noble genre list

[showhide type=”genrelist2″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Barnes & Noble genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Barnes & Noble genre list” hidden=”yes”]

Art, Architecture & Photography
Bibles & Bible Studies
Business & Money
Children’s Books
Computing & Internet
Cookbooks, Food & Wine
Crafts & Hobbies
Education & Teaching
Fiction & Literature
Graphic Novels
Health & Fitness
Home & Garden
Libros en español
Mystery & Crime
Politics & Current Events
Science & Nature
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sports & Adventure


Kobo genre list

[showhide type=”genrelist3″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Kobo genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Kobo genre list” hidden=”yes”]

Artists, Architects & Photographers
Composers & Musicians
Entertainment & Performing Arts

Business Reference
Career Planning & Job Hunting
Entrepreneurship & Small Business
Finance & Investing
Human Resources & Personnel Management
Industries & Professions
Management & Leadership
Marketing & Sales
Personal Finance

Contemporary Women
Crime & Mystery
Gay & Lesbian
Historical Fiction
Media Tie-In
Science Fiction

Action Suspense
Essays & Letters
Fiction – Young Adult
Literary Theory & Criticism
Movie & Television Tie-Ins
Short Stories

ABCs, 123s
Beautiful and Interesting
Comics, Graphic Novels & Manga
Creative Kids
Français, Español and more
Knock knock, Who’s Funny?
My Family, My Feelings, My Friends
Natural World
People and Places
School Tools
Sports and Recreation
Two Wheels, Four Wheels, No Wheels

Cozy Mysteries
Historical Mystery
Police Procedural
Traditional British
Women Sleuths

Art & Architecture
Family & Relationships
Food & Drink
Health & Well Being
Home & Garden
Reference & Language
Religion & Spirituality
Science & Nature
Social & Cultural Studies

Inspired Romance
Romantic Suspense
Science Fiction & Fantasy

High Tech
Science Fiction
Space Opera


Smashwords genre list

[showhide type=”genrelist4″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Smashwords genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Smashwords genre list” hidden=”yes”]

African American fiction
Children’s books
Cultural & ethnic themes
Gay & lesbian fiction
Graphic novels & comics
Humor & comedy
Literary collections
Mystery & detective
Science fiction
Themes & motifs
Thriller & suspense
Women’s fiction
Young adult or teen

Antiques & Collectibles
Art, Architecture, Photography
Business & Economics
Career Guides
Children’s Books
Comics (nonfictional)
Computers and Internet
Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits
Education and Study Guides
Engineering, trades, and technology
Gay and Lesbian
General reference
Health, wellbeing, & medicine
Home and Garden
Language Instruction
New Age
Politics and Current Affairs
Relationships and Family
Religion and Spirituality
Science and Nature
Sex and Relationships
Social Science
Sports & outdoor recreation
True Crime


The lists above don’t include all sub-genres! So yeah, there are a lot of options. Again, BISG will help you focus.


4) Choose every single genre that makes sense.

Every. Single. One.

That’s probably a lot, and that’s okay. Write the list down somewhere safe. You’ll need it for #5.

Each online seller allows you to choose a different number of genres. Choose the genres that feel right. Or choose the genres that solid data supports.

Important note: Make sure your honest with yourself and choose a genre that actually fits. Just because your book includes a cameo of a handsome vampire doesn’t make it a New Adult Paranormal Romance. If you choose the wrong genre for your book you will hear from the readers — with bad reviews (see #5 for my experience).

Important note #2: Some bookstores don’t allow you to choose the precise genre you want. In this case, write to their support team and tell them you’d like placement in a certain genre. They’ll do so, but it may take a while.


5) Measure performance and make changes

This might be controversial advice, but it makes sense. If you don’t think your book is finding an audience in the genre you picked, then consider changing to another one.


[blockquote author_name=”” width=”50%” float=”left”]Upside: You might hit the nail on the head.[/blockquote]

[blockquote author_name=”” width=”50%” float=”left”]Downside: You might disrupt any momentum you were getting in the genre (which is info that none of these stores shares with us).[/blockquote]


I changed genres for the Shirley Link series on Amazon from Young Adult Mysteries to Kids Mysteries. I was getting a lot of downloads in Young Adult, but most of my reviews were *enh* to awful because young adults thought my books were too young for them. While I haven’t yet shown in the top seller list on Kids Mysteries, I’ve seen excellent reviews since I made the move.

It’s a tough call, sure. But if your book isn’t moving after a couple of months, try changing one of your sub-genres before you spend cash on a promo.

What tips do you have for genre seekers? Help out a fellow writer in the comments.


By Ben Zackheim




Promote your book on 30 sites in 15 minutes 

Promote your book on 30 sites in 15 minutes 


As usual, I’m at my standing desk doing squats (poorly). I’m in the throes of marketing bliss as I find ways to promote my book.

I check on the sales of my book Shirley Link & The Black Cat.

They’re dip-tastic.

Time for a promotion.

So I plan until my brain stem hurts: the right day, the right level of social sharing, the right promotional materials… You know the drill.

Now all I have to do is post my book to the book listing sites! Wheee! So let’s see. That means I get to…


… scour through my bookmarks to find sites that still exist.

… excavate the correct submission page and read through the site rules that run, on average, 4,987 words.

… enter the same information over and over until I hate my name/book title/genre/sub-genre/description…


Of course, even with all of this work, there is no guarantee that my book will actually appear on the promotional site.

Can I lick the floor instead?

So when I heard about Book Marketing Tools’ ebook submission tool I stopped doing my lame squats. Book Marketing Tools promises to let you easily promote your book on 30 of the top free/deal sites. How easy? Like one-click per site. Fifteen minutes from start to finish.

This isn’t like Authors Marketing Club’s tool where they list out the links and send you off to fill out the form to promote your book. It’s a service that promises to make the submissions easy. That’s a promise I’m delighted to take them up on.

How does the ebook submission tool work?

I headed in with high hopes and low expectations. I’ve been burned by promotional tools before.

So I was pleased to find a good-looking site that told me what it did and got me into work-mode fast. The service asks you to enter some basic data about you and your book. It’s the same info you’re usually asked to enter on the deal sites. ASIN, Title, Author, Genre, Author bio. The idea here is that you should only need to enter the data once for all 30 sites.

When you finish with that step, you get this…

Submit your book to 30 sites in 15 minutes



See the list of sites with the light gray backdrops? Those are the ones that you can submit to automatically. All you have to do is click on the first site (Awesome Gang) and a pop-up window appears. You verify the pre-populated info and click on the ‘Next’ button.

Repeat 29 times.

Did it work? Yup. Some of the steps required an extra few seconds of data entry, but the process took only 15 minutes! Fifteen minutes to promote your book on 30 sites. Wow.

I think my favorite part was watching dozens of verification emails flood my inbox one after another.

Unfortunately, the blue-button sites at the bottom of the dashboard screen cannot be filled automatically. They act more like the AMC tool — sending you off to the correct submission pages where you do the heavy lifting. Still, it’s nice to have the list in one place.

With all of its strengths, I’d like to see the tool track two things:

1) Which of the sites under the “Additional sites you can submit to” header did I submit to already? I’d like to check it off my list once I’m done submitting manually.

2) What’s the success rate of the submissions? Did Edreader News Today show my book on promo day, or not? I’d use this service to track my progress if it had the tools.

But won’t the submission sites be angry about this new service? Not if they think it through. I discovered a bunch of sites I’d never heard of before on the dashboard. Besides, when I submit to a promo site I’m not there to browse. I want to submit my book and move on. That’s not the behavior of a valuable visitor. In my opinion, promotional sites should work with Book Marketing Tools to make things as easy as possible for us. It’s a logical way to strengthen their services and their brands.

So yes, the ebook submission tool can help you promote your book to 30 sites in 15 minutes, as advertised. If I could track details of my promotions then Book Marketing Tools could become one of my default browser tabs.

The price is $29 per book promo. That seems a little steep to me, but I might do it to save myself a couple of  hours of work.

Give it a try and let us know how it works for you.

By Ben Zackheim

Disclaimer: Book Marketing Tools reached out to me and offered me a $5 credit to test their new tool. I’m posting my experience, which was a good one.