Trailer Success Demands Attention to Detail, Part 1

Jeffrey Madison plots the Bootlicker trailer.

I see too many book trailers built around photos, text screens and background music.

I wanted something more for Bootlicker, which explores the dark secret that links a racist U.S. senator and the candidate poised to become South Carolina’s first black congressman since the Civil War.

At a minimum, I wanted to match the quality of the trailer for my first novel, BellaThose two minutes took months to produce, but I think it was worth the effort.

So what ingredients go into the recipe for a compelling trailer? The first, for me, is planning. Remember, the goal is not to tell the entire story, but to stimulate enough interest to sell books.

What do I want readers to know about my story? First, terrible secrets haunt the leading candidate in a historic election. Second, this is a a tale of guilt and redemption. Third, the novel will go where the cameras are not invited – to back rooms where deals are cut, futures are plotted, and where right and wrong are not so easily defined.

The next question was one I had to ask myself. Am I technically capable of pulling this off? Short answer: no. Solution? Pull together a team that would first, define the concept. Ike, the candidate and central character, will be rehearsing a stump speech with his campaign manager. As he makes mistake after mistake, we will see that the words coming from his mouth do not sync with the graphic images in his mind. He is a man tortured by the past.

Second, we had to create a storyboard. This is a simple but critical tool that allows you to plot the video in sequence before you begin shooting. If you skip this step, you’ll pay later, I promise.

Step three was identifying the locations and selecting actors. You’ll probably also want some still photos and background music. (make sure to heed copyright laws).

My team and I have met now about a half-dozen times. We’re making real progress. The shoot is scheduled for later this month. And Bootlicker will launch Sept. 1.

Stay tuned, and please share if you have your own trailer story or any questions.

6 Comments so far »

  1. Jack Durish said,

    Wrote on July 14, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

    I used text and background music but added a reading from my novel. You can see it at



    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Nice, Jack, and thanks for dropping in. I’m also wondering if anyone’s figured out a way to measure return on investment in a trailer …


    Mark Reply:

    Guessing number of views on YouTube wouldn’t tell you too much.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    It would tell you a bit, but I was thinking more in terms of how to tie book sales to trailer views.

  2. Adonna | The Author Pro said,

    Wrote on July 26, 2012 @ 9:52 am

    Hi Steve. I may have an idea that will answer your sales question.

    When a video is created, there are usually credits that roll at the end. In those credits, you can place a live link to your book sales page (i.e. Amazon) or even your own website by using a link shortening service (such as Whenever that link is clicked on, *that* would be what you are counting. In other words, did the viewer ever make it to your book’s sales page? You can also place this link in the description on it’s Youtube page as well.

    One word of caution here, buyers usually need to see an item several times before purchasing so they may not buy from any one source of info initially. The clicks thru to the sales page should tell you how good of a job the video (and it’s surrounding content) have done to at least encourage buyers to seek out more info closer to the point of purchase.

    Hope that helps.

    Adonna, Publicist
    Twitter: @PassionMuse


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Great tip, thanks for sharing your expertise! Adonna shares a lot more at her site,


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