100 Scope Notes
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A Humble Demand: More Nonfiction Book Trailers Please

Book trailers are pretty great, right? We’re all on the same page here? When well done, they’re an excellent way to drum up business for books.

But there’s a problem.

It seems nonfiction gets almost completely overlooked in the book trailer department. This needs to change.

The realization came to me when prepping for the yearly best books of the year PD session I do with teachers in my school district. In the presentation, I like to mix it up – I talk about some books and show the book trailer for others. While the majority of fiction titles had trailers available, nonfiction fared far worse.

As in zero.

Come on publishers! Think about some of the best nonfiction books of the year and how great their book trailers could be.

A trailer for BOMB by Steve Sheinkin? Are you kidding me? That would be motion-picture-level exciting.

Would Deborah Hopkinson’s Titanic: Voices from the Disaster trailer generate interest? Leo DeCaprio and Kate Winslet would probably say “likely”.

I’d also like to see Jim Murphy’s The Giant and How He Humbugged America given the trailer treatment.

The trailer for Zombie Makers by Rebecca L. Johnson would probably be scarier than any horror movie released this year.

How about Nic Bishop Snakes? Tell me that trailer wouldn’t cause a holds explosion.

I would love to see a trailer for Castle: How It Works by David Macaulay. Knights, swords, castle raiding – that there is some exciting source material.

Jason Chin’s Island: A Story of the Galapagos has plenty of visuals to work with.

So on behalf of librarians everywhere, I humbly demand more nonfiction book trailers.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Yes! This would be fantastic. There seems to be so many picture book biographies coming out next spring and any one of them would be great fodder for a trailer.

  2. Trailers ARE great, but are they great, cost-effective ways to drum up sales for this kind of book, which is mostly for the library market and not trade? I wonder if at some point, a nonfiction picture book trailer becomes a film adaptation, for which the publisher does not hold rights. And such a trailer may fulfill — rather than create — demand for the PB among readers. Just looking at this from another direction.

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Thanks for looking at the topic from a different angle, Kell. *Sigh* It does all come down to dollars and cents, I suppose. Seems like a lot of it lies in the execution. I think nonfiction PB trailers can be done in a way that would spark interest without giving away too much. And I would also say that a solid book trailer doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – a few compelling lines, music that matches the mood of the book, and images of the cover and inside would do the trick. I feel a follow-up post coming…

  3. I agree, Travis, and I hope you don’t mind if I humbly offer the trailer for MONSIEUR MARCEAU: ACTOR WITHOUT WORDS, my picture-book bio of the great mime.
    Short and sweet.

  4. You know, I didn’t even realize when I was making my own nonfiction book trailer this year that I had seen only a handful of others. Mine, by the way, does start off as fiction (much as we all wish Batman was real), but quickly morphs to non (in fact, it includes a choice bit that is not even in the book): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sf6_lyahRk.

  5. With regard to cost, I’d like to suggest that nonfiction book trailers might be projects particularly well suited to student groups — the kids get the educational/creative benefit and, as a result, the trailer is available for wider distribution to attract/inspire even more young readers.

    Consider, for example, the trailer for Cynthia Y. Levinson’s much-buzzed 2012 nonfiction debut, We’ve Got a Job: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XN3jga7eMo&feature=player_embedded

    It was a project of Mrs. Armantrout’s fourth-graders at Sommers Elementary. How nifty is that?

  6. Agree…the more book trailers the better…I have to say the lack of nonfiction trailers hadn’t occurred to me prior to this post. The trailer for my most recent book Seeing Symmetry has had almost 2,500 views, which certainly seems worth it to me. I made the trailer myself in Keynote, used ScreenFlow to record the presentation, recorded the narration using GarageBand on my iPad, emailed the sound file to myself and added it plus sound effects to the timeline in ScreenFlow. Here’s the link:
    If that link doesn’t work it’s on my YouTube channel. Hope this info helps some of you to make your own trailers…it’s fun!

    • Travis Jonker says:

      I think I’m going to do a post about making book trailers, so your tips are appreciated. It does seem like this job is often left to authors

  7. I *love* book trailers and so do my students. I do booktalks in classrooms Mondays and Tuesdays and I will often mix up my own content with trailers. The kids also adore seeing their fav authors talk about their books. We were lucky enough to host C. Alexander London and Michael Hearst and the classes previewed the book trailers with the authors themselves speaking in them. Love, love, love.

  8. Please, please look at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XN3jga7eMo. This is the trailer made by fourth-graders for my NG NF WE’VE GOT A JOB: THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN’S MARCH. It’s wonderful!