A book trailer is a video advertisement for a book, and it uses techniques similar to those of traditional movie trailers. Whether you choose to do-it-yourself with digital pictures that you take yourself, with Movie Maker slides set to music, or invest in big budget movie clips, these trailers are powerful marketing tools.
You can get a professional to make your trailer, or you can make your own for little or no money. Professional companies are available on the internet and project price will vary between $100 and $3,500, depending upon specific services requested, and the pictures and music used. On the other hand, depending on your computer and how much time and effort you are willing to invest, you can make your own trailer for less than $20 or less, if you don’t mind ads on the page.
Plan on spending several days on this project – don’t rush it. Your finished project is going to appear in places where you are not, so you want it to speak well for you and your book.
Begin by visiting the sites of other writers and looking at the trailers they have posted. You can also find author trailers by performing a YouTube “Author” search. Take special note of things like the quality and quantity of images used, sound quality, and the pacing of the video. You might even want to jot down a list of the things that stand out for you.
Write a short blurb about your book – right, it will be almost exactly like the summary on the back of the book. A few sentences that highlight your key points and summarize your story will frame the content of your trailer.
Make a storyboard. Your storyboard will be a simple version of the mapping tool that filmmakers use to show what will happen in a movie. For your purposes, a blank sheet of paper and a pen will let you plan out, frame by frame, the action, narration, and progress of your video.
You are going to need pictures to illustrate the key points of your book. Plan on collecting more than you will actually need so that you can easily substitute and exchange the ones that make your video less than intriguing. If you are handy with a camera, you may want to use your own photos or you might prefer to find them on the internet. When you are searching for pictures, check “royalty-free photos” and “Public Domain” photos. You will occasionally find sites that will allow you to download pictures for free, while others will charge. Be very wary of using copyrighted material – you can be sued for using it without permission.
This is also a good time to search for music. Be sure to select music that supports and enhances your story and the images you will be using. As with images, you will need to find “royalty-free” music, and pay for it where indicated. There are a number of sites that will allow free use of background sounds (traffic, wind, chimes, etc.), and they can be easily found online. Be aware that even if you are the musician, use of copyrighted music that is not your own will still be considered a copyright infringement. Open your Movie Editor. The editor for Microsoft Windows is called “Windows Movie Maker”, and you can find it by going to your “Start” Menu, clicking on “Programs”. If you don’t have access to “Movie Maker”, you can use one of the online editors (do a search for “free movie editor”). The Movie Editor is where you will upload your pictures and slides The Editor will allow you to change the order of your images and refine theri transitions on and off the screen. It will llow you to fade and dissolve pictures, and upload music. It also provides a measuring tool (called “Timeline”) that will allow you to “trim” the timing of your pictures and music to fit your video.
Place your pictures in the order you want them to go and set the timing. For most videos, a “still” picture should remain on the screen for about 4-seconds. Use the timeline to adjust the amount of time your images will be visible. In Movie Maker, you can also add text where you want it by going to “Title Creation” and inserting a screen for the text.
Give your video a field test by having several friends and other writers critique it. Invite them to be very candid in their observations so that you can learn where your video’s weaknesses lie. Then go back in and fix them. It is better to find the problems and fix them before dozens of other people find them for you.
Once you have completed your video and are satisfied with your results, you will be ready to upload it to the internet. I recommend starting with video submission sites like, YouTube and branching out to sites like Google, Yahoo, BookTrailers, and more.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the prospect of using Movie Maker?
There is another option. There are sites on the internet that offer simple upload and production software that will build a professional looking trailer in about an hour. The steps to building your trailer with one of these sites include:
Again, begin by looking at other book trailers. Pay close attention to font sizes, image speed and clarity, and information inserts.
Write out a basic blurb similar to the one on the back of you book so that you know what you want to do.
Make an outline (storyboard) of the story you want your trailer to tell. Be sure to keep it brief, 2-minutes, maximum.
You will need a selection of images to tell your story. Plan on using about 15-20 pictures. Photos are available online, but be aware that if you use royalty free pictures, you will have to pay for them. To do this free, you can find Public Domain photos or use you own digital pictures. If you are a talented artist, you may even want to you’re your own pictures. Select pictures that are able to tell and highlight your story. You will need pictures that are saved as .jpg, or .gif format.
Go to a video sharing site like OneTrueMedia, Flikr, Slideroll, Motioncut, etc and select the format you want to use for your trailer. These sites are a great alternative if you have a clear vision of what you need, lots of time, and limited money. They offer free versions and low-cost upgrades. The free version is ad-marked, but you can always go back at a later time and have the advertising removed if it bothers you.
Review the themed effects, lighting, and music available on the site, and select to enhance your trailer. The sheer amount of “stuff” that they offer can be overwhelming, so choose carefully as you build your trailer.
Add script to individual slides as needed – the sites will let you type in whatever you choose.
Edit your trailer. Be sure to keep it brief, two-minutes or less.
When you’re satisfied, you will finalize your trailer and generate an html code that can be pasted (embedded) on your website, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, or added to your email signature.