A little while ago, I created a trailer for my book, The Scissors and the Sword. Many authors create book trailers or pay companies/individuals to create them, and it was one of the last promotional methods that I had yet to explore. I’ve since been asked about how I made it. Additionally, most authors don’t provide figures for views/ads, so I thought I’d do that too.
This part focuses mainly on what a book trailer is, and how to make one. Part 2 will deal with my own book trailer experience, and the results of my Google Ads for it. Follow me to see how that works out!
What is a book trailer?
A book trailer is video that advertises a book, usually on YouTube. They can be anywhere between 15 seconds and 3 minutes in length, though in my experience they tend to be between 45 and 90 seconds.
Typically a book trailer takes the blurb for a book along with some visual aids (photos, images etc.) and music. They may also contain a voice-over that reads the blurb in a dramatic fashion.
Typically book trailers end with an image of the book cover, and a link to where the user can buy the book.
If you’re thinking “film trailer”, you’re not far off – but usually book trailers use more static images, as unlike film-makers, authors don’t have a wealth of footage to cut up and use.
What is a book trailer for?
Ostensibly, a book trailer is a form of advertising. It allows you to communicate the nature of your book to a market who perhaps wouldn’t see it otherwise. Most avid book-readers are very “wordy” people; they don’t struggle to interpret tone and such from a blurb, but some people benefit from the visual and musical nature of a trailer to set the tone of a work for them.
In a purely functional sense, it also allows you to promote your book via YouTube video adverts, which is impossible with just text/images.
How do you make a book trailer?
If you want a book trailer, you have two options – you can either make one yourself, or have someone make one for you.
If you’re having someone make one for you, you could spend as much or as little as you want; for instance, there are book trailer gigs on Fiverr that can cost as little as 5$ for someone to rework a template for you. These are generic and all look quite samey, but they are quick and cheap. If you want something more personal, there are other gigs on Fiverr or you could look in relevant places on Reddit for a skilled professional.
This is a screenshot of the iMovie workspace for my trailer.
The alternative is to make one yourself. Making a book trailer is quite easy, but of course, making a good one is more difficult (I’m assuming here that you’re not an A/V professional!). Most home-made book trailers are made in iMovie (Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (Windows platform), and if you’re sticking to a straightforward montage of edited footage with cool background music, you should be able to get a good result even with these basic programs.
I think the key, there, is the word “straightforward”. You could make an amazing, fast-cut trailer with all sorts of fancy effects, but I suggest you throttle back and go with simpler, high quality stock images and footage, and let them speak for you, rather than the video itself.
The rest of this guide assumes you’re going to try and do this.
A word on expense
Book trailers don’t have to be expensive, but they certainly can be. I would strongly recommend setting a budget and trying to stick to it. The biggest decision you need to make, for this, is whether you’re going to use mainly images or mainly videos. These are a huge generalisation, but to give some idea…
- A 1-minute trailer of mainly videos may cost $150
- A 1-minute trailer of mainly images can cost less than $30
Video, as you can immediately see, is more expensive than just using images (which makes sense, really). You can economise, but of course, a book trailer made up of very cheap videos isn’t going to go down well; you need good video if it’s going to have the desired effect.
If you want to economise, use images, and if you want to spend a bit more, go for video.
So what do I do first?
To start, I would recommend you get comfortable with the software you’re going to use. Get a good look at the example projects that come with it (if any) or look through some online guides. If you’re reasonably familiar with how video editing works (on a high level), both iMovie and Windows Movie Maker should be a cinch.
Once you come to work on your actual trailer, there are several places you could begin. For my part, I would suggest you start out by…
- Choosing your background music
- Scripting your trailer to the music
The reason for this is that unless you’re going to make your own music, you can’t really control into how many segments your audio neatly divides.
Take your music and write down what you want each part to say, in order, like a script. From this, you can produce an animatic; that’s just a version of your video with dummy images and such; the easiest way to do this is to simply open MS Paint and create images (we call these storyboards). Here’s one of mine below:
This is a comparison of my storyboard to the final video. I’ve tried to pick one where I got a video VERY close to what I wanted (they didn’t all work out like this!). The storyboard is crude; that’s on purpose – I try to always make things I plan to throw away very obviously bad. It saves time.
You can display a “storyboard” for the length of time you want it onscreen in your trailer, and very soon you can ‘watch’ your trailer start-to-finish and, using a bit of your own imagination, get a feel for how it’s going to work out.
Where do I get my “assets”?
Once you’ve got a good idea of what you need, you’re going to need “assets”; stock music, pictures and video to use as part of your trailer. There are various places online, but I personally recommend…
- AudioJungle (music)
- AdobeStock (pictures & video) – expensive but good
- VideoHive (video) – cheaper, reasonable but not quite as good
A word to the wise – you’re going to need to pay for good assets. Resist the temptation to go to Google Images and start pulling down stuff to use; you don’t want to make a good video on YouTube just to have someone yank it down for copyright infringement a week later.
Alternatively, depending on your book, you could photograph/film some parts yourself and slip these in (FYI – some of my trailer was made like this; try to guess which part, you might be surprised!). If your book is a sci-fi epic this could be tricky, but for a horror or an urban thriller, you may be able to get plenty of footage out-and-about.
Try to take your time and only use good-quality assets, because no amount of editing will cover up poor ones. For each clip, I “auditioned” four or five different possible clips for my trailer.
Be prepared to change your animatic; you’re not always going to be able to find the exact clip you want, and you may need to do something else. That’s just how it works.
The next step
This is the segment of my trailer which used a great many “fast cuts”; video clips that are each under a second in length. This took quite a bit of time to get it to run in tandem with the music; unfortunately on YouTube the audio/video sync isn’t precise enough, and the effect is sometimes lost.
The next step is to cut up your new assets into your video. Most stock sites will let you download watermarked images/videos etc. for you to do this before you spend any money; that way you can get the video just the way you want it, then buy all the clips (just in case you change your mind).
During this process, it really helps to get friends and family to view your in-progress trailer and get their feedback, rolling it into the design where appropriate.
Once you’ve been through a few iterations and you’re happy with it, you can export the video (ideally as high-quality as possible) and start to use it!
A few tips
I can’t find the clip I want!
This is a common problem; one without a good answer. Sometimes you’re going to search for something and find it right away, sometimes you’ll look for something you’d expect to find in moments but still be there hours later, empty-handed. All I can say is be prepared to make changes from your storyboard.
I’ve found a cool clip that doesn’t actually happen in my book… But it’s sooo cool!
So, keep this between the several thousand of us.
<whisper>It doesn’t matter.</whisper>
Your trailer isn’t meant to be a literal movie of your book; it’s just a collection of images that inspire the reader and set the tone for your work. I mean, I wouldn’t pack a trailer full of stuff that doesn’t happen in your book, but you can sneak a few in if they’re very arresting images. Take the “burning eye” image below that forms the cover of my trailer; that doesn’t literally happen in the book – but fire is a key element of the story and one of the characters does suffer from nightmares. As an image it grabs your attention, so it’s OK to go with it even though it doesn’t literally happen in the text.
Syncing audio and video – a Youtube problem
YouTube is a great service and has come on leaps and bounds, but it can still go out of sync, particularly on low-performance machines. I have cuts in my trailer that are around 0.5s in length, so as you can imagine, the video/audio sync tolerance is very low. As a bit of advice, don’t do extremely fast cuts like this (I probably won’t next time).
Where do I put it?
This is my trailer, for The Scissors and the Sword. Based on what I’ve said above and the iMovie images, you can get a feel for how it was constructed.
As of 2016, there’s only really one place to put your video – YouTube. If you don’t have an account, you can create one pretty quickly and upload your video (it’s really quite easy to do). Don’t forget to put a link to where people can buy your book in your description!
ProTip: when you upload videos to YouTube, they default to being “private” meaning only you can see them. You can keep them in this private state as long as you want, until you’re ready to launch your video.
Telling the world
Once your trailer is up (and set to public), tell everyone! Tweet your followers, announce it on your blog, go on /ShamlessPlug/ on Reddit and post about it… Publicise it in any way you can!
In Part 2…
That’s Part 1 over with! Part 2 can be found here!