What Is a Book Video Trailer?

Oh you love the lens. You love it!

Also known as what is a book trailer video. Or a book video. Or a book trailer. It really doesn’t matter what you call it…it needs to get the job done.

Recently, I was very surprised at the responses a fellow indie author (Nick) received to a poll he conducted on his Facebook page. It went something like this:

a. Video trailers help sell books
b. Video trailers don’t help sell books
c. What is a video trailer?

I recognized a good number of the people who responded a) and b) to Nick’s poll. They were all authors. Interestingly, a good number of people had chosen c). I didn’t know any of them. I had to assume – oh goodness gracious – that they were regular folk, and possibly even…gasp…readers.

Despite that, I get a feeling that some authors aren’t really quite sure what video trailers are either. I’ve seen some trailers that go for twenty minutes, and some that are just sales blurbs in a slide show of words. Two words for those: “Um, no.”

A book trailer video should be like a movie trailer, but for a book. And, where do you see trailers most commonly used? In commercials. So, let’s do some trigonometry, and it all adds up to: a book trailer video is a commercial for your book.

But you don’t have a multi-dollar budget, video equipment, actors and actresses, and high-tech special effects at your disposal? Yeah, me neither. That makes me grumpy. What? Do you even need a video trailer? Well, listen, my friend: people like shiny things. People like color, and motion, and nicely packaged tidbits of information. Remember, a trailer video is like a commercial. Everything needs a commercial, especially if you want them to call by midnight tonight.

No budget? No problem. No technical talent? No problem. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let me give you what I believe should be the guidelines for making your video trailer:

1. Trailer length should be between 30 and 90 seconds. Remember, it’s a commercial. Most commercials you see on television are 30 seconds.

2. Keep it moving. Motion grabs attention. Too much text in your video defeats the purpose. If the viewer knew what they wanted to read, they would be reading already. You have to convince them with pretty things.

3. The music should not assault the viewer’s ears. I also recommend staying away from music with vocals as these can distract the viewer from whatever you want them to absorb.

4. Your book cover should be displayed at least once during the video. You need the power of recognition there. (Marketing experts say it takes seven different instances for someone to recognize a product.)

5. The author’s name should be displayed at least once – along with any accolades like “best-selling” or “award-winning.”

6. At the end, make sure to tell the viewer where they can purchase the book, and make sure the book’s title is right there to remind them.

7. NO TYPOS – People will notice typos in your trailer, and that will translate directly to what they think about your writing before they even look at your book.

Now that we’ve got those basics, let’s move on to how to make your video – for free.  Yes, I said free. If you really want to pay, go ahead and click the PayPal button on this page and send us some money.

The simplest free way to make a book trailer video is by using a site called Animoto. Our Carol Wyer wrote a fantastic step-by-step tutorial on how to use Animoto here. They provide you with galleries of video clips, pictures and music, or you can upload your own – all for free. The catch is you can only make a 30 second video. If you want longer ones, you have to upgrade your account.

The next option is Microsoft MovieMaker which should have come for free with your computer. (I believe iMovie comes with Apple products.) The MovieMaker (also known as MSMM) product has an amazing array of effects and options that are dumbfounding. It’s nowhere nearly as easy to use as Animoto, but it gives you a huge amount of freedom and creative possibilities. This program is way too complex to even begin to explain in this post. I highly recommend playing with Animoto before undertaking any projects with MSMM.

Now, you’re going to need music. You can check with your friends who have bands to get permission to use their stuff. It’s free advertising for them (make sure to credit them at the end!). My youngest brother, Russell, is an extremely talented songwriter and musician and I really enjoy being able to use his stuff with my videos. But sometimes he doesn’t have what I need or the time to create it. That’s when I turn to www.Incompetech.com. Kevin MacLeod shares his music in exchange for credit (and donations). There is an overwhelming amount of excellent music on his site.

Oh, I hear you…but, but, but. No buts. Look what I created on Animoto for free:

Now go ahead. Make your commercial. If it’s free and only takes a few minutes of your time – what could it hurt?

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

12 thoughts on “What Is a Book Video Trailer?”

    1. Yes, that’s what I was trying to explain, Yvonne, you have to be a member of those sites. I always use my own photos, so I don’t run into those issues. You should definitely give it a shot!

  1. I love your trailer. I created mine using a movie programme that came with my laptop, I then uploaded to youtube. I loved making it, and a reader emailed me to say they had bought my book when they saw the trailer on my blog. I think they can be useful. It took me a while to make, and find the music but it was fun to do. Going to be cheeky and add the link here, as the music is so pretty and the guy doesn’t charge! http://youtu.be/c3GwtOiKMuY

  2. Great article, Kat! Trailers are fun to make! Definitely try the free 30-second Animoto program first — it will give you a good feel for the number of pictures (not many) and the amount of text (a couple of key phrases) you should be including in your trailers. I aim for mine to be 60 seconds long, with another 10 seconds or so at the end for the credits.

  3. Thanks, Kat–always good advice. I created a trailer for Bad Spirits when it first came out, and LOVED making it. Then I got too busy and forgot how much I liked doing it. That was remedied a few days ago when I did another one for Bad Traffick. I’m going to MAKE time to do them from now on.

    And thanks for the head’s up on the YouTube fest tomorrow!

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