Video Trailer Nuts and Bolts

Movie Clapper BoardMany people are intimidated by the thought of making video trailers for their books. I used to be. Then Carol Wyer taught me how to use Animoto, and I became a video trailer-making junkie.

A lot of people just take their book’s description, type it into frames, and then show those as a slideshow with music. That really isn’t going to draw the interest that could be garnered by this visual media.

You need very little to make an effective book trailer video. And, depending upon what platform(s) you use to create your video, everything you need may be at your fingertips. Here are a few tips I use which you may find helpful:

1. Images. Think about two or three images (besides your cover) which best represent themes or clues or key elements in your book. In “The Merry-Go-Round” by Donna Fasano, the plot revolves (omg, am I witty or what? Get the pun???) around an antique merry-go-round. Since my photographs of the one in Ocean City, Maryland were in storage, I hopped on over to and got some royalty-free images there.

2. Accolades. Got any? Flaunt them. I usually open with “from award-winning author” or from “best-selling author” like in this video for TJ Perkins.

3. The Rule of Seven. Put it to work for you. (Lynne Cantwell explains it here.) Use your book’s cover at least twice if possible. If you can, chop your book’s cover up and use pieces of it. The cover for Stephen Hise’s Upgrade made it very easy to do that.

4. Music. Sites like Animoto provide royalty-free music. My favorite site for that is Kevin MacLeod’s Choose music that speaks for your genre. Incompetech makes that SUPER easy as you can search by “mood.” My favorite music, however, is a song written and performed by my talented brother, Russ Brooks, which sets an infectiously pleasing tone for this Mr. Pish video.

5. Length. Goodness gracious, people sure do like to argue over this one. Seriously, people – television commercials are 30 seconds long. Do you really think a three minute video is going to hold someone’s attention? Just agree with me and we’ll all be happy. Well, I will be, and that’s all that matters. Indies Unlimited will only feature videos under 100 seconds. That’s just how we roll.

6. Review clips. Yessuh, put those reviews to work for you. Snag some short comments from excellent reviews and put them (usually at the very beginning) in there to grab the viewer’s attention.

7. Actual video. People like shiny things that move. So, if you have actual video footage you can include, do it. This video is extremely old and needs to be redone, but you can see the difference between watching Mr. Pish exploring and just seeing a slideshow of it with sound:

8. Links. Don’t forget to tell people where to buy your book. If your website name is short, include the link. Otherwise, put that link in the description of the video. People will never remember it once the video is over if it’s too long.

9. Have fun with it. If you don’t have fun with it, no one else will.

Check out our new Video Trailer Resource Page for links to royalty-free images and music, tutorials on Animoto, Xtranormal, and YouTube, and more.

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.

18 thoughts on “Video Trailer Nuts and Bolts”

    1. Yvonne – you should just give Animoto a try. It is so fun, but if for some reason you’re not happy with what you make, you don’t have to export the video to youtube. No need to be chicken. I was for a really long time, until Carol wrote that Animoto tutorial. Before that, I couldn’t figure the site out to save my life. I was so intimidated by it. But now, it’s so fast and easy, I use it for everything. 🙂

  1. Thanks for the info. I agree with you Kat about the length – it needs to get the message out fast and with a punch. Easy to say, not so easy to do. Ha ha

  2. Thanks for this, Kat. I really want to try it. I got a little video all ready not too long ago but chickened out before posting to YouTube because Animoto asked for permission to manage the account. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. By the way – LOVE the addition of the Video Trailer Resource Page! What a great idea!

    1. Thanks, Melinda! Not sure about the “manage the account” language. Next time I export, I’ll pay closer attention to that. What’s interesting about the export feature is that Animoto asks for permission every time you want to export. And that seems to be the only access they have to your account. Seems. LOL

  3. I’ve never heard of Animoto, will have to investigate further. The service I am familiar with is Stupeflix. You can make on video up to 20 minutes in length for free. It’s paired with Flickr so you can upload free photos directly into your video and it also has an extensive music library you browse through to find audio. When you are done you can download the video and upload it to Youtube or just let Stupelfix host it.

    The tools available just keep getting better and better all the time. Never been a better time in history for those wiling to try.

  4. I’m not reading this post. Not yet. However, I’ve just become interested in doing video trailers, so I’ll be sure to absorb this when I’m ready. Thanks for writing it.

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