Monday, June 04, 2007

Promoting your novel: How to make a book trailer

Many of my author friends have been asking how I created my book trailer, how much time it took, and what it cost me. As I have explained to everyone who has asked, this is something that anyone can do, although not everyone will want to do it when they find out how much time and effort is involved. I viewed it as a creative challenge and approached the project as a temporary hobby. If you can't do that, you might want to consider hiring a production company to make your book trailer. Still game? Then read on.

Making my trailer was a project that stretched over an entire month. I estimate that I spent 40-60 hours working on it. (Now that I've crested the learning curve, I could make another trailer in a fraction of that time.) My only cash outlay was the $65 I paid for the right to use the "wraparound" music (the pizzicato strings) heard during my video's prologue and epilogue. The snippet from Dvorak's New World Symphony, which accompanies the main part of the video, was a public-domain recording. One of the photographs was my own; all others were royalty-free images that were available as free internet downloads. I could have used video footage instead of or in addition to still photographs, but chose not to do that for aesthetic reasons. I did not have to purchase any special software to create the video.

That's my experience in a nutshell; now I'll walk you through the process.

Go to YouTube and search for "book trailers." Spend a couple of hours watching as many as you can, regardless of the books' genre. Take lots of notes. What irks or bores you? Which clever tricks do you want to emulate?

Sketch out some ideas for your trailer. Write some of the text and make lists of pictures you'd like to find, such as "holding hands," "rocky coastline," or "smoking gun." Be aware that you might stumble across a photo or a piece of music that captivates you and changes the whole direction of your video. That's okay. If you follow your heart rather than your plan, you're more likely to end up with a video that will ignite readers' imaginations.

For the past several years, Microsoft Windows has been shipping with a nifty little application called Windows Movie Maker. Go to your Start Menu, click on Programs, and you should see it. Spend half an hour reading the how-to's, then grab some pictures off your own hard drive and make a little experimental video.

At this point you should be having fun. If you find you'd rather be trimming your toenails, perhaps making your own book trailer wasn't one of your better ideas.

Play with Windows Movie Maker until you have that little program singing and dancing for you. For a professional-looking video, you'll want to know how to make your photos fade in, fade out, and dissolve into other pictures. The WMM help file is very helpful for things like that, so use it.

Use your own or grab some off the web. Search for "royalty-free photos" and you'll score all kinds of hits. Some sites will allow you to download pictures for free, some will charge you for individual pics, and some will let you pay a flat fee for unlimited downloads. Shop around.

Start with many more pictures than you think you'll need. One of the things that makes many homemade book trailers boring is a dearth of eye candy. Remember, this is a visual medium. Use lots of pictures, but make sure they fit your story. Don't show a string of photos of mist-covered Scottish highlands if your book is about a Scottish pirate who doesn't set foot on land until Chapter Twenty. Find some pictures of booted feet and swords and cannons and old ships, instead.

Plan on devoting an entire day--perhaps even two--to searching for pictures. Yes, it's that important. And be aware that if a model's face is recognizable in a photo, you're going to need a model's release, which is separate from the photographer's permission to use the photo. I recommend avoiding faces partly because of that hassle but mostly because showing faces robs your viewers of the privilege of dreaming up the characters' faces for themselves. That's also why I used stills rather than video clips in my trailer. Because reading novels is a much less passive experience than watching films, I believe photos do a better job of stimulating the imagination than video clips would. Of course you may have a different opinion on that.

Decide whether you want to narrate your trailer, use catchy music, or both. Do a web search for "royalty-free production music." Free music is difficult to find, but it's out there. You can also find sound clips of everything from babbling brooks to ringing telephones. You may have to pay to download your chosen audio clips, but prices can be as little at ten bucks for a short piece. Again, plan on spending an entire day, perhaps even two, collecting the sound files you'll need for your trailer.

Be aware that using that really cool pop song by your favorite band is probably copyright infringement. And don't use Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, either. Last week I viewed three trailers that began with that distinctive dit dit dit dah--and it didn't happen to fit any of the stories.

To put life into your trailer, I recommend going frame-by-frame and matching your pictures to your music or narration. Watch my trailer again and pay attention to the sound. See how certain pictures pop up just as the music rises to a crecendo? That required moving photos around and then shortening or lengthening their exposure time to fit the music. I had a blast doing that, and I was quite pleased with the results.

Ask a handful of people who are not your blood relatives or best writing buddies to view your trailer and give you their honest opinion of it. After nearly every one of my ten testers said black screens with nothing but text on them were boring, I figured out how to superimpose my text on the photographs. Thanks to that and other input from my testers, the video was greatly improved.

Start with YouTube. That's where the vast majority of viewers will happen upon your video. For maximum visibility on the internet, consider uploading to other video-sharing sites. Yahoo, Google, MySpace, and AOL UnCut Video are all popular sites, although YouTube is definitely the king. I should add that I was pleasantly surprised to get 50 views in the first 24 hours after I uploaded my trailer to a new site called GodTube. With the exception of YouTube, that's much more attention than the trailer received on the other sites during the same period. Another surprise was how few viewers discovered my trailer on Google video. I'm talking single digits.

Consider posting your video on your blog, website, MySpace page, and so on. Then announce it to your family and friends, your fellow writers, and your readers. Invite them to link to or even post your video on their blogs and websites. Encourage them to share the link on e-mail loops, bulletin boards, and via private e-mails.

That's about it. If anyone has a simple question, post it in the comments and I'll try to answer it. But from now on, anyone who e-mails me privately and asks a book-trailer question will be referred to this page. Sorry, friends. I'd like to be more helpful, but I have a romance novel to write.

UPDATED August 6, 2008

This page is still getting tons of traffic from Google and elsewhere, so while I am no longer checking out the video links posted in the Comments, other people are. Feel free to leave your links. Just remember, please, that this is a family-friendly blog.

Also, I've just created another video, a narrated one this time. It's humorous and slightly irreverant, but it might give you some ideas for your own videos. You can view it here.


LaShaunda said...


Thanks for sharing. I'm going to see what I can come up with.

Brenda Coulter said...

LaShaunda and other do-it-yourselfers, feel free to post your book trailer links here.

mbpbooks said...

Thanks for the inspiration! I spent about eight hours and here's what I came up with.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Brenda,
Thanks for making it sound so easy and fun! And I love the trailer you made -- great photos, great message, great book!
Congrats on all your success!

Brenda Coulter said...

Mitali, I actually saw your trailer this morning (followed the Galleycat link) and liked it a lot. Thanks for posting the link here, and thanks for linking to my post. I wish you all the best with your book. It sounds like a fun story.

Hi, Debby. It's great to see you here on my blog. Thanks for the warm fuzzies.

VampireFaust said...

This is a very cool idea! I think I just may have to create a book trailer for my new novel! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this detailed post, I'm sharing it with my friends as well.

I've spent some time monkeying around with iMovie and YouTube and I think the rewards really outweigh the time and patience required.

It's so cool to see great results like your trailer.

Jackie said...

This was a fabulous post -- thanks so much! I had no idea how to begin to find music for my trailer, but your post showed me the way. You absolutely rock. Now I've got the images, the music and the script. I just have to, you know, wiggle my nose to make it all work. I may hire someone to put it all together for me.

Brenda Coulter said...

Vampire, Jason, and Jackie, thanks for the nice comments. If you make trailers of your own, be sure to come back here and post the links.

Sheila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheila said...

This is a very nice article on making trailers. I'm very glad I came across it.
We've been making book trailers since 2002 and we're now the leading company to make professional book trailers.
But, knowing that no everyone can afford to hire someone to make one, we still wanted to promote the idea of using book video for promotion, so we started Reader's Entertainment TV. We get a lot of unique visits, especially around the time our USA Today online ads go out.
I invite those of you who make your own video to upload to where REC Tv uses their player exclusively.
We have a channel called "Guest Book Video" where have guest video play for a month at a time.
If you'd like to have your author-created video on REC Tv please upload it and drop me a line at- I'll have our station manager add you.
There's no fee for this. It's really just our way of trying to help all authors. Please do mention this blog though. I'm trying to track how many trailers I find via blogs.
Also, YouTube isn't really the best place for books. Yes, it is popular and you stand to get some hits, but they aren't quality hits as a rule. Try www.dailymotion and There are people who love books there who are more likely to watch AND buy!
Best of luck with your videos!

Sheila Clover English
CEO, Circle of Seven Productions
Executive Producer, REC Tv

Brenda Coulter said...

Also, YouTube isn't really the best place for books. Yes, it is popular and you stand to get some hits, but they aren't quality hits as a rule. Try www.dailymotion and There are people who love books there who are more likely to watch AND buy!

I just took a quick look and wasn't impressed with either site. As on YouTube and elsewhere, if you want to view book trailers, you have to search for book trailers--so what's the difference? I checked out the number of views the most popular trailers were getting, and the numbers seemed very low. Also, I noticed that the Book Trailer group on Dailymotion has only 7 members.

All I know is that when I hear authors and publishers talk about uploading videos, they always mention YouTube, so I'm still recommending that. I had never heard of those other sites before today. (Two weeks ago when I Googled for video-hosting sites to consider uploading to, they didn't even come up in the first couple of pages of my search.)

I'm writing under a crazy book deadline, so I didn't have time to check out REC Tv, but thanks for sharing that information here. I'm sure many people will be interested.

And remember, folks, if you make a book trailer yourself, you can come back here and post a link (unless it's something X-rated). This post is getting a lot of visitors from other sites and from the search engines, and I think it's good to show some examples of do-it-yourself trailers.

Sheila said...

With YouTube you're one in a million. You can get hits, but who is looking at them?
If you write horror and 5 nuns happen on your video because it has the word "God" in it, you'll have 5 views and no buys. I know that's exterme, but it's still a valid example.
DailyMotion is good because publishers and book sellers go there.
Revver is one of the top sites for book video and all of the major book video companies use it because of the quality hits it gets.
Where are readers going? Where are book sellers going? Where are publishers going?
I know that if I write Christian fiction I need to have my video on And, if I write YA I need to be on MySpace.
A Content Delivery Network such as YouTube is still a good place to be because of the sheer numbers (just like MySpace) but reaching the right target audience is still more important than just leaving it for anyone to see. Your click-through rate won't be as good.
This isn't just an opinion, this has to do with some hard data and a year-long survey, and shared information with other book video makers.
My personal opinion is...put it everywhere! I am a firm believer in The Long Tail theory! lol

Brenda Coulter said...

My personal opinion is...put it everywhere! I am a firm believer in The Long Tail theory! lol

Yeah, me too.

Lynette Sowell said...

GREAT tips! :) I especially love the info about where to post the video once it's done. I've had a blast doing this. The only thing I'm not sure of is length? Most I've seen run about a minute. My video is for a 4-author novella collection, and I'm concerned about there being too much information and losing people if I do that long. Right now I'm at 40 seconds... :)

Brenda Coulter said...

Mine's 2-1/2 minutes, and one of the longer ones. Many are even shorter than yours. So the length is your call.

Have fun!

Mary Connealy said...

Brenda, great post, thanks for posting the link on ACFW. I've created trailers using Windows Movie Maker for my books Petticoat Ranch and Golden Days. I've also created slide shows using
Both were challenging although i finally did figure it out. But I'm not a natural at anything technical.
I went and tried to upload my already created videos to adn failed.
I tried several times, using the YouTube url:
You can go see it if you want. I've since found a lot more sources for royalty free music and pictures so I'm hoping subsequent efforts are even more polished.
I used the 'browse' feature to try and upload it from my computer and I tried to hook into my myspace page.
I failed at all of them and I'm pretty discouraged. No matter what I did the site kept saying something like...
must use valid video format.
Anyway, I'm sure it's me but it was annoying and I've loaded this things other places.
I also tried to upload a book cover as my 'profile' picture and it kept rejecting that, saying it was too big, even though I kept making it smaller and smaller.
I may try again with some of those other but for right now, I've got a book to write!

Brenda Coulter said...

Sorry to hear that you ran into so many problems, Mary. As for MySpace, it has a reputation for being glitchy.

Mary (frances hunter too) said...

Brenda, thank you so much for this post. I've dreamed of making a book trailer for a long time, but put it off thinking I'd need to buy some special software. Little did I know Windows Movie Maker was lurking right under my nose! It took me a few days to make this, and I'm thrilled with the results.

Watch my trailer here.

Tamelia Tumlin Romance Author said...


I know I'm a bit late to post on this blog, but I just wanted to let people know that you can download photo story 3 for windows free from that site. This is a slide show program that has a music creator built in. You can choose to use this or you can choose to upload something on your pc. Photo Story 3 is what I used for my book trailer and it worked great!
You can view my trailer at this webiste:

Sorry I don't know how to just link it.

Brenda Coulter said...

You're not too late, Tamelia; people are still coming every day to read this post. So those of you who are making book trailers, go ahead and leave your links here.

Mary, isn't this addictive? I had a blast making my trailer.

Anonymous said...

I also have a post on creating book videos, and I've included a lot of resource links:

Some folks might find it useful too. :)

thewriterslife said...

Excellent tips, Brenda, and I will refer my authors to this article. ;o)

Brenda Coulter said...

Dorothy, you're very kind. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Me again, Brenda - the author of YOUR ADOPTED DOG. I'm so glad you have been converted to the world of book trailers!! Since book purchasing is way down in this country, we authors need every tool available to get our books into the hands of readers. Book trailers, done well, are a fabulous tool for authors, and should be produced, uploaded and viewed more often. Thank you for creating yours and for inspiring other authors to do the same.
Best wishes and happy video production!
My trailer for YOUR ADOPTED DOG can be viewed at

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brenda. That was very helpful. As a small-time publisher and writer, I'm all for social marketing. I can't wait to dive in!

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's my trailer:

I'm not sure about the music if I can use it -- does anyone know where I can get good royalty-free music? I seem to remember a site (I think the word 'dog' was in the title) where artists post their music for webbies to use as long as they attribute appropriately...

What do you think?

A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss said...

Hi: When I first thought about a book trailer, I stumbled across this blog, which has turned out to be a wonderful resource. I spent a week on the book trailer, using Windows Movie Maker. It came out wonderful, except when I uploaded it to youtube, it was all blurred and went too fast. Does anyone know how to fix these problems? I looked all through the program help and can't find a solution. Thanks. Elaine

A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss said...

HI: After doing research I can now answer my own question. I rummaged around in Movie Maker and found if I save the movie to my computer, and choose NTSC, (which I didn't see before) all is well and my book trailer loads beautifully to the internet. Anyone interested, here is the URL on youtube. My account is under onwingspress. Thanks to Brenda. It is her article that first made me realize I could make my own trailer. hehe. elaine

Samson Effect said...

Thanks for the blog! I read it and followed your advice. Here is the one I came up with for me:

Anonymous said...

This is wonderfully helpful. Thank you.

Savo Heleta said...

Great tips!
Here are the links for two videos about my book, Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia. The book will be published by AMACOM, New York, in March 2008.

This video is about the events featured in the book

Reading from Not My Turn to Die

You can also see the videos at

Anonymous said...

It's great that authors are doing their own trailers, but for those who don't have the time, you should check out We have been designing book trailers for authors since 2006 and we also have a You Tube broadcast account set up to stream the trailers once their done.

Valerie Johnson

Brenda Coulter said...

Sorry I haven't looked in on this page lately, but I've got my hands full keeping up with the discussions on more recent posts.

I'd like to thank everyone who has read, commented on, and linked to this page. Keep posting your video links, folks, because this page is still getting a lot of traffic.

Anonymous said...

If you wanna watch the Spanish book trailer of "Interred with their bones" from Jennifer Lee Carrell, you can do so in this website: It's worth a visit!!!!!

Hope you like it!

Dave Diotalevi said...

Just got my book trailer hot off the presses for my mystery, MIRACLE MYX:

Please take a look and leave a comment. I'm interested in your opinions.

Dave Diotlevi

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for sharing these!!

We did a little trailer book and I invite to you for give us some commentaries

Cher'ley said...

Hi Brenda,
I just happened onto your site, some way and I'm glad I did. I watched your video an read your exerpt. I will be buying your book (even though, I'm not a romance reader) but it just sounds so cool. I am a christian so I know I'll enjoy the language (or lack of) and style. I'm also going to bookmark this page.

I just finished my novel and sent it off to find an agent, so I'm probably not ready yet for all of this. I have a webcam on my computer that I haven't figured out how to open yet. LOL. I'm still baffled by what pictures would be good.

Anywy, now that I've found you, I'll follow you around for awhile.


Brenda Coulter said...

Cher'ley, thanks for your interest in my blog and my book. Hope you enjoy them.

Congratulations on finishing your novel and best wishes on your agent hunt.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips Brenda. I keep referring back to them every so often. Here is the trailer I made for scriblist and the book 'Five Green Bananas'.The teaser for the book is included in the overall writing competition/community website trailer. I enjoyed so much I am planning on doing another for the younger under 20s age group, plus one for the book as a stand- alone. I did it for fun, but have decided to now start working from home in this field. Another idea, check out sprouts as an alternative for those who haven't video skills or fab software.

Barb said...

Making the book trailer for my middle reader novel about a girl and her horse , Impossible Charlie, was the most fun I've had pushing a rock up a steep hill. Worth it but exhausting. The next one will be so much easier, I'm sure. Used Ulead Video Studio 11, great when you figure out where all the functions are.

D Carney said...

I saw this post yesterday and this morning made my first ever trailer. I don't think it's half bad! :D

Anonymous said...

Really informative piece. Great Work. I am starting with my research work now and will post the video link soon.

Tal said...

Hey guys,
Just wanted to pass the word around that now has a Book Trailer section.
Watch and upload book trailers at
With your guys' help, I hope to make it THE place for book trailers online.

Anonymous said...

You provided a lot of good information about the whole process. Thank you

castelane said...

Brenda, this is a very informative post. I've made over 50 trailers and you point out all the best things about trailers. I also agree that you should post your trailers in as many places as you can to get strangers to view your book. But when you want to invite someone to view your trailer (such as on a live chat, forum or newsletter), send them to a place that has the video plus info about you and a buy link. This can be your website, your publisher's website or a place that specializes in book videos.

I just started such a site, called Blazing Trailers. I invite all of you with trailers, to check it out at

It's free to post your trailers and you get a really nice page with blurb, excerpt, review and buy link. We have plans for authors pages coming soon too.

Patience Prence said...

Brenda, Thanks for such an informative post. I found movie maker and fiddled with it--I didn't even know I had this option! I am definitely going to have a book trailer made for my new book "Scars" A Novel About The Last Days. It should be released this year, 2009.
Thanks again for all of your wonderful advice and good luck on your future books!

PATIENCE PRENCE Author "Scars" AN End Times Novel.

Brenda Coulter said...

Patience, and everyone, thanks for commenting. I'm glad people are still finding this post helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being so kind as to share this valuable information. Your trailer is AWESOME.

Karina Fabian said...

Great article, Brenda! I happen to be teaching a course on creating a video book trailer, and am putting a link to your post in the lesson plan.

(If anyone is interested in a little more hand-holding while making a video, please check out the course at

The comments have been informative, too. Got to love the Internet!

Pink Lemonade Films said...

I was just tweeted about this and I never knew it existed! If any author out there has no patience to make a book trailer, give me all your stuff I can make it for you! You can contact me at

Anonymous said...

I believe in the short rule. Mine is 30 seconds, just like 99% of the commercials we see on TV. If you just think hook instead of summary, you can pique interest very quickly. Thanks for the post!

Unknown said...

Hi Brenda
I had created my own book trailer with a free tool I found on the internet. It converts pdf files into a video for YouTube. And you're right, the creation process takes time. I got a lot of views on YouTube.
I will try Windows Movie Maker and see what I can do with this.

Anonymous said...

Hi, for my book trailer I wanted to start off with praise for the book. However, the clips I've made on Microsoft Movie Maker are too long, 3 seconds each. I wanted something more like 1.5 seconds but it isn't working to make it shorter. Any tips?

Brenda Coulter said...

Not quite sure what you're asking, Anonymous. Are you talking about a page of words that you want to display for a shorter time? If so, look at the effects you're using on that clip. If you're doing fade-in and/or fade-out, for example, a minimum amount of time is required to deliver those effects. If you want to shorten the clip further, you'll have to turn off those effects. In other words, you can't speed up the fade-in/out action. It is what it is.

Hope that helps.

Thanks again to all of you who are linking to and commenting on this post. said...

Superb post! This will be very helpful to authors who are planning to create their own book trailers, or to those who wants to have a trailer but has no no budget for it. Video trailers are stories weaved in visual and audio materials. It doesn't have to be fancy. What is important is an effective storyboard that's able to persuade viewers. Start practicing making book trailers through Windows Movie Maker. Don't forget to embed your video to your own website!

Cody Young said...

Hi, I watched your book trailer with interest as I have just had a go at making a book video myself - I used live actors though, instead of stills, which was a challenge but we had a lot of fun. I would encourage anyone who wants to use this new way to promote their book to have a go. here's my link

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brenda, for making it seem so clear and easy. I'm pretty much willing to put in the time and effort. It seems like it can be a lot of fun.

Patience Prence said...

Thanks again Brenda! Since I learned how to make my own videos from you, I currently have several videos on Youtube promoting End Times information and my book "SCARS" which just became available this week! I have the book trailer posted on you tube and all my websites. Thanks to your little website information, I have been successful! A BIG THANKS!

Patience Prence Author "SCARS" A Novel About The Last Days said...

thanks for the valuable info.

GFanthome said...

Hey wow - this is great advice! Thanks so much for posting it. I'd heard about creating trailers and now have a much better idea of what goes into something like that.

Tommy Charles said...

I just want to say upfront that I mean this in the spirit of helpfullness.

There is really no way you can create a professional book trailer with Windows Movie Maker.

You need to invest $$ for the proper tools.

Anonymous said...

My suggestion is use sony vegas.
Good job on the tutorial though.

Carol Marlene Smith said...

Hi, and thanks for this article. Also thanks to Elaine for the NTSC comment on uploading to You Tube. I would not have thought of that.
After some time I have finally finished my book trailer for Angel's Blessing. You can view it at my blog,

I have not as yet listed it anywhere else but that is to come and thanks again.

Carol Marlene Smith said...

Since making my first book video I have made two more. I just love making them. Years ago I worked in radio and wrote and produced commercials and I find this quite similar, except with audio.
Here is a link to my second book trailer, if you can please comment. I am not sure if anyone can comment or not as it says you have to have a channel to comment? No one has so far. Okay, it's

Judy Seaberry said...

Thanks for all the tips, I created a channel on Youtube under the name Judysea1.
Several of my booktrailers are posted there.

Just Natalie said...

My Trailer took me two days to work on. I kept things simple :)

Dave said...

Love this post as it's something I am hoping to do for myself soon... only thing is you need to be very careful of where you go for your photos.. royalty free doesn;t mean you can just grab any royalty free image - you are only protected if they are Public Domain