Hi there! Duolit is on hiatus, but please feel free to explore our extensive archive of posts and our free Weekend Book Marketing Makeover. Thanks for visiting!

4 Steps to Making Your Own Book Trailer

  • When executed properly, a book trailer can be the sharpest tool in your media kit.
  • When executed properly, a book trailer can be the perfect attention grabber for potential readers.
  • When executed properly, a book trailer can make your self-published title a legitimate, professional piece.

Do you see the common thread? It’s all about the first three words: When executed properly. A great book trailer can really set you apart from the competition, but a bad book trailer can set you back from the competition. That’s why it’s so important to be honest with yourself in deciding whether or not you can create a good a book trailer. Specifically, you need to ask yourself three questions:

photo by katerha

1. Do I have the time to create a book trailer?

Odds are, you’re already up to your eyeballs in writing, managing your social media, soliciting reviews and performing other marketing tasks. Making a (good) book trailer takes some serious time and focus, if you don’t have much of either to allocate for the project it might be wise to hire someone who does have the time.

2. Am I skilled enough to create a book trailer?

Look, there’s no nice way to say this so I’m just gonna say it: Some people don’t have the skillz to make a book trailer. You know who you are, don’t try to pretend like I’m talking about someone else. Whether you don’t know your way around the computer, you don’t have a knack for visual creativity or you struggle learning new things, it’s okay to acknowledge that your forte lies in other areas and leave your book trailer up to a professional.

3. What is my book trailer budget?

Even if you’re making your own book trailer, there are still costs involved. From stock photos and video to visual equipment and editing software, depending on how involved your book trailer is you could easily be looking at an investment of several hundred dollars.

The bottom line is this: If you don’t have the time, ability or budget to create a good book trailer, you should consider using a professional or not using one at all. But if you DO have the time, ability and budget to create your own book trailer, by all means dive in and create something spectacular!

Example book trailer from one of my favorites, Chris Bohjalian:

How to Make Your Own Book Trailer

Step One: Write the script

Just like a regular movie, a good book trailer starts with a script. Your trailer should be no more than three minutes long and have a beginning, middle and an end. Begin with something engaging — text, music, video, etc. — that will grab viewers’ attention (usually a question or quote from the book works best). Bring their interest to a boiling point with a climax (the main problem addressed in your book) and then wrap up with a call to action. Do NOT give away all the details of your story, but put enough bait on the line to catch some fish.

Step Two: Put together your content.

Photos, video, text and music are the meat of your book trailer. You can choose to take your own photos and film some video yourself, or you can opt for stock images. iStock has a good variety of video and photos to choose from, as does Fotolia, but they’re not cheap. You can get away with the web quality video (no need for HD) but even so, a 30 second clip can cost $100. When you’re trying to fill 2 – 3 minutes, that adds up in a hurry. Still, it lends a professional quality to your trailer that might be worth the investment. As an alternative, you can also check out Flickr’s Creative Commons for some free photos (but many do require attribution so be sure to check).

Your music choice is also a critical element. Copyright is a big (BIG!) issue when it comes to using someone else’s songs in your trailer (as you’ve probably noticed when trying to view a YouTube video only to find out it was pulled for a copyright violation). You can choose to download some public domain music or visit iStock to purchase music clips or if you are musically inclined (or have generous friends who are musically inclined) you can compose your own music.

Keep your text to a minimum and for Pete’s sake make sure it’s legible! Unless your intention to create a subliminal message, don’t use a fancy font or blow up your text so its pixelated and unreadable. Most importantly, leave the text on the screen long enough for an average person to read it. Nothing’s more frustrating than text that blinks off the screen before you’ve had a chance to read it all.

photo by Racum

Step Three: Add effects and transitions

Here’s where your movie editing software of choice comes into play. If you’re fortunate enough to have a Mac with iMovie you can probably skip this section because your computer will probably automatically add the perfect professional transitions and effects to your video with the touch of a button. But for us PC folks, we have a little more work to do. You don’t have to get over the top editing software to create a decent book trailer. Windows Movie Maker (included on most PCs with Windows) will suffice.

Available effects range from a standard zoom in/zoom out (perfect for adding movement to photos) to more advanced effects like film grain and adjustable speeds (slow mo or fast forward). Effects can enhance video and photos while transitions will smooth the flow of your trailer as it moves from pictures to videos and title screens. Transitions include simple fade ins/outs, page turns, breaking glass, and page insets.

Play around with your effects and transitions, but never make them the central focus of your trailer. When done right, they should accentuate your content, not become your content.

Step Four: Upload to YouTube and share!

When you’ve got your video done, open up a YouTube account and upload that piece of art! YouTube is the best place to both store and share your video, but you should also embed it on your website, share the link on your social media accounts, and add it to your media kit.

What’s your experience with book trailers?

  • Have you made a book trailer before?
  • Do you have a favorite book trailer you could share?
  • Have you ever worked with a professional to create a book trailer?

Leave your tips, links and recommendations in the comments below, we want to hear from you!

  • this is great information! 

  • Thank you.  You have successfully convinced me that I’m just not going to be able to make my own 😀 this is a really good thing, actually.  Cheers!

    • Haha, sometimes that’s an important thing to figure out, indeed. Be sure to come back and share your trailer when you get it made 😉

  • Stina Lindenblatt

    Thanks for the brilliant post. I’ve already decided that if I ever need a trailer, I’m hiring a professional. 😀

    • Looks like both you and Kaitlin came to the same conclusion, Stina! While a trailer is something you *can* make yourself, hiring a real pro is never a bad thing. Please come back and pass on a link when your trailer is complete!

  • Good post! Here’s my first: https://vimeo.com/32535352

    Thoughts?

    • Rock on, Nick! I *love* the music and the imagery. Did you put it together yourself?

    • I did, using After Effects and some water templates!

    • The only thing I can say bad is the text lingers on the screen for too long. Other than that…I LOVE THIS TRAILER! The music, the simple water theme, the lighting in the back (the sun). You also have this edgy flicker in it that changes it up a bit.

    • Thanks, Lauren — I’m excited that the book is FINALLY coming out… probably should redo the trailer now!

  • Just bookmarked this page for future reference! Great info! I love book trailers and would love to make my own for my novels :)

    • Yay! Thanks, Yesenia. If and when you do make your own, come back and share them with everyone :-)

  • Pierette Simpson

    I’m planning to make a book trailer with a friend who’s a videographer. It  will be for my new novel I  Was Shipwrecked on the Andrea Doria.  I think I will emulate two authors by combining their Modus Operendai:  Elizabeth Atkins and Ruta Sepetys. Both are  unique and professional. 

    • That sounds like an awesome plan, Pierette. We’d love to see the completed trailer!

  • William Dickerson

    I just wrote a short blog on book trailers (I’ve been making them for a years):

    http://wdfilmmaker.blogspot.com/2012/08/book-trailers.html

    I’m open to making more!

    • Thanks for sharing your post — what an awesome trailer, William!

  • Finding footage for my trailer was easy; it’s set in a period from which the art is now all out of copyright. :) I used stock footage to set the scene and then older art to invoke the story. https://vimeo.com/49192524

    I’m excited; I have my next trailer scripted, even though the book is still under consideration!

  • You asked some questions. My answer is yes, I have made a book trailer and yes, I have worked with a professional. Both were enjoyable experiences. The trailer I made myself was 28 seconds. The Red14Films will be around 90 seconds. How did the trailer I made myself turn out? You be the judge. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RtX20YDoYU

    No, seriously. Judge it.

    The trailer made by Red14Films is debuting on June 8th but, I have production stills. http://www.thediscordtrilogy.com/discordia_book_blog/a_picture_is_worth_a_thousand_words_im_a_thousand_aire/

    There was one scene shot where I was concerned it wasn’t exactly like the book. My producer reminded me the point of the trailer is to get people to buy the book. I promptly crawled back to my corner to love and stroke my new production stills.

  • Lydia Spencer
  • MorvaMarsh

    I had my first trailer done professionally – to the tune of over $2,000. Uh, yeah, can’t keep doing that. Problem is, I have a Mac, and can’t figure out how to use the iMoviemaker thingamajiggy. I was able to import photos, but couldn’t find instructions on adding text, nor could I get the timing right (extending the length of each storyboard and all that). So now I’m wandering through Google trying to find a system that won’t turn my hair gray or get me Baker-Acted. The suggestions here look like a good place to start, though.

    Here’s that first trailer:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDxlZaPYbZI

    I’ve since published Book II of the series and would really like to put out a trailer for it. Book III is about to be published as well, and needs some promotion. Soo…yep. I need help.