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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Trailers

I have to say, I'm not entirely convinced that book trailers sell books. I rarely watch them, unless I already know about the book or I know the author, and I've never bought a book as a result of one, unless I already intended to do so. I have seen the odd person say they've watched a trailer and bought a book, but again, usually because the book was already on their mind. So perhaps as a final point to encourage a sale, they do help. But they are definitely an 'in' thing. (As an amendment here, I have to mention that after the launch of my latest trailer someone tweeted to me that they were interested in reading the book having seen the trailer. So maybe they're more effective than I previously believed. I'd love to see some data on it!)

When my friend Lauri J Owen made one for her book, she encouraged me to give it a try. I'm not going to say it's easy because it took me a while to figure it out, simply by playing with the software until it clicked. But I found it a lot of fun to do (once I knew what I was doing) and a heck of a lot cheaper to do it yourself, providing you're prepared to put the time into it. So, I did one for Keir, and just last week I redid one for my upcoming release Gethyon, and I thought I'd show you the process.

You will need:
Windows Movie Maker - most computers will probably have this as a standard piece of software when you buy them, but if not it's a free download, and you can find it here.
Some royalty-free music - I use Kevin MacLeod's site here but there are others if you search for royalty-free music.
Some images - either use your own or buy or you can find some royalty-free, although you may have to include a link in your video back to the site that provided them - check their terms and conditions carefully. I generally use, and have a mixture of paid-for and free images.
A rough script - I generally use the blurb to the book. A trailer works exactly the same - you want to give readers a taster but finish with a hook. Try to sketch out what script and image you want together, and what order you want them in.

(As a hint, I recommend you collect all the images you want to use for the video into one folder and name it as such. I've learned to my cost that having to go look for individual images again when you work on the project is a time suck!)
So, two main points of advice. Keep it simple and be prepared to spend time on it. For me I take two or three days to make one book trailer because I am OCD about timings. But I enjoy doing this despite the strain on my patience.

Once you've downloaded Windows Movie Maker, you should see this on opening it -

Your version won't have the little image icons though - that's just my old files

My first task is usually to pick a piece of music and download it. Typically I'll go for something about a minute and a half long. You CAN put two pieces of music together or cut down a longer piece, but these are complications I've avoided so far. Doing a longer trailer may give too much away and cost more for extra images! Once you've downloaded your music, left click and drag it into the Audio/Music section of your time line. You should now see this (timeline at the bottom of the image) -

Tip - if you find the timeline too compressed to see the elements in it clearly, strech it out using -

This will also allow you to make finer adjustments too.

You can now add your images. Click Import Media, then Pictures if that's where you've stored your folder of images. You can load them all individually or Ctrl+A to select them all. Once these are loaded into WMM, you'll see something like this.

You can now click and drag your images into your movie timeline (the section marked Video). You'll need to do this in the order you want them to appear, which is why a rough script of some kind beforehand is a good idea.

You may find the images then extend further than your music. Don't panic! You can shorten the images by left clicking and holding on the RIGHT hand side of each image. You'll see a little red adjuster symbol come up, allowing you to extend or shorten the time your image will show on the trailer. You need to adjust the RIGHT hand side of each image as necessary.

You may find at this stage you'll need to start playing the trailer to see how and where your images fit into the music. I suggest finishing (and lingering!) on an image of your book cover, with your publisher's name, a release date if it's not yet out, and perhaps some major retailers it will be available from.

Once you have them matched to the music (if the images are a bit short, don't worry - you'll be adding credits at the end. It's up to you if you want music on these or not.) it's time to add some script to your trailer. Click on the image you want to add text too, then Tools, Titles and Credits.

You can vary the font, and to a degree the size and placing of the script. Again, experiment with it until you find something that works for you. You can also add lots of flashy effects, but bear in mind you want people to be able to read it. Keep it short and check it's on screen long enough to be read easily. Again, play it through and adjust until you're happy it's all flowing together and in the right places. You can also add effects directly onto each image to give them more movement.

Then you can add effects between the images (Transitions) to merge them together.

You can also blend images into the one before by left clicking and holding the LEFT hand side of each image. You'll see a little blue bar come up that you can drag left into the previous image to blend them. Be aware this can pull the entire timeline forward and affect the timing in the trailer, so check each time you use it.

Finally, add your credits (Tools, Titles and Credits). Put your name and copyright. It isn't always necessary to credit the provider of your images or music, but I like to do so. Check it through a few more times to ensure you're happy with it, then Save Project As and give it a name. (BTW, it's worth saving at regular intervals as you work, just in case your computer is interrupted at any stage!). Your final timeline should look something like this -

Windows Movie Maker saves them as MSWMM files. You'll need to convert it to a .wmv file to upload to YouTube, which you can do by clicking File, Publish Movie. Please note, once it's published you CANNOT alter the .wmv file, and the MSWMM version will be gone. So if you think you may want to tweak it at a later date without remaking the whole thing, say after release day, save TWO copies of the MSWMM files under different names. Once you've loaded your trailer up to YouTube, you'll then be able to embed it on your blog or website.

And there you go! I really enjoy making trailers and find it a change from writing while still being creative. Don't be afraid to try it out! But if you'd rather a professional handled it, you could check out Danielle Fine here.

In the meantime, here's my finished trailer.


  1. I'm so bookmarking this article for future use!

  2. Glad you found it helpful, Elena. :)

  3. This is so great. I've never tried to do my own trailer, but it would be fun to try. I'll need to look this up when I attempt it.

  4. It does take a bit of playing around with, but if you've stalled with your writing maybe, or feel like doing something different, this is good. I make up mock book covers for the same reason - a break from writing but still creative, and sometimes it helps me focus on the important elements of a story.


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