How to: Making a Book Trailer 101…

Making a book trailer is something I’ve never done. Frankly it seems daunting. I’m a writer, not a movie maker! That’s why I’m pleased today to feature Angela Quarles who has some great “how to” info on making one. Her step-by-step instructions make it sound easy! And by the way…her romantic comedy “novelette” Beer and Groping and Las Vegas releases today! And yes, she made book trailer for it, and you’ll get to see it. Take it away…Angela!

Making a Book  Trailer on Your Own Dime

By Angela Quarles

Thank you for having me on your site, Cara!

You’ve seen book trailers–when done right, they make you more intrigued about the book. But you’ve also seen the ones that look amateurish. I was afraid to do one for my upcoming release, because I didn’t want it to fall into the latter camp. I was also afraid it would look too earnest, and that’s not the tone of my novelette. I put it off, resolved that I wouldn’t do one at all. Then a couple weekends ago, I thought, why not? I can try it and if it doesn’t work, no one has to know. So here’s what I did….

Determine the tone - Jot down words that convey the tone the book trailer should have. It needs to match the tone of your book, of course. Brainstorm ways that you can visually achieve this. Look at other book trailers to see what they do and write down techniques and other aspects that you liked.

I think for me, what helped me see that I could get across what I wanted was seeing this book trailer by Maggie Stiefvater for a book about kraken love:

kraken love You Tube video

It showed me that I could not only do something myself, but also I really liked the conversational style of the trailer, and that it was having fun with the viewer. I wanted to do that too. Snippets of one-liners started popping into my head and I made sure to then incorporate those into my rough storyboard.

StoryboardArmed with your brainstorming notes and a pen and paper, draw rectangles and jot inside some images you could see using in each spot, along with any captions. I just did a quick and dirty one, it won’t win any art prizes, but it helped me see this as a series of ‘scenes’. I crossed things out, drew rectangles on the sides with arrows where they should be inserted, etc.

Not all of the ‘scenes’ I ended up using, but it helped me visualize it. You don’t want any more than about 18-20 of these because you want to keep it under 2 minutes, but the shorter the better.

For your captions, think short and simple here. Like a log line, or your query letter. Just try and think what you want to convey, and how, and come up with the wording. Viewers will lose patience if they have to read a lot of words in a trailer. In fact, the same principles used for creating an effective logline apply here. It needs to convey genre, tone, who, where, what they want, what/who opposes them, etc. And just like your query, start with your hook!

SoftwareI used Windows Live Movie Maker, which in other tutorials online said that it comes with Windows, but it didn’t come with mine. But it’s a free program, so you can download it here if your computer doesn’t have it either. If you’re not on Windows, I’m sure the Mac comes with a good program too. This won’t be a tutorial about the specifics involved with this software, but rather the principles involved with making one. So if you have to download, go ahead and get that ball rolling while you then browse for images…

ImagesNext you want to look for images that will work with your scenes. Be very careful here, as you don’t want to use copyrighted images. I opted to spend some money and purchase high quality photos where usage would not be a problem. I spent less than $50 total for all the photos I used by going to www.istockphoto.com. But before I purchased them, I browsed for ones I thought would work and put them in my lightbox for the project. I then downloaded samples and used those samples in my trailer until I knew for sure those were the images I wanted.

And pick images that are sharp and get across what you want in a nice, tight shot. Don’t get something so ‘busy’ that it’s ambiguous.

You can even purchase short video clips if you want to get really fancy. There are many on istockphoto.com as well, like this one that shows a little sensual snippet that might work for a romance trailer.

Creating a Rough Draft of Your TrailerNow go ahead and open your software and set up your project file. Make sure to choose your aspect ratio, and I recommend using “Widescreen 16:9″ as that will look the most professional. 16:9 refers to the aspect ratio, meaning the width will be 16 units across for every 9 units down.

Start making each ‘scene’ by inserting your captions and images. I didn’t do music until near the end, so that I wouldn’t keep hearing it over and over while editing (though I guess I could’ve hit mute). But the idea here is to lay down your scenes, just like you would in a rough draft of your story. You want to get them down to see what you’ve got.

If you’re using still images like me, don’t let them just appear and stay there for a bit until they get replaced. Try to create interest and movement by utilizing the in-built transitions and movements that come with your software. I made sure that every time a photo appeared, I used a transition, in my case the bottom right corner turning like a page. But be careful here, there are some pretty cheesy transitions available to use, so try to keep it simple and fitting for the tone you’re aiming for. You don’t want it to look like someone who just got to start playing with all the cool transition tools in their new video creation software (*wink*). My advice would be to find one transition that works, and stick to that one for the whole trailer.

For movement, I used some of the inbuilt panning so that the photo moved around a little. Again, don’t go crazy.

Same with your captions, try to choose one of the inbuilt fade in/out movements that come with it.

For images, they aren’t going to be sized at the same aspect ratio as your movie (16:9), so you can do one of several things:

  • Insert them as is and live with whatever background color shows on either side (if it’s a vertical) or above and below (if it’s a horizontal).
  • Recommended: Open up your image editing software (like PhotoShop) and if you want the whole thing visible, create a file with the right aspect ratio and background color you want and place your photo centered. Or if you’re okay with parts of the photo missing, cut off part of it so it matches the aspect ratio

But how do I figure out the aspect ratio?—I’m so confused! you’re probably screaming right about now. Fear not, luckily someone else has made a calculator available online. In the space that has 4 and 3 prefilled in the width and height, change that to 16 and 9. Then use the area near the bottom of the calculator to input one of the photos dimensions in pixels, hit calculate, and it tells you what the other should be. For instance, one of my photos was 849 pixels by 565 pixels. I knew I wanted to keep the width of the photo, so I input 849 in the width box at the bottom, hit calculate, and boom, it told me I needed to make the height 478. So I trimmed my photo, lopping off top and bottom, so that it had this height and RESAVED it under a new file name (that way the original photo stays intact). Now I didn’t go through all this trouble on my rough draft with the sample photos, but you can, if you want to see at this stage if the photo will work for your purposes before you buy it.

Look at your script again. Do you have repeat words? Are you saying the same thing several different ways? Trim, trim, trim! Use the same word-craft skills you apply to your WIP for here as well.

FontStick to one font, two at the most. Like the transitions, don’t go crazy here. Make sure that the font is a professional-looking, clean, readable font and if possible, matches the tone you’re going for. Often the wrong font can cross the trailer over into Amateur Land. I found one on my computer, but again, you can browse font sites like dafont.com or 1001fonts.com and download one. Like music and images, be careful that you choose one that grants you commercial license to use it; some are only for personal use.

Add CreditsDon’t forget to credit those you need to at the end, like the photos and music.

Find MusicAgain, don’t put copyrighted music in your trailer. So that fave tune of yours by the artist you love? Ah, no. There were some sites I found that had royalty free music you could buy, like the images, (Google ‘royalty free music’) but I was on a tight budget, so I searched for free music. I typed in ”free download” “royalty free” contemporary sensual music and came across joshwoodward.com and the first tune I clicked on, I knew that was it. But it had vocals and with a little searching I found that there was an instrumental version. However you find your music, be sure to follow their instructions on usage and how they should be credited. You do not want to get in trouble later. I know Kevin MacLeod is another that has free instrumental music you can use.

Whatever it is, again it needs to match the tone of your story/trailer.

Beta roundJust like with your WIP, get some folks you trust to look at your rough trailer. I copied my script down and sent it to one friend who made some great suggestions. Another watched the rough and over the phone gave me some great suggestions. I also posted it to my facebook profile (but kept the visibility restricted to Friends Only) and got feedback.

And like Beta readers with your book, they will find inconsistencies, typos, and suggestions for improvement.

FinalizeNow purchase your images and get them sized and imported. Don’t opt for the smallest size. Get one that is at least 640×480. You don’t want it looking grainy if it’s blown up to someone’s full screen. If you use istockphoto.com like I did, you can save a little money by buying blocks of credits to use instead of buying each one individually.

TightenAgain, like your WIP, do that final tighten and polish. I cut down precious seconds by just making sure the delays between scenes were exactly paced the way I wanted. I also combined some of the credits so that my rough draft that was 2:09 minutes was cut down to 1:29. Big difference for a trailer!

Final PermissionsIf your book is being published by a publisher, make sure you follow their rules and get whatever approvals you need before you make this live. YouTube allows you to upload videos and keep them private so you can send links to those you want to see it.

ReleaseRelease your baby into the wild! I uploaded mine to YouTube, but I also arranged to have it premiere on a fellow blogger’s website.

And here’s my trailer. My novelette is light-hearted, quirky and humorous (I think) and so I wanted the trailer to convey that:

Book Trailer for Beer and Groping in Las Vegas

Helpful sites

Beer and Groping in Las Vegas:

Contemporary Romantic Comedy

Secret Cravings Publishing

Release Date: December 19, 2012

Length: Novelette (13,500 words)
Price: 3.99

Content advisory: Adult language, explicit sex

Blurb: 

Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.  

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.


Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.

pre-order - book info - goodreads - shelfari


Angeles Quarles Bio: 

Angela works at an independent bookstore and lives in an historic house in the beautiful and quirky town of Mobile, AL, with her two matched gray cats, Darcy and Bingley. When she’s not writing, she enjoys the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls and creating the occasional knitted scarf. She’s had a varied career, including website programming and directing a small local history museum.

She’s an admitted geek and is proud to be among the few but mighty Browncoats who watched Firefly the first night it aired. She was introduced to the wonderful world of science fiction by her father, by way of watching reruns of the original Star Trek in her tweens and later giving her a copy of Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz as a teenager. She hasn’t looked back since. 

She has a B.A. in Anthropology and International Studies with a minor in German from Emory University, and a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University. She was an exchange student to Finland in high school and studied abroad in Vienna one summer in college. She recently found representation with Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon, Assoc.

website - blog - twitter - facebook

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12 Responses to How to: Making a Book Trailer 101…

  1. Sue Lyndon says:

    Congrats on your debut release, Angela! I love the title. Thanks for the wonderful info about making book trailers…I’m bookmarking this page for future reference. :)

  2. Good information! Here’s a little something to add to it…istockphoto is one of the most expensive stock photos houses. Bigstock Photo and Depositphoto are much more reasonable and there are also free images you can use from Stock.Xchng.

    Also, you don’t have to use royalty free music if you are uploading to YouTube. YouTube has a licensing agreement with many of the most popular labels like Sony. The agreement lets you use music from popular artists. You just can’t upload the video to someplace like Facebook. You have to use the YouTube links and embed codes.

    For those sceptics out there, you can Google the YouTube agreement and find all the articles on it. And if you happen to use music by a group YouTube doesn’t have an agreement with, YouTube will strip the music from your video. You can always change the music easily in Windows Live Movie Maker though.

    And one final note, Nero has really nice movie making software too. I use it in conjunction with Windows Live Movie Maker with still photos and video loops. It’s fun to change things up a bit!

    Great post! Congrats on the release!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Good tips, Lex, thanks. BTW, people Lex designed my blog!

      • Cara Bristol says:

        I just compared istockphoto (which I use) to Big Stock and found istocphoto credit packages to be cheaper for the smaller packages. On istockphoto you can buy 30 credits for $47.99/$1.60 per credit. The comparable 25 credit package on Big Stock is $49 or $1.96 per credit.

        If you go with a BIG package, it IS cheaper on Big Stock. You can get 500 credits for $495, which is 99 cents a credit. Istockphoto doesn’t offer a package that cheap.

        So I think it boils down to this: if you only need a few photos, istockphoto is cheaper. If use a lot of photos, Big Stock is less expensive.

        • It’s not so much the cost of the images per image that gets expensive it’s being FORCED to purchase a larger package than you need. If you only need two images and you won’t be buying images again for a long while spending $50 for credits that you only use half of is more expensive than buying $15 worth of credits that you will use all of. Fotolia, Dreamstime and Depositphoto are better on that front and when you can get the credit deals at Bigstock those are better as well. But the Bigstock deal is only good if you’re buying more than just 2 or 3 images. They sell their images for 2-4 credits each compared to iStock and Shutterstock who charge 10-12 credit per image. You have to balance the outlay of money against your needs against how many credits these companies charge per image. It’s not always easy to figure out the formula that works best for your needs. For someone like me who goes through dozens and dozens of images in a month, I use Depositphoto’s subscription service for $59/month, 5 downloads per day. It pays for itself over and over.

          • Cara Bristol says:

            Lex, I buy a lot of photos on istockphoto for 1-2 credits. But those are small photos, generally 400 pixels wide. So that may not work for book trailer photos, where you’d want larger images with better resolution. And those ARE more expensive, in the 10- 12 credit range. I mention it because istockphotos work well for my blog.

          • Thanks Lex for the info! I didn’t realize that about YouTube music, good to know!

            iStockphoto now lets you buy photos individually without having to buy a credit package, but since I knew how many I needed, and how many credits I’d need, I was able to buy the right size with only like 1 credit leftover. None of my images cost me more than 6 credits (some only 3) and I didn’t get the small size.

  3. Wow! Some great info here and it’s making my head spin. I’ll certainly come back to this post when/if I’m ready to do my own book trailer.

  4. Thianna D says:

    Your trailer was SO CUTE! And it definitely set a tone for the book. Now I am gonna have to read it.

    As for the trailer, I’m glad yours was only 90 seconds. The first video you mentioned I tried to watch but 4 minutes is too long for a book trailer.

    And thanks so much for the info. I have tried to use Windows Live Movie Maker, but I find it far more difficult than the previous Windows Movie Maker. Will have to try again.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. For trailers you can use 72 dpi images but the small ones are too small. The smallest of the 300 dpi images work better IMO. For other types of graphics you’d need the medium or large 300 dpi images. On a blog or website the small 72 dpi images are usually just fine because the internet renders at 72 dpi. And of course, the bigger the image, the more they cost. There are more and more free sites popping up but I’ve used Stock.xChng for a long time especially for trailers. There’s some nice stuff there if you take the time to sort through it all.

  6. This is an excellent tutorial, especially the part on resizing photos. I use http://www.123rf.com and http://www.bigstock.com for images. They are less expensive than istockphoto.com. For music I go to http://www.stockmusic.net. It’s $39.95 per track; Pay once, use forever. My total comes to about $70 per video. Here’s my most recent one: http://youtu.be/aVm2FIumw0o Thanks for sharing your tips!

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