Building a Book Trailer on a Shoestring Budget (pt 1)

It’s Painful, and It’s Ugly


Hello, and thanks for letting me present how I build my book trailers. Some people can get lucky, and know what they want in their trailer right out of the box. Others, like myself, have to wait until after a book is finished (or at least the rough draft is finished) to know what needs to be included.

There are a multitude of steps for this, and the early stages can feel quite painful to work through. Don’t worry. As the project gets close to completion, that painfully ugly duckling you thought would never grow up will begin to fledge into a wonderful creation. There are a few basic skills you will need to have before you attempt this on your own:

  1. Know where to find good royalty free images, or be able to draw with a good camera/lighting for your slides

  2. Know the tone of your book, and how music will relate to your story. You do not want to get a light, effervescent piece for a horror/thriller, nor do you want a downer/militaristic piece for your romance. Music selection is very important.

  3. Have at least a basic knowledge of PowerPoint. The method I use does not actually use PowerPoint, but the skills are very similar.

  4. Be familiar with your computer’s inherent video maker. Since I use a PC, I use Windows Live Movie Maker. I’ve been told that the Mac version is very similar. If I’m wrong, please let me know, so the proper steps are listed somewhere.

With just these 5 skills, you can make a book trailer that can look quite professional. For this installment, I’m going to walk you through the most painful part of the process. Book trailers are basically a video book BLURB. You want to hook your readers, not summarize the entire story. With that in mind, you will need to distill your 50,000 words down to something closer to one to two hundred words MAX.

What I do to start with is to look at my books, and how many chapters I have. Most are paced, so the book has 20 chapters (if I have any say about the process, which I had better). So, knowing that I expect to have a rough video of 22 slides about the book itself. These need to include:

  • Your cover image

  • About one slide per chapter

  • A slide for any image and music credits

Wikicommons can be a great place to pick up images, just be sure to click the “more information” link for the licensing information. Copy that into a separate document. You’ll need it later.

For a complex book that has several important subplots, you may elect to go with a few less or a few more slides. Just remember you want at least a five second exposure, for each slide or the images won’t register. If you have text on them, 8 – 10 words is a good ideal maximum for that time frame.

I’m going to sign off here, and let you work on this phase – getting your book distilled down to your maximum slide number. Keep in mind that most songs are between 2 minutes and 4 minutes. There are longer ones out there, but that is not recommended. Most book trailers fall in the one to two minute range.

See you next time (Sunday 12th April), when we talk about assembling your slides.



(To find out more about Kat, click HERE to see her Guest Author article – TSRA)

45 thoughts on “Building a Book Trailer on a Shoestring Budget (pt 1)

  1. Thanks, Kat. Enjoyed this. I have the best book trailer creator of all, Chris aka thestoryreadingape, to do mine. I don’t have time to do them myself and I trust him explicitly to produce what I want for my books. Thanks, Chris! I will tune in to part 2 to appreciate how hard Chris works and just what he does to make a magical trailer!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thanks to both of you for this. I am pretty darned good at Power Point (hundreds of lectures and presentations) but am otherwise so digitally impaired that this is something I have to leave to someone else!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Finding the right images is important. The only reason I suggest knowing a photo editing program is because some of us have scenes in our heads that you can’t find images for. I’m sure they are out there, but either it takes too long, or they cost too much. And, there are some good text only trailers – I just don’t know how to make them… yet. I’m still on the steep learning curve.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Something I’m starting to hear back from various critique groups – the shorter the better. Two-and-a-half minutes is the max, most tend to recommend keeping it down in the one minute 30 to one minute forty-five second range. I just haven’t figured out how to play with the music yet, so prefer to use the entire piece.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Very good! That’s what Chris was talking about. The slide-share I did was too long but now I see that most stopping at the two and half minute mark was determination, which means my viewers wouldn’t have to work at watching if I cut it down to that minute and a half. The animoto’s free program is for thirty seconds. So, I will do one there and then a one minute, thirty seconds for the slide-share. to cater to the viewers because I want them to watch stress-free, rather than looking at the time bar on the bottom! Great information and appreciate you sharing your knowledge!

        Liked by 2 people

        • It can be a challenge to get your work distilled down enough to fit into a 1 minute 30 second to 2 minute time span.

          I have seen a few 30 second trailers, but didn’t like them because they were too short. My jury is still out about how effective that length is. Maybe with a children’s book, or something else that is under 100 pages it wouldn’t be so bad. Then again, I can’t really talk – I’m still wrestling the monster down into the 2 min 30 second frame.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Very interesting! I canned the 20 second on Animoto, including that site because there was no way to put anything substantial in it. I am sticking with SlideShare and going with about the two minute mark which is still a challenge as you pointed out!
            What a learning process this all is but it is so fun when the book trailer is finished. This time I am going to put it as my first static page on the blog, when I figure out how to showcase my best articles and the most current. One step at a time!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Haven’t heard of slideshare. However, since I’ve -kind- of figured out my on board programs, I’m probably going to stick with them. Now, to figure out how to make the compelling images.

            Liked by 2 people

          • That’s the good thing about is they have an amazing picture library. The first slideshare I did I got a little morbid about my drowning and they had a bunch of photos relating to that. I thought that was impressive! Yes, staying with what works is a good idea because there are always time-consuming, learning curves with new tools!

            Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t get me wrong… a professionally done trailer would be the ideal way. However, for those who are just starting out, that may not be a feasible option. That’s why I assembled this series of posts. It does have a learning curve attached, a pretty steep one, but it can also let you get into another channel for exposure.

      Liked by 1 person


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