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Monday, March 21, 2011

A Simple Guide to Creating a Basic Book Trailer

So, you want to create a book trailer/video, but you don’t have a lot of money to spend? Thanks to some basic computer software that might already be on your computer – if you have a reasonably current version of Microsoft Windows-called Windows MovieMaker or Windows Live Movie Maker, it’s fairly easy to do. (Mac’s have something similar, but you’ll have to look for it.)
However, be prepared to spend at least several days on it. Yes, I said DAYS. Look down this page. If this looks daunting determine whether you really don’t have the money. Otherwise, go to step one…
1.      First and foremost before you do anything else, you have to determine the atmosphere and intent of your video.
2.      Second, get rid of ANY idea of using the latest Nickleback song as your soundtrack. Music holds the same copyright issues writing does. Most major artists are diligent about people hijacking their music and using it for a purpose they did not intend. If you have the balls to ask for permission and an e-mail address that will work, go for it. (I did this once, not for Nickleback of course, but for a group that did trailer music. Their basic attitude was they thought it was pretty funny I asked but they more or less said, WTH, why not?) Doesn’t usually happen though and there are other alternatives.
3.      Keep that sound in mind though, more about that later.
4.      Okay, so you’ve written an intense mystery. In that case you’re not looking for light and airy music, unless it’s got a light and airy feel to it, or something jazzy for a heroine or hero who’s a little snarky. Your images will match that feel. If it’s a mystery, you’ll also be looking for photographic images, unlike a writer of fantasy or science fiction. Finding real images to match a fantasy/sci-fi story is going to be difficult, and most of it will look pretty bad. Your best bet then is to go for graphics.
5.      Your two best friends at this point will be Microsoft Paint and Google Picnik, both free, although I would recommended spending the twenty or so dollars to upgrade Picnik – it gives you nifty little tools to change eye and hair colors, darken or lighten skin, or Clone to eliminate things you don’t want.
6.      Okay, so where do you get those images? Again, watch copyright, but there are a number of websites that offer images for sale, usually fairly inexpensively. Sites like and are the least expensive. A query as simple as ‘sexy man’ will get you hundreds of images for the hero of your book. Don’t use the same query for women, try beautiful woman, or you’ll get an eyeful. Many have adult filters so you don’t see them, but still. Be careful just Googling what you’re looking for, although if there are copyright issues it will tell you. Most of the time.
7.      That will work for most standard fiction. If you’re looking for something in fantastic fiction, whether fantasy or science-fiction, then Googling is your best shot. Type in ‘space station’, for example, go to Images at the top of the screen and you’ll get pictures of space stations. If there are copyright issues, double click on the image to go to the site and see if they’ll sell you an image.
8.      I did tell you this was going to take some time, didn’t I?
9.      Now, my advice? Put your images together in Movie Maker or its equivalent first before you search for music. It defaults to seven seconds per slide for most images, which can be too long for a simple picture or too short for much text. If you’ve never done a PowerPoint presentation then remember it takes about two seconds for most people to register what’s on the screen. A little longer to read it. And ALWAYS keep the text short. You’re NOT George Lucas at the beginning of the original Star Wars. Video is a visual medium, books are a text medium. One short sentence per slide, give or take. Just think of your blurb made visual, a very short version the first part of your synopsis or part of the opening scene. You want to entice people to read your book, not tell the whole plot. Apply the KISS principle – keep it simple short.
10.  Save your images into a folder in your Pictures folder called BookTitle Trailer, where BookTitle is the title of your book.
11.  Open either version of MovieMaker. At the top of the page or on the left will be the option to import pictures. Once the pictures are imported, arrange them by clicking and dragging into the proper position. A screen will appear to one side or the other showing your video in progress as you rearrange it. Somewhere on the page will be the option to change the time. Take the time to experiment with the choices on the menu. In Movie Maker Live there’s preset options under AutoMovie that are a godsend.
12.  Add a picture of the cover of your book at the beginning and the end. At the beginning add two title pages, one for the title of your book, one for your name. You want viewers to remember and be able to find your book. As they say in sales, for the information to stick you have to repeat it at least three times. (Your cover, and your title and cover at the beginning and end.)
13.  Add your credits at the end, there’s a button for it. Just click in the slide. Remember to credit yourself for creating it, the cover artist, the source of the images, your webpage or blog, and eventually, the source of the music.
14.  BTW, if you don’t know how to do any of this, spend the money to have a professional do it for you.
15.  At best, when you’re finished, you only want to have taken a few minutes of their time, no more. Watch it, several times. Get a feel for the rhythm. Look at the length of time. Are there images you could shorten? Lengthen?
16.  Now you’re ready for the music.
17.  There might be more sites with available music for things like trailers, but the one that works for me is They’re even sorted by feel. You can also use classical music as long as it’s open source. Sooooo…if it’s Bach or Beethoven you might be okay. If Yo-Yo Ma is playing it, you’re not.
18.  Do a lot of listening… look at the time of the pieces. MovieMaker will let you fade music in or out…but blending isn’t really an option, so understand that two pieces of music will break abruptly. Try to pick a piece that is close in time to your piece as it exists so you have to do as little adjusting.
19.  Watch your trailer. Ask a friend who’ll be honest to watch it. (I use my husband. Bless him he’s always honest with me.)
20.  SAVE YOUR PROJECT! THEN go to Save Movie – For Computer. Now you can upload to YouTube or whatever. I recommend YouTube because it’s easy to share from there, or copy and paste to other sites.

You’re done.  Now, unless you’ve done this several times, wait a few days. Look at it again. If you’re proud of it, share it. Remember, as time goes by you can always make a new one. Or hire someone. This is just to get you off the ground.
Good luck, I hope this helps.