Crafting A Trailer by Sinead MacDughlas

Crafting A Trailer by Sinead MacDughlas

I have a love/hate relationship with book trailers. I love to watch them. I love their marketing value. I love to hate the cheesy ones — and I hate that I don’t have the budget to make an awesome one.

Independent authors have two options when it comes to trailers: hire someone to put one together, or do it themselves.

Making a book trailer can be a creative experience that motivates an author to keep going. After months of writing, re-writing, and editing the same story, the urge to just trash the whole thing, and start something new, can be overwhelming. Constructing a book trailer can also be a creative experience that drives an author completely into the realm of insanity.

I’m no expert on the book trailer, but I have made a few now, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Some of it I learned by research, some by trial and error. Hopefully, sharing that knowledge will help other writers produce beautiful trailers for their books.

The process for creating a book trailer can also be applied to home movies, wedding videos, music videos, (for Independent musicians), and keepsake videos.

The very first step is finding a video editing program to use. I made my first trailers with the Windows Live Movie Maker program that came with Windows 7. It’s a fairly user-friendly program, and since I’m no computer genius, it was just what I needed to get started.

The trailer for my anthology, made with Windows Live Moviemaker and watermarked clips.

Eventually I graduated to AVS Video Editor. Which is a little more complex, but similar enough to WLMM, that I found it easy to use, as well. The free version leaves an awful “watermark” right in the middle of the screen, so I paid for this program, and I think it was worth every penny. Look for online coupons, or wait for a sale, if your budget is as low as mine.

My own (most recent) trailer made with AVS Video Editor.

There are other programs available, but I have no experience with them. Therefore, I don’t feel comfortable suggesting them. A google search should give you a good selection.

For authors, you want to make your video a visual synopsis.  It should intrigue the viewer, giving them just enough information about your book, to draw them in, and make them want to purchase it. There are two ways to do this. You can have your actual synopsis, (or back cover blurb), read as an audio track, or you can do a breakdown of the novel, as a whole. I prefer the breakdown method, but both are viable.

In the breakdown method, you make a list of key elements in your novel. These elements can include: the plot, main characters, subplots, important physical objects, and key scenes and/or locations, (among others).

The next step is to create a short line, (I call them taglines), of text for each element.  If you are going to have these taglines read as an audio track, you want to keep them under three to four seconds each. If you’re going to have them as “floating text”, you’ll want to keep them short enough to be read in the same amount of time. Being a fast reader, I try to make them short enough that I can read them twice in the allotted time.  It’s also important to keep the taglines short to allow for large print, without covering the entire screen with words.

When you are done, you should have enough elements to fill out a two to two and a half minute trailer. You want to keep a book trailer short. This is a tease, to entice readers, not a movie to reveal the entire book, after all.

Once you have your script, it’s time to find your video clips and still images. If you have a school nearby that has a visual arts or film course, you might approach the instructor about asking students to create the required pieces for you. Or perhaps you have some talented, local, amateur actors/models, who might be willing to help. If, like me, you have no such convenient resources at your disposal, there are options available online. Some sites offer free video clips, royalty free, but these are rare. Most require a credit of some sort, a small fee, or the free clips are watermarked. Whatever the case, be sure to make a note of the policy for each clip, to avoid copyright issues.

Here is a list of helpful sites for video clips:

and sites I found helpful for still images:

Next comes the sound.
If you want to have an audio track for your taglines, you might try downloading FREE Hi-Q RecorderI have this program and with a computer microphone, it works reasonably well, though you’ll need to play with it a bit to find the best location for recording without background noise and/or static.

You’ll also want music, and possibly, sound effects.  A wonderful site for music is  Incompetech. Composer Kevin McLeod has hundreds of free music tracks categorized by “feel”, free to use with the correct disclaimer/credit.  I’ve never found the need to search for another site.  If you want to use something known, you’ll have to obtain permission or use something available from the public domain. I found a nice selection of public domain music, and hundreds of great sound effects at and there are, again, several other sites offering free sound effects and music. A quick Google search for “free, royalty free audio download” should give you plenty of options.

I tend to lay out my video clips, untrimmed, or loosely trimmed, before selecting the music. Then I find something that conveys the mood I want and goes well with the clips. After I’ve added the music to the file, I trim the clips and images down to “fit” the music.

The final steps, for me, include layering video, adding floating images, and timing the scenes to the split second. It takes a lot of practice, and even more patience, to get a trailer just right. Here is an example of a trailer I made for an author-friend. Her novel is set in the Regency period, and she required a specific piece of music for her trailer, (one her protagonist plays for another character, in the book). With a combination of video and still images, along with her “taglines”, this is what we put together:

This trailer was produced with AVS Video Editor.

Don’t forget to add your book cover, at least one purchase link and the required accreditation to your trailer. When it’s complete, you can share your masterpiece on several sites. There is a great list of the most popular sites here: When you upload your trailer, be sure to fill out the information and metatags. And most important, include a purchase link, if the option is available.

The most important rule, if you’re going to make your own book trailer, of course, is “HAVE FUN WITH IT!”  I hope you found this helpful, and I wish you all the best of luck with all of your creative endeavors.

About Sinead MacDughlas:

Sinead MacDughlas is a forty-one year old wife and mother, living North of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  She’s an insomniac, regularly feeding her addictions to coffee, chocolate and cheese, though never all at once.

A proud Indie author, Sinead loves to dabble in anything creative.

Her gypsy-like existence has, ironically, never taken her out of Ontario, but forty-two moves have cured her of any urge to change location again.  Sinead has been employed in various ways including, but not limited to: waitressing, student-journalism, telephone sales, amateur modeling, marketing, taxi driving, retail management and cabinet making.  If nothing else, her travels have provided her with plenty of inspiration for her writing.

Her available work is a short story/poetry/prose anthology The Unscheduled Stops. Her WIP is a contemporary crime fiction novel Learn To Love Me, due for release on August 12, 2012.


25 responses to “Crafting A Trailer by Sinead MacDughlas

  1. Very good. I bookmarked your links for future reference! Thanks

  2. Good article – thanks for sharing. I’m in the process of making a trailer for one of my books, so it’s interesting to see how other authors approach this task.

    I think the trailer for “Learn to Love Me” is the best of the three. The one for “Courting Danger” comes across as scrappy and confused, though maybe this is because half of it has an advert plastered over the text. YouTube does that whenever it thinks you’re using someone else’s music without permission. If I see adverts on a book trailer, it puts me off buying the book, as it makes me think the author is stingy and/or clueless. Allegedly it’s possible to convince YouTube that you do have permission to use a piece of music, but I don’t know how you go about this.

    • Hi Steven, I just replayed the trailer to see if this is the case, and I clearly do not get the advertisement, the small one I do get can very easily be removed by clicking the small x in the top right. Also, these small advertisements are present on a LOT of YouTube videos.

      • So true, Ritesh. I’ve had the same type of adverts pop up on my other trailers. Youtube does provide help links to contest a copyright infringement accusation, as long as you have some way to show you obtained the music legitimately. As long as check your resources carefully and give the proper accreditation, that shouldn’t be an issue, though. As an author, myself, the LAST thing I want to do is infringe on someone else’s copyright.

      • When I said “half of it”, I meant half the running time, not half the screen.

        Adverts are annoying at the best of times, but when they pop up over something I’m watching (which is itself an advert for something), that’s even more annoying. As far as I know, the only ways to get adverts popping up over YouTube videos are to have more than half a million viewings (not sure if that’s per video or per channel) or to use material that someone else owns the rights to. Most indie book trailers don’t get anywhere near half a million viewings, so…

        If I see adverts popping up on a book trailer, to me that says that the maker doesn’t know they’re supposed to get clearances, or thinks they can get away with flying under the radar. I don’t want to support people who don’t respect other people’s copyrights – and if they don’t understand copyright, the chances are there are a lot of other things they don’t know about writing, so their book isn’t likely to be worth reading…

    • Thank you, Steven! I’m glad you enjoyed the “Learn To Love Me” trailer. If you have any suggestions for improvements on the “Courting Danger” trailer, I’m always open to input, and I’m sure Elizabeth would appreciate it as well.

      • Mostly, I’d simplify it and strip it down. Get rid of the charcoal drawing and ripple effects, and the clipart flying across the screen. They’re gimmicky and amateurish – the video equivalent of purple prose. Did you try cutting the video to the music? That can help to make the video into a cohesive whole, particularly if that piece of music is important in the story.

        I’m not sure that Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower are appropriate landmarks for a novel set in the Regency, as none of them existed then.

        If you want to include a direct URL to buy the book on Amazon, see if you can make it clickable. The viewer doesn’t have a hope of remembering it, so if they want to use it, they have to pause the video and manually copy it into another browser window or tab – not very user-friendly. If you can’t make the link clickable, I’d change that text to “find it on Amazon” or similar – the book is the first or second result on a search for its title.

        As an example of what’s doable on an amateur level, here are some videos made by a group that I’m involved with – You’ll notice that we seldom use anything other than cuts and dissolves to move from one shot to the next.

        Hope this helps.

    • That certainly does help, Steven. As the eiffel tower was in the original trailer the author had begun, I made the assumption that it was built within the Regecy period. o.O I should know better than to make assumptions, and should have taken more time to investigate the other landmarks as well. I hope I’ve done no harm to Elizabeth’s potential sales! I’ll message her about this immediately! As for the advert., I’m still a little confused. I know I I’ve seen the same advertisements over Youtube uploads I know are all original content. (In one case by an author/photographer who uses only her own images and music created and recorded by her husband). In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing a Youtube video without an advert popping up on it, but I will certainly investigate further. Thank you so much for your advice and input, and for sharing the link. 😀

      • Perhaps you’re watching different videos from me, or you watch more videos than I do, but I find adverts on top of YouTube videos to be the exception rather than the rule.

        I was going to say the only video in the set I linked to that has adverts is “Anniversary”, which uses a couple of old jazz recordings on the soundtrack. But I watched it again just now, and the adverts had gone. It might be because YouTube sent me an email a while ago to say it uses someone else’s music, and I clicked something to the effect that “I have read this and understand it.” There is a link below the video window to buy one of the tracks on iTunes, so maybe that’s why the adverts on top of the video have disappeared.

        The other video that could have had adverts is “Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder”. When that reached 500,000 viewings, YouTube offered to show adverts on it or next to it and give us some of the revenue. I declined, partly because of artistic integrity and mostly because I would’ve had to declare that I owned or had a license for all the content in the video. The script isn’t original – it’s based on one of those jokes that gets endlessly forwarded through email – and I didn’t fancy trying to track down whoever wrote it to ask permission.

  3. Great info! I’ve bookmarked this for future use.

  4. Oh my goodness was this very helpful! I have been debating to make a book trailer, tried awhile ago, not too bad, but still… this is very helpful! thanks!

    • Please let me know if you do try it, A.D. I’d love to see it!

      • With wonderful instructions, I’m gonna have to give it a try…just gonna make sure its on a quiet day :0) And I am very patient and very calm :0) Thank you! I will def. share!

  5. Well, that clears up a few things. If I ever need help creating on of them I’m calling you. Now you’ve done it. Oh-oh. 🙂

  6. This is great info. I’ve wanted to make a trailer but didn’t know where to start. A friend was going to help me, but it hasn’t panned out. I’m bookmarking this. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I’m sorry your friend couldn’t help, Richard, but I’m glad this has given you a starting point. 🙂 Let me know if you get your trailer made. I forgot to mention that Amazon and Smashwords, at least, allow you to post your trailers as well. Amazon has a rule against watermarks, so I haven’t been able to post the trailer for “The Unscheduled Stops”, but I will be posting the “Learn To Love Me Trailer” prior to the launch date.

  8. This is a great article. I’m still kind of on the fence about whether I actuall like book trailers all that much but it is cool to know what all goes into the process of making one. One book trailer that I do absolutely love is the one for The Way by Kristen Wolf. It is absolutely beautiful!

  9. It is gorgeous! Professional trailers definitely make me envious. *sigh* I I had such a budget… 🙂

  10. Sinead, I am so lucky to have you for a friend! Your trailer for my book Courting Danger is amazing and so much better than anything I could have put together. You are brilliant and creative and I adore you! Your blog is perfect and as soon as get my hands on those programs I’ll attempt to make a trailer that might be half as good as the one you made for me and count myself lucky! 😀 Love you darling!

  11. Nice article! We run a free stock footage website that some of your users may also find helpful – – hope this helps some of you.

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