How to Make a Book Trailer

My second book is due out in a few short months, so this topic has consumed most of my creative time lately. Book trailers are much like movie trailers … only about books (duh). They’re short video clips used to advertise books, but for me they’re much more. The illustrator in me loves them as another form of visual storytelling, as well as an excuse to dabble in animation. They’re also a great way to reach an international audience. Being based in Australia, here I can tour schools and festivals, meeting kids and teachers and doing book readings. But when it comes to my US audience, instead I can interact using my book trailer and by doing blog tours and online interviews.

So let’s say you’ve written a book and want to make your own trailer. Here’s the good news: the hard bit is already done. Because the first thing you need is a great story. Once you have that, you have the bones of your trailer. Now the bad news: I can’t tell you exactly how to make a trailer. There are just too many different ways to go about it. But I can tell you what a good trailer needs … and how I made mine … and what I’ve learnt along the way (please feel free to learn from my mistakes).

Where to start…

  • Watch lots of trailers: I mean heaps. Good ones. Bad ones. Figure out the difference. Find a few you love and study them
  • Make a list: write down all the things you want your trailer to include. My list was: book cover, key scenes, review quotes, publisher information, trailer credits, my website
  • Write the script: write out all the words that will appear in your trailer, whether spoken or written. Then edit it. And again. Get the order and emphasis right. Spend as much time on it as you would crafting a passage of your book. Mine looks like this:

  • Choose your visuals: for an illustrator this bit is easier. I chose a few key scenes from my picture book to use. If you’re not the illustrator, you need to seek their permission to use their work. If your book is a novel, there are royalty free image sites you can google to find quality images – spend time finding ones that reflect the mood and style of your story
  • Choose your music: I’m lucky enough to work with an amazingly talented composer and multi-instrumentalist, but they don’t just grow on trees. Mostly people use royalty free music you can download from various sites. I used such sites to find a few subtle sound effects, and made some of my own (in my extremely low budget recording studio / bedroom cupboard)
  • Create a storyboard: this is an illustrating term, which means designing the visuals of the story. Draw out exactly what you want your trailer to look like, a few frames at a time. This is where you can start to think about text and image placement, as well as consider background, transitions, colour, sound effects and music. Mine looks like this:

  • Make it: Yeah, not as easy as it sounds. This point could have an entire blog devoted to it. But choose a video editing program you have, or one you can afford, then read / watch every online tutorial you can find. This is exactly how I learnt to use Flash, which is what I used to create my first trailer. This time around I was going to use stop motion animation, but it was consuming too much time so I’ve shelved that idea for another year. My first trailer involved a lot of trial and error as I was figuring Flash out, and it took me forever to grasp what I was doing. But this second trailer has been much easier (and much more fun). I’m now confident enough to play with some more complicated sequences

Things I learnt along the way…

  • Keep it short. No longer that 1min 30sec. Modern viewers have short attention spans (most of you probably haven’t made it this far in my post)
  • While my book is written in past tense, the trailer worked much better in present tense – it gave a greater sense of unfolding action
  • However long you think it will take to make the trailer – double it
  • Get the trailer ready to release at least a month before the book comes out. Book review copies are sent out long before the release date, so books often start gathering reviews early. It’s great if you can have the trailer circulating at the same time

Some of my favourite trailers…

I’ll be launching the Brave Squish Rabbit trailer here in September…


14 Responses to “How to Make a Book Trailer”

  1. 1 Dimity Powell July 23, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Thanks a bunch for this easy, step by step, outline of creation. You make it sound easier than your beaut little trailer suggests. I have been look forward to exploring this next dimension more…

    • 2 Katherine Battersby July 24, 2012 at 9:03 am

      No probs, Dim. Things are never as easy as they sound, are they? But if it’s something you want to do, I know you’ll come up with something gorgeous. Can’t wait to see your book! x

  2. 3 Janeen Brian July 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks Katherine. Times like this I wish I was an illustrator, musician, designer and IT savvy! But hopefully, with your advice and help, I might get to make a book trailer yet!

    • 4 Katherine Battersby July 24, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Oh I know Janeen! So many different creative fields I wish I knew more about. Not enough room in one lifetime to learn it all. Your books would make fabulous trailers though – I hope you get to make one someday! x

  3. 5 shewrite63 July 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Reblogged this on Shewrite63 and commented:
    Good advice. Plan, plan, plan. I wonder if it’s okay to make one if the book has already been released? Illustrations? Think, think, think… Thank you, Katherine Battersby.

  4. 6 Katherine Battersby July 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Absolutely! You can make a book trailer at any time in a book’s life – when I was talking about time frames I only meant that it was ideal to make it before it comes out. But I say go for it :)

  5. 7 Sue Bursztynski (@SueBursztynski) August 18, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I’ve done some with my class, as a creative response to books they’ve read, but not put them online due to copyright issues because it’s hard enough getting them inspired without doing the whole Creative Commons stuff with them. For myself, I have found I can do a perfectly good trailer with Keynote(the Mac PowerPoint) and some music. Not all of us can do our own art, alas! And free images just don’t always have what you need, so my trailer for my YA novel remains on my computer till I can find some images that are in the public domain. I did it as a model for my students.

    • 8 Katherine Battersby August 30, 2012 at 8:45 pm

      Wow Sue – what a creative way to get kids involved with books and stories! Such a great idea. And I know what you mean about being limited to the images that are free / available. If only we were all film experts too! I do feel lucky being able to use my own illustrations. Look forward to seeing your trailer once you’ve found the perfect images…

  1. 1 How to Make a Book Trailer | Australian Children's Authors | Trackback on August 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm
  2. 2 How to Make a Book Trailer | Creating a community of readers | Trackback on October 3, 2012 at 4:36 pm
  3. 3 How to Make a Book Trailer | Linguagem Virtual | Trackback on October 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm
  4. 4 How to Make a Book Trailer | Youth literacy | Trackback on October 4, 2012 at 4:28 am
  5. 5 How to Make a Book Trailer | AdLit | Trackback on October 10, 2012 at 11:00 am
  6. 6 How to Make a Book Trailer | Litteris | Trackback on October 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:


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