October 11, 2011

Making Your Own Book Trailer on the Cheap

Total Read Time: 3 minutes

Whether book trailers are a good (or effective) idea seems to be a controversial topic with some people. Yes, there are some really awful looking trailers out there that probably never should have seen the light of day. But this doesn’t mean book trailers are inherently evil. There are also some really amazing-looking and clever ones as well.

My take on it is if you have an artistic eye and think making your own trailer would be fun, go for it. A decent book trailer is just one more way for an author to reach potential readers.

I decided to make my own trailer for my upcoming fantasy novel, Soul Seeker, and I had a blast doing it. And I think it turned out pretty well. I did spend a little bit of money ($16), but I could have made something more basic for free.

Here’s how I did it:


Windows Live Movie Maker (Sorry, Mac people. I’m sure you have an awesome equivalent.)

This program comes standard on Windows XP and higher. There are lots of tutorials on how to use it online, so I’m not going to cover that here.


If you are using static images as part of a slide show, it helps to be able to resize or crop them as needed. I also used it to create the screen that contains my book cover image, and the book title screen.


Free, royalty-free images from stock.xchng  

Images from this site can be used to create a slideshow in your trailer. You can make the static images appear more dynamic by using zoom in and zoom out effects. Some images require permission from the artist, in addition to crediting them, so make sure you check the terms for each image you use.


Royalty-free video clips starting at $1 from Video Hive

This was what I used for the cloud sequence at the opening of my trailer. While video clips aren’t necessary, if you can find a nice one for a good price, they can add some zip to what will otherwise be a static image slideshow.

Many of the videos on this site are short loops, so you can use them several times in a row fit your time needs without having to use a transition effect in between.


Sound effects & loops from Soundsnap (5 sounds for $9)

While you could find music for free, many of the sites can be sketchy at best and the quality often isn’t that great. Don’t let potential legal issues bite you in the ass.

Soundsnap has a searchable site with loops and effects that have been professionally recorded. You can listen to the track before buying. Most of the loops are very short (usually starting at 10 seconds), but since they are loops, you can use them back to back in order to stretch them out if you need to.

Still, you don’t want to use the same 10 second loop over and over for 2 minutes straight, so it’s good to invest in a few different ones. I found the 5 sound package to be the right amount for my trailer.

To find different loops that will go together nicely, it helps to find one loop you really like and search for more by the same composer. It can also be a good idea to keep all your different loops in the same musical key. (Often the composer will indicate the key in the file name using the letters A-G.)

Music Editing

Free sound editing software from Audacity (Windows/Mac)

Once you’ve purchased all your loops, you can use Audacity to edit them. While it’s not necessary, since you can drag and drop your loops right into Windows Live Movie Maker, it is useful for creating fade in and fade out transitions to switch from one loop to the next.

It’s fairly easy to use, but there is a bit of a learning curve at first. After you have all your music ready to go, you can export the tracks as MP3s and drop them into Windows Live Movie Maker to integrate them with your video.

Trailer-Making Tips:
  • Keep the font of your captions easy to read
  • Keep the tempo of your captions at an easy-to-read pace (not too fast or too slow)
  • Don’t use too many distracting visual effects. Stick to basics, like fading in/out and zooming.
  • Keep it short and sweet. (It’s a teaser, not an infomercial.)

Got questions? Let me know. :)

Have you made a trailer? If so, what tools did you use?

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