Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 11, 2011

Do It Yourself – Making A Book Trailer

Christine Norris attended the “How to Make a Book Trailer” Workshop that I conducted at the NJSCBWI Conference in June, so I was happy to see the results of Christine Norris’ Book Trailer and asked her to share her experience with you.  

I hope it will give you the encourage you need to try your hand in developing your own trailer. 

Here’s Christine: 

Making a Book Trailer

Christine Norris

After five published novels, I’ve been around the block as far as book promotion is concerned. I’ve done it all – brochures, postcards, bookmarks, fun little
book-themed giveaways, and I just received an order of really cute buttons. And I’m a total cheapskate about it – if I can get it cheap or free, I am all about
it. Part of being a cheapskate promoter is learning to do things for yourself. And so I’ve learned Photoshop (actually I have an Open Source version – free,
of course), and mastered brochure making and business card design so that I can make my own promotional items. And most of them have turned out really well.

Ever since the book trailer craze started, I’ve wanted to have a book trailer.  If you haven’t seen one, it’s like a mini-movie for a book, like a moving advertisement. But I had no idea where to begin. Until I took Instructional Media for Graduate School, I had never used Windows Movie Maker, but for that course I was forced to learn. And it was SO FUN, and really SO EASY. Once I had the software skill, I knew that I could make a trailer, but wasn’t sure if I could do it justice. You can’t just slap some slides together and plop down music and go. Then I went to NJSCBWI’s annual conference this year, and took Kathy’s book trailer workshop, and she gave us some great pointers about targeting the audience, scripting, video, and types of trailers. Which was all I needed to get me going in the right direction. Here’s what I learned while making the trailer for my latest book, THE MIRROR OF YU-HUANG:

Concept is Key

This was without a doubt the hardest part for me. I have the skills to put together a movie, including audio and voice and sound effects if I need them, but what should be the focus of the trailer? I had at least two false starts, where I liked the concept, but it was going to be much too long and involved for a trailer. A trailer is short and sweet, about one minute long. How to grab and hold someone’s attention and get across the theme of the book in one minute? I finally decided, since THE MIRROR OF YU-HUANG is the third book in my series, to focus on the theme of the series itself, briefly revisiting the first two books. It helped to build up the suspense AND it had the added bonus of showing the rest of the series for those who hadn’t read them. Finding that concept was the hardest part of making the trailer. Once I had that down, the rest was cake.

Don’t use too many bells and whistles.

Movie Maker has TONS of them – transitions, title animations, video thingys. The temptation is there to use them all. Resist. Pick a theme and stick with it. All of my
text slides have the same background and font. I use mostly one type of transition for the entire thing, except at the most dramatic point of the trailer. It makes the important part – the book I’m promoting – stand out. Clean and simple is better than messy and complicated.

Find the right music.

When my trailer was done and posted, I sent links to everyone I could find. Someone emailed me about how much they liked it, and added “the music really makes it”.  And it does. I’ve had many people say it’s so dramatic, which I really think has a lot to do with the music. And I found this piece of music for free, which is even better for the cheapskate in me. But I listened to a lot of tracks before I decided on this one. Most of my time was spent doing this one thing.  Once I had all the images and transitions and text in place, what I did was to run the track online and run the movie at the same time, to see how they went together. Saved me a lot of unnecessary downloading. Listen to the WHOLE track, too, because sometimes the beginning might not fit, but the middle or the end might. You can adjust or clip the track to suit your needs.

Follow the rules.

As a librarian and author, I have to please remind you to respect the copyrights of artists and musicians and photographers. I was lucky to find a perfect piece of
music that the composer was willing to give away on his website. And there are plenty of places to find free or low-cost music or photos. If you are so inclined, you can take pictures yourself. Digital cameras nowadays make it easy to take great shots. For my trailer, I used exactly two images that were not my own; the tree at the end of my trailer I drew myself and I am using it on other promotional items. I won’t tell you what it means – you’ll have to read the book 😉

Don’t cheap out.

Sometimes, though, you must spend some money on your trailer, either for images or music or whatever. Find the best deal you can. But what I really mean by don’t cheap out is that when you are ready to upload your trailer to YouTube or whatever, use the highest quality video you can. I found this out the hard way, and then
had to take down my original trailer, resave it in higher quality, and re-upload. Lower quality videos come out fuzzy and cheap looking. That turns people right off.

There are people out there who will make you a book trailer, and they will charge you. Sometimes a lot of money. Which is okay if you have the money to spend. I spent about four hours of my time (most of that listening to music tracks and rearranging slides) and zero dollars to put this trailer together. And hey, if I can do it, you can too!

Good luck and let me know if you give it a try.  Or let me know if you have other words of wisdom you can share with everyone.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wow, great job, Christine! One thing I love about your concept idea was including the first two books ’cause you’re actually killing THREE birds (books) with one stone! And yes, the music was perfect! Thanks for sharing 🙂


  2. I too, think it’s dramatic. Great suspenseful writing that makes me think of movie trailers. Might I link to my trailers as an example for picture books?


  3. Hi Kathy,

    It was great to meet you in SCBWI 2011 LA Conference!
    Great job on the website!! I enjoy it! I tried to email you, but the email address doesn’t work. I hope to get to talk to you later. 🙂

    -Tina (


  4. That came out great!!!! Way to go, Christine! (and way to go,Kathy, for what apparently was a wonderful workshop…)
    P.S. Happy Birthday to Christine, too!! : )


  5. Thanks everyone! I didn’t see this until today because I’ve been so busy! Thanks to Kathy for both a great class and for loaning me space on the blog!


  6. This is great! Thanks!
    Can you tell us where you looked for/found the music, please?


  7. Great stuff. I never saw myself making a book trailer. Personally, I’d rather have someone else do it. But maybe I could give it a try.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: