Tips For Making a Book Trailer

When creating a book trailer for children’s books, it is important to see what’s out there, so that you can determine what works and what does not. You can find numerous book trailers on YouTube. Some things to look for in your research:

Basics: The most successful trailers are short and to-the-point, with a run time of less than two minutes. Trailers are promotional in nature, but the best ones tell a story. You’ll notice that there is a beginning (a hook,) a middle (two to four representative pieces of the story’s emotional arc,) and an end (another hook to entice the viewer to buy the book.) You can put a movie trailer together with Microsoft Movie Maker or Macintosh iMovie – you don’t need anything very sophisticated to create a trailer on your own.

Components: Trailers have titles, transitions, video effects, audio voice-over and music, still images or video clips. The best trailers use consistent, understated components that don’t distract from the trailer’s message.

Transitions and Video Effects: Transitions are the movements between images or frames in the trailer. The best trailers use simple transitions and video effects, such as a quick fade-in at the start, a simple quick cuts or quick fade-outs from image to image, and perhaps a pull-out effect here and there. The unsuccessful trailers tend towards the use of dizzying numbers and varieties of transitions.

Audio: With certain free movie maker software packages, you can add up to two audio tracks, for example, a music track and a narrative (voice) track. You may want to consider using audio capture software that allows you to mix multiple audio tracks. Audacity is an open-source software tool that is easy to use and that will allow you to create multiple audio tracks. You may also want to use something like GarageBand to create a music track. The best book trailers use a well-selected sound track that sets the appropriate mood. The narrative track should be professional in nature, with consistent sound quality and appropriate narrative. For example, if your book is in the voice of a small child, you want to try to find a voice actor of the appropriate age or slightly older. If the narration is in third person omniscient, try to find a voice that is in harmony with the mood of the book and trailer. In general, children’s picture books have a lyrical quality that you want to capture in the trailer. Trailers for longer works, such as for chapter books, should convey the voice of the main character or the mood of the book.

Titles: One thing I really admire about well-done trailers is how well the titles are executed. Many unsuccessful book trailers use a standard times-new-roman font even when the book is written in an entirely different font. Sometimes an unsuccessful trailer will use multiple fonts that is jarring to watch. You want to try to select a font to use in the titling that closely or possibly exactly matches the font used in the book itself. Use background colors that are in harmony with the images and video used in the trailer.

Images and Video: Stock or royalty-free images appear to be all the rage in book trailers. This is fine, but spend some time to select the appropriate images. In picture books, check your contract to make sure you have the rights to use book illustrations and book pages in a trailer for marketing purposes.

Marketing: The best trailers open with a logline, one that immediately draws the viewer in. Viewers are watching trailers because they want to decide whether or not to buy your book. While viewers are often children, keep in mind the gatekeeper: the parent. Your marketing message needs to be respectful of the child, and the gatekeeper. Keep the “fun to read” notion at the forefront, and provide the buyer the information they need to find the book. Close the trailer with a book cover image, the ISBN, distributor information, and the publisher URL.

Writing: After viewing several book trailers, you will see that the best of the bunch have a story to tell. The trailer has a beginning, a middle, and an end all unto its own. The best trailer does synopsis the book, but the ending is not given away. The trailer ends with a hook to hopefully entice the viewer to want to read the book. It is helpful to think about the book trailer as something like the paragraph synopsis that you might write for a query letter. It’s got a hook/logline, some juicy aspects of the story arc, and has a nice punch at the end that makes you want to read more.

To Summarize: At minimum, a book trailer for a children’s book should contain in relatively this order:
1. The book title, author, illustrator (this could also go at the end of the trailer)
2. A hook
3. Two, three or four high-points of the story arc
4. An ending hook/cliffhanger
5. Book cover image, author, illustrator, ISBN, distributor, publisher URL. (Buy information.)

I think the best book trailers are simple yet artfully executed, have a subtle marketing message, and have broad appeal – from the child to the gate-keeper. The best trailers also pay attention to the small details – simple things like consistency of frame size, font, and volume throughout the trailer. Technical aspects should not intrude upon the viewer. You don’t want the viewer to be captivated by your transitions or scrambling to adjust volume, and then have no idea what the book is about at the trailer’s end.