On making a book trailer


(This is an updated version made in November 2016, but everything below is still true!)

As a big fan of the moving image, I wanted to make an animated advert for my forthcoming book, INCEPTIO. Could I do it myself? I’m no Steven Spielberg, but I had the track record of one whole mini-movie about the Great European Freeze in February 2012, so that was fine. 😉

The real answer? Yep, research. I spent hours on YouTube trying to pin down what was suitable to the genre, what had similar elements to those in my book, what I felt induced a ‘zing’ for the viewer.

Then I wrote a specification for myself.
How long? Max 1.30 mins.
Type? Me talking about book with some Roman-themed pictures? No, people wanted to know about the book, so a mini-story.
What tone and pace? Snappy – it’s about a thriller.
Funding? 50 pounds/dollars/euros.
Resources? My time, my picture editing skills(!), SXC picture library, iStockphoto and the iMovie programme on my Mac.

What did I want to achieve?
Visibility (and hopefully not ridicule).
And to increase a skill – no learning is ever wasted.

The practicalities
The first thing was decide the point of view. An omniscient narrator? One of the major secondary characters? No, it was my heroine’s story, so back to her. Bit of a problem – she has an American voice. After more research, I realised I wasn’t confident enough to, and couldn’t find out how to, import pre-recorded voiceover as well as music, so I started tracking down a warm body who could come along and record direct. The English Language Library in Angers found me a very nice American lady who lived in Saumur.

In the meantime, I had to write the script. Yes, I’m a writer, but this had to distilled to the nth degree. The text had to set the story, outline the threat and pose the question ‘What happens next?’ all without giving the plot away and within a minute and a half. Easy, huh?

I wrestled with it, emerging with 100 words, each one glaring at me for the trials I’d  subjected it to. Surprisingly, working out visuals to match the text was straightforward. Finding the right images wasn’t. I’d taken several hundred photos in Rome and Pompeii last year which gave me one or two, then it was diving into picture libraries, sometimes free, sometimes paying.

Now the music. Back to iStockphoto. Forty-eight tunes later and I had a great clip – 1.08 minutes. I took iMovie’s tutorials again, loaded all the material into a new project and had the rough outline. Then I got tweaking: timings, transitions, Ken Burns effects (smart name for zooming in and out in a directed way). My delightful American voice turned up with her other half and we had fun recording and re-recording the voice-over.  Then it was back to tweaking as I learned about levels, sound profiles, etc. Lastly, I did a still for the last frame showing the book and buying links.

Loading on to YouTube was painless, the bigger decision was choosing the format. Like iMovie, YouTube is cleverly built for amateur or occasional use, but sufficiently techie for the more expert.

What did I learn?
– that past experience of picture editing was a blessing.
– with a bit of thought, $65.50  and hours and hours of fiddling, I could produce a reasonable trailer.
– that my respect for professional film-makers knew no bounds.
My trailer won’t win an Oscar, but it does the job. Potential readers seem to like it and I had enormous fun making it.


2 comments to On making a book trailer

  • I was privy to its first run-through for my comments. I’ve just looked at it again. It’s really great, Alison. Atmospheric, and one definitely wants to know what happens to the poor girl. Nothing amateurish about it at all. In fact, au contraire.