The Anatomy of a Book Trailer – Part 2

many pics

Where do we find the building blocks for a trailer?

Think about your goal.

Think about your message.

Think about your intended audience.


  1. Use individual artistic talent. Among the most notable examples of this are the trailers of Maggie Stiefvater. This is one such trailer, the result of hours and hours of painstaking work and stop action photography.
  2. Make your own video using family and friends as characters. The trailer for “The Uncertainty Principle” by Maria Elizabeth McVoy in the S & H anthology, Short & Happy (or not) is a fantastic example.
  3. Use an online program such as that relies more on the narration than video. This will work well with humorous commentary, as in this very simple trailer by Richard Bunning. A slightly more sophisticated use of online program is that Dwight Okita used for his speculative fiction book, The Prospect of my Arrival. Watch here. He animated a series of still pictures using the program to produce a very appealing trailer.
  4. Use purchased images. Making a trailer with a series of still images is very easy to do using PowerPoint, MovieMaker, iMovie, or another free software program.
    1. Use public domain images (remember to give credit). The image in this blog is an example (copyright 2012 martinak15, Flickr via Wylio) More about this later.
    2. Buy images from websites that sell “royalty-free” images. Remember royalty-free does not mean free. It means you can use the same image over and over without paying per use. Some of these are free, some are very inexpensive, and some aren’t. There are many such sites: iStock, canstockphoto, iClipart, and many more.
    3. Buy videos and overlay your own text. iStock, Pond5, and Videoblocks are sites to investigate.
    4. Last but far from least is to use your own still photos. Lenora Rain-Lee Good went on a road trip tracing the steps of Madame Dorion as she researched the background of her book, Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country (published by S & H Publishing, Inc.) She used some of the many photos she took to produce this video designed to be played in a continuous loop during book signings.

The Anatomy of a Book Trailer – Part 1

Before the advent of the ebook, a book trailer might have been the only way to take enough books along on your summer vacation. However, we now have all manner of portable devices that can not only put dozens of books inside your pocket, but can give you animated versions of the book blurb.

YouTube has been named the world’s second largest search engine. Authors and publishers are always looking for ways to get their books noticed, and the book trailer is just one more way to generate interest.

Think of a trailer as an online book jacket.

A trailer has three basic elements: images, words and music. These must be used to evoke an emotion and create a message in as short a time as possible. You have only a few seconds to capture the viewer’s attention.

Begin with the feeling you want to convey. Stopwatch

  • Humor
  • Suspense
  • Curiosity
  • Fear
  • Anticipation
  • Sadness
  • Joy
  • Anger
  • Peace

Trailers serve many different purposes. The most common one is to gain the attention of a new reader who knows nothing about the book. Attention spans are short. Aim for a 30 to 90 second range for maximum effect.

Every author should have an “elevator pitch” ready for his or her novel. An elevator pitch is what you can say to a casual stranger who asks about your book. It has to be a hook that will grab the listener’s attention before the elevator doors open and the opportunity is lost.

Start with a good cover image, the feeling you want to express, and a hook using as few words as possible.

The following trailer was made to generate interest before the launch of a new crime novel set in Maine.

Next time: The Storyboard