How to Make Your Own Book Trailer - presentation for FRW

On November 9th I gave a workshop on book trailers for the Florida Romance Writers, my local RWA chapter. The workshop was an updated version of the workshop Mary Burns and I gave at the Historical Novel Society Conference in St. Petersburg in June.



The workshop is entitled Book Trailers: From Powerpoint to Ipad apps. Here is the workshop description:

Book trailers are great marketing tools and a fabulous addition to your book's webpage. Trailers spark discussions about your topic and draw readers to your site.  Book trailers can be expensive, but a short, simply designed book trailer is not hard to make, using the resources most writers already have.
We will start with some guidelines for a good trailer concept.  Bring a synopsis (no more than 250 words) of your book and if you are daring, your first draft of a book trailer script, and we will help you refine it in class.
Once you have a script we will walk you through the basics of finding free music and images and creating a powerpoint-slide show book trailer (there will be copious handouts).
For the more cinematically ambitious we will look at ways to make a live-action movie with an ipad, and how to use stop-motion, animation, and other effects with easy-to-find apps.

Here are some of the trailers I showed in the class. PDFs of the Handouts are at the end of this blog.

I started out by showing three trailers by Nancy J. Cohen, who generously shared her blurbs and script with us (see PDF at the end).



Here are some basic principles to consider when you write the script for a book trailer: it should be short,
less than a minute long. Avoid text over black, especially at the opening. You want to convey the same information as
you do in your synopsis: the hero, the antagonist or love interest, the main problem, the outcome. Of course
if it is a romance we know it will end with happy ever after or happy for now. If it is a mystery you don't want
to give away the ending but you want to give us a sense of how the story will go.
Your book trailer should convey the genre and tone of the piece.
Of the three above, I consider the Shear Murder trailer to be the most successful. The others are too long, but
they capture the tone well. Nancy also did a good job in that she bought stock photo images, or used images to which she could get the rights. Same for the music. That is very important.

You can see her scripts and compare them to her synopsis, as well as find the sources for her images and music, in the PDF at the end of the blog.

A couple of people shared blurbs with me so I could model the book trailer script writing process.  Alyssa Maxwell shared this synopsis:

Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well heeled relation, but as second cousing to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts' summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt's financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma's black hseep brother Brady is found in Cornelius's bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the plice have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost...


Here is a quickie trailer I produced based on the above blurb. Because I only had an hour to put this together, there are a few things wrong with it: I used a drawing, when it would be preferable to use photographs; the type is terrible. I wanted to use a black courier to simulate a typewriter, but I couldn't get that to stand out against all of the pictures. The solution would have been a box or changing the pictures in Photoshop, but I didn't have time for that. A typewriter sound effect seems to have gotten lost in the transition from powerpoint to quicktime movie, which I would fix if it were a real trailer but not for a practice movie. Still, this gives you a good idea of what you can do in an hour.


A few things to note: sentences in your book trailer script should be grammatically correct, and correctly punctuated. It's good to start with the main character or the main problem in the story; suck the reader right in. Consider your trailer script a form of writing. Your writing skills will be judged by it.

Writing a book trailer often forces you to confront the weaknesses of your synopsis, and by extension, of your story. It's a good exercise to write the book trailer script even if you aren't going to make a book trailer. The exercise also helps you pitch your book.

I then showed the class how to animate a book trailer in powerpoint. A PDF with those instructions is below. There is another PDF with a list of links to free and cheap sources of images and stock music.

I ended the class by showing some other book trailers, to give an idea of the variety that is out there.

Here is a trailer where the author sets herself up as a character in her own trailer, by Mary Sharrat . This trailer is very long, but it is an interesting approach:


Mary Burns wrote up the PDF on how to produce book trailers in powerpoint. Here is the short trailer for her book,  Portraits of an Artist. You can see the full trailer here.  

Here is a book trailer produced using stock footage or found footage, for the YA zombie novel This Is Not A Test:

Here are some examples of what you can do using only an ipad:

Here is the first book trailer Tessa Dare ever made, using just her web camera and the toys in her children's room:


She made another one for Maya Banks:


Here's a trailer for a book I'm working on now, a young adult caper about a group of kids in 1977 looking for stolen moon rocks. I used some apps I downloaded onto my iphone:





How to Make a Book Trailer with Powerpoint.pdf836.83 KB
Nancy Cohen's Blurbs and Book Trailers.pdf119.17 KB