Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Book Trailer Education

Over the past two months, I’ve made three book trailers. As I worked on each one, I learned new skills and sorted out what I’d do differently the next time around. Technology was at my fingertips and as an author I knew I wanted to use book trailers to promote my trade book titles around the world through YouTube and my website. I knew nothing at the outset except the many times I’d drooled over my fellow writers’ book trailers such as Linda Lodding’s The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, Danna Smith’s Pirate Nap, and Bethanie Murguia’s Zoe Gets Ready. If you’re interested in making book trailers, then come along. Hopefully, my experience will pave the way for your book trailer journey.

Storyboard Text

I began by figuring out what I wanted to say by making a document in Word and inserting text boxes on the right side to create a preliminary storyboard. I had to remember that I didn’t want my book trailer to replace the book. It had to grab the viewer’s attention, create questions, and encourage the viewer to purchase the book to discover the whole story. Each text box contained what I planned to use with a single image.I kept my text short and to the point and realized extra details would only be found in the book.

Storyboard Images

Once I had the text, I figured out what images to use to support it. Just like the text, I didn’t want to give the imagery of the book away. I tried to stick with key images in my books’ openings and portions of images that appeared later.

Selecting and preparing the images in PhotoShop took a lot of time. Images had to be scanned, cropped, and edited. This was particularly true with my trailers for Cindy Moo and In the Trees, Honey Bees! In these cases, my twenty-one-year-old son who’d taken animation classes for his major, had to isolate parts of images so they could be manipulated separately from the background. For example, in the opening of In the Trees, Honey Bees! the cover appears. Seconds later, the yellow title flies away, then the bylines, then the bee. Each movement was a separate image that had to be removed from the book cover image and applied in layers. Many images had to be edited to remove dark vertical gutter lines. Text had to be removed so I could use my book trailer text.

I’ve included the honey bee trailer here:

Once we finished  the images, I inserted them next to my text boxes and my storyboard began to take shape. The storyboard became the road map for my project. The clearer the road map, the easier the project became. This was especially true when working with someone else, in this case, my son. The first time around, I wasn’t nearly as clear about what I wanted and we spent days changing things on the computer screen instead of figuring it all out on paper first. Not a good idea. The second time around, we knew better.


Once I had the images next to my text boxes, the next step was to figure out what I wanted to happen.So many choices! I tried to make choices that supported the type of book it was. For example, for my bee book, the text flew off like a bee. For Cindy Moo I stuck with jumping imagery.

Here is my book trailer for Cindy Moo:

I had more options when my son was working on my book trailers. He had more complex software (Flash), a better scanner, and illustration devices that I didn’t have. He could make separate images move around the screen, which was a terrific option. The drawback was that when we’d officially finish a book trailer, I’d want to go back and change something to make it even better. This happened over and over and it became the neverending book trailer. I was as picky about my book trailers as I was about each word of my books and it was frustrating to rely on someone else’s interest and availability. The only answer was to find a way I could make them myself so I could change whatever I liked with impunity!  

Windows Movie Maker

I decided to use Window Movie Maker on my last book trailer for my picture book biography Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Leon Foucault. It didn’t have all the bells and whistles of Flash, but it was on my computer and there wouldn’t be as huge of a learning curve as there would have been trying to figure out Flash which took my son a whole semester to master.

As I had with my other book trailers, I created a storyboard before I began. When my storyboard was in place I was ready to drop my images into WMM and create my movie.

When I clicked on an image, it had certain options. First, how long did I want each image to appear? Next, how did I want to transition from one image to the next? Although there were many options, I liked cross-fading and selected that for all of my images. There were also many animation options—how I wanted images to come and go. As I held my cursor over each option, it demonstrated the effect. I selected a variety of animation effects throughout the movie trailer to create drama and interest.

It was a good time to double check that each image was exactly the way I wanted it to be. Was each image cropped to its best advantage? Was the focus of interest of each image used to its fullest potential? For example, in my Come See the Earth Turn trailer, there’s an image of Leon’s silhouette in a window of a darkened city street. The first time around, I’d concentrated on the cityscape instead of his image. Later on, I realized his image was the key to the scene, so I went back and enlarged and recropped the image to return to focus to the mysterious man in the window.


Once the images were in place, it was time to think about captions, an option on the home page of WWM. I needed to decide what font I wanted to use along with its color and size. For this book trailer, I selected a font that went with the historic nature of the book and enlarged it.

Placement was important too. Where would the text appear so the viewer could see it clearly against the image? There were also many options about how the text would come and go.

How long the text appeared was an important factor too. When I worked on the captions, I tried to have them appear in a reasonable amount of time to read, but discovered much later that I needed to allow double the time. As I learned from writing friend and techno app genius Chris Pederson, people who haven’t spent hours scouring over my book trailer are actually looking at the pictures at first. By the time they’d looked at the pictures, my captions had vanished. I ended up going back and doubling the times I’d allowed for scenes and captions which meant going back and redoing the sound track as well. Best to catch that mistake before the sound track is made and it's posted at YouTube. (I won't make that mistake again!) Other things to check are:

·    Typos and punctuation (Of course—but you’d be surprised what gets through!)
·    Line widows (Is there a word dangling on a line all by itself?)
·    Are the captions in a pleasing alignment with the images? For example, I’d placed my captions on an image and thought it was great. Later, I went back and saw how the caption had crossed out of the frame of the image onto the black margin of the scene. Did I want that? I decided I didn’t and changed it.


Sound was a fun and interesting challenge. I didn’t have a big budget for my movie, so I spent time looking around for royalty-free music and sound effects. I discovered that Kevin MacLeod has a wonderful site and used his music for all of my book trailers. is a great place to find all kinds of sound effects.

What was surprising and discouraging was discovering that WMM only allows one sound track for a movie—yikes! As simple as my project was, I needed more than that. After tons of research online, the answer was Audacity, a free, downloadable sound editing software. It was confusing at first, but then I found a demonstration at YouTube and all the pieces fell into place. When he explained it, it was so simple! Open a sound file. Select and export a section as a new file. Then import it back, and edit as necessary such as fading out the end. As I imported new sound files, I was building a sound track with multiple layers.
I started by knowing the length of my movie. Then I imported my musical soundtrack and cut it to match the length of my movie along with a fade out at the end.

Once my music sound track was selected, I decided what sound effects I wanted with the images. I wrote down the time in the movie they started and stopped and cut my sound tracks accordingly. When it was all done, I exported the multiple tracks as a single file and uploaded it my movie in WWM.

And that was my book trailer education.

Here is my latest picture book trailer:



  1. Sorry if subscribers got multiple posts. There was a weird glitch in the text when I posted. Several words were highlighted and underlined and linked to spam. Took forever to remove them.

  2. You're welcome! I'm glad it was helpful.:-)

  3. Lori, this is great information! Thanks for putting so much effort into showing how you made this delightful trailers Now, if only *I* could ....

    1. Thanks, Jeri! I'm glad it was helpful. (I'm so looking forward to your new title!)