How I made a book trailer for free

So book trailers are a thing now. Chances are you've seen some floating around the internet. Changes are most of the ones you've seen have been less than awe inspiring. Unfortunately, most book trailers miss the mark. When it came time to think about making my own trailer, I almost didn't. I can honestly say I've only ever seen one trailer that actually made me want to go read the book.


Most trailers miss the mark because they try too hard to be like movie trailers. They either use actors who are never going to be exactly like your readers imagine or stock images that feel a bit cobbled together. Add in some bad graphics, overly dramatic voice over and cheesy music and you've got yourself a typical book trailer.

What Cora's trailer does well is capture the viewers attention right off the bat. It's funny and awkward (which matches the book perfectly) and doesn't try to recreate the book on screen. And that last part is important. There isn't a good way to do that. It's a book, not a movie. How many book to film adaptations perfectly capture the essence of a book? Right. And that's a full 90 minutes not 90 seconds.

So I decided if I wanted to do this, I wanted to create something that I would be proud to share and didn't try too hard to be a film representation of the book. Even if I wanted to do that I didn't have the budget for it.

My budget: $0

First, I came up with the concept and made a list of all the scenes I wanted included. I optioned to be the star simply because I couldn't afford to pay anyone else to do it. Plus, I'm a big dork. We have a camera, though the quality is not the best. With $0 to work with, it was good enough. I also chose a concept that allowed me to use my own home as the setting and items I already owned for props. Seriously, not kidding about the $0.

I recruited two very dear friends (who are highlighted at the end of the video) to help me with the filming. I can't stress enough how much you are going to want some help. Even with three of us there to move the camera, wrangle kids and set up props, it still took us 4.5 hours to film everything. Plus, this sort of thing is just more fun if you can do it with friends.

After the filming, I ended up with 33 minutes of raw footage that I managed to trim down to 90 seconds. Entire scenes got cut. So make sure you film way more than you think you'll need. You never know when a rogue shadow or weird facial expression will make footage unusable. It did take me two hours to edit this. I consider myself to be tech-capable and I have some experience ediging my Hey, Sarah videos. If you're starting from scratch, better factor in a bit more time.

For music, I utilized creative commons music from ccmixter.org. One thing to note here, while all the music on that site is CC, there are different kinds of CC licenses. Even though the video only showcases my book for a few seconds I still felt I needed music that allowed for commercial uses.  Make sure you always check this information before using music or images from a free site. Steeling is not okay.

So, if you haven't seen it yet, here is the finished product of my trailer video.


Why I think this video works
It is meant to be equal parts information and humor with only a dash of promotion at the very end. By making the video something that authors can relate to and readers want to know more about, it is more likely to be shared than a video that is designed with the mindset of promotion. When coming up with ideas, my goal was to create a video that would be shared (again, this ties into discoverability). If I made a video only about my book, then the most likely outcome would be the only people watching it are readers who already know about it.

I wanted something short that people would want to share on an impulse. Short is also key. People don't want to sit through a five minute promotional video. Commercials are only 30 seconds long and they drive us nuts. Plus, the longer a video is, the longer it takes to load on a mobile device and the more likely a potential viewer will abandon it before it plays.

So what do you think? Do you like book trailers? Have you ever seen one that made you want to read the book? Do you have a video pet peeve? This is still a fairly new medium for authors so I'd love to get your thoughts on this.