Book Trailers: How to Make Them in 6 Easy Steps

A book trailer can be an incredibly useful marketing tool for authors, allowing you to give readers a preview of your book in a dynamic video format. But they’ve also, historically, been pretty ineffective and costly.

However, recent developments in AI have made book trailers more interesting, as you’re able to get things you wouldn’t normally be able to do, like motion version of your characters, or stunning landscapes that jump straight out of your novel.

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know, from crafting the script and storyboard to gathering assets and publishing your completed trailer

By the end, you'll understand what goes into creating an effective book trailer that hooks readers and compels them to purchase your book.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. What a book trailer is and why you do/don’t need them
  2. The key elements every effective book trailer should include
  3. How to craft the story and script
  4. Where to find assets like videos, images, music, etc.
  5. ow to use editing software to put your trailer together
  6. Tips for choosing appropriate music and sound
  7. How to publish and promote your finished trailer

What Is a Book Trailer and Why Create One?

Essentially, a book trailer is like a movie trailer for your novel. It's a short, dynamic video ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes that aims to:

  • Hook viewers and make them curious about your book
  • Convey the genre, tone, premise, and other basics
  • Introduce some main characters or key story elements
  • Persuade viewers to purchase or pre-order your book

As an author, creating a high-quality book trailer serves multiple marketing purposes:

  • Generating excitement and pre-sales hype for a new release
  • Reaching new readers who discover your trailer on social media or elsewhere
  • Showcasing your book in a more engaging, shareable format than just a synopsis or excerpt
  • Demonstrating some cinematic aspects that set your book apart

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Personally, I think every fiction and non-fiction book can benefit from an accompanying trailer. 

However, bear in mind that book trailers can be expensive if you hire out, and the return on investment is not always that good.

So that means book trailers are more of a novelty, but one that can be quite fun for not only your readers, but for you. And with AI, you can get something that’s even closer to your vision for the book.

What Should Be Included in a Book Trailer?

An effective book trailer should include:

  • A compelling hook to grab attention
  • Intriguing imagery matching the book's vibe
  • Insight into the premise without revealing too much
  • Clear indication of genre, tone, and intended audience
  • A call-to-action so viewers know where to purchase your book

Essentially, you need to pique curiosity and convey the essence of your story without summarizing the entire plot. Some key story beats, emotional moments, and lead characters should come through to pull viewers in within those precious seconds of the trailer.

Here’s how I would break my trailers into a few key sections:

  • The hook – This opening segment makes a bold promise of excitement, conflict, romance – whatever aligns with your story's biggest selling points. Maybe it poses an intriguing question or shows your protagonist facing some dire challenge that demands resolution. This section should take 10-15 seconds max. Leave viewers dying to know more!
  • Story insights – Next, you'll reveal a few juicy insights to show viewers what they can expect from your book. I don't explicitly state plot points but rather demonstrate them through voiceover lines, related imagery, music cues, etc. Show that first meeting between soon-to-be lovers, that massive explosion threatening lives, the moment everything changes for your characters. Keep it around 30-45 seconds.
  • The wind-up – This builds anticipation by hinting at coming twists, battles, emotional turmoil, or triumphs ahead for the characters. Remind viewers of the promised satisfaction to come without giving it all away. I'll often end by posing an exciting cliffhanger question here, making it clear resolution lies within the book's pages. Keep this segment under 30 seconds.
  • Call to action – Finally, wrap up with cover imagery along with clear info on where viewers can get their hands on your book! I state release timing if it's a pre-order situation, then have animated text and logos directing people to retailers. Nice and simple 15 second closer.

Follow that blueprint, tailoring to your own genre conventions and unique story elements, and you’ve got an enticing trailer!

Where to Even Start?

I get it, making a book trailer can be overwhelming, especially if you’re doing it yourself.

Besides just watching other book trailers, here are two key things I would do to prepare:

  • Review movie trailers in my genre – Since book trailers borrow so heavily from Hollywood, I studied numerous movie trailers in subgenres matching my books. For my fantasy adventure series, I would watch fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero movie trailers nonstop to immerse myself in their conventions. Notice trailer runtimes, styles, key moments shown vs. withheld. Master the formula before applying it to books!
  • Create a trailer “look book” – I would gather screenshots of book and movie trailers I loved into an online document. Under each image, I would note what specifically I like – font choices, transitions, narration styles, music types, etc. This visualized library helps guide my trailer experiments later and keeps me on track with genre conventions. 

So immerse yourself in the kind of trailers aligning with your target readership. Deconstruct why those hooks reel you in, why that imagery chose just the right moments. Then reconstruct the formula for your own book's video canvas!

How to Create a Book Trailer

Once you've wrapped your head around effective book trailer ingredients, it's time to actually make your own! The steps include:

Step 1: Craft a Story and Script for the Trailer

Just like writing the book itself, you need some kind of narrative and dialogue to shape the trailer. Outline the hooks, insights, wind-up, and call-to-action I mentioned earlier that align with your story's selling points. 

Pick out any key supporter quotes from advance reviews too.

Flesh that outline into a full script with concise descriptive lines detailing the visuals, specified voiceover lines, placeholders for b-roll videos and images, etc. I like to draft it this way before opening any editing software. Listen to the script being read slowly, timing it to keep it under 120 seconds. 

Refine until satisfied!

Step 2: Gather Your Trailer Assets

Your script and style guide will point you toward specifics, but you'll need:

  • A book cover image, 3D render, and/or video of physical book
  • Matching font from book cover for text slides
  • Videos – B-roll clips helping to convey scenes
  • Images – Stock photos relevant to the vibe/genre
  • Graphics – Any special transition icons, animations, etc.
  • Music – Instrumental background tracks matching genre
  • Voiceover audio – Either you reading script or a professional voice actor

Leverage stock media sites, Adobe suite tools, book cover designers, Fiverr voiceover pros, audio sites, and more. 

For imagery related directly to your story, you can hire an illustrator or graphic designer to create custom artwork, or you can even use AI to get affordable video assets.

The two best AI video platforms (currently) are Runway and Pika Labs.

Step 3: Use an Editing Program

With your script and assets ready, it's time to combine everything into a single video. As far as editing software, I highly recommend using either Adobe Premiere Pro if you're willing to invest in a paid program or DaVinci Resolve if you want a free, yet still quite powerful editor.

Adobe Premiere Pro: As industry-standard video editing software, Premiere Pro provides unparalleled tools for crafting slick, custom trailers. The interface allows extensive control over trailer pacing, effects, titles, audio mixing, and advanced editing techniques. There is a learning curve, but countless tutorials exist for all skill levels. The creative power justifies the monthly subscription cost for serious video marketers.

DaVinci Resolve: With a simplified timeline workflow, DaVinci Resolve offers incredibly robust free editing tools rivaling paid alternatives. You still get quality titling, hundreds of filters and presets, color grading, and multi-track audio mixing to compile trailers. Easier to learn than Premiere, it's an obvious choice for frugal video creators. The free version lacks some output flexibility but maintains broadcast-quality exports.

With either powerful program, apply all guidance across this guide on constructing those trailer narrative beats, dynamic sequencing, alluring soundscapes. 

Step 4: Choose Appropriate Music and Sound

Sound design can truly make or break a trailer, setting the mood instantly. Use these tips when selecting background music tracks and sound effects:

  • Favor instrumental over lyrical tracks
  • Match music tempo and tone to story genre
  • Use minor key tracks and distorted effects for tense moments
  • Include subtle sound cues to accent distinct moments
  • Adjust audio levels so voiceover is clearly audible
  • Repeat key music motifs associated with lead characters

Sites like Artlist, Epidemic Sound, and PremiumBeat offer unlimited royalty-free music subscriptions with diverse score options. For fantasy, I use epic orchestral tracks. Thriller and mystery get dark synth and piano minor key vibes. Etc.

Lean into genre-appropriate sounds so viewers feel instantly immersed in those familiar universes!

Step 5: Render the Book Trailer

With edit timeline complete, audio adjusted, text stylized, etc. the final step is exporting a high-quality video file to share everywhere. Render out MP4 files in 1080p or 4K resolution if possible. Many software tools also allow direct YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo publishing.

Preview that exported video in full screen across devices before distributing to ensure no visual glitches or audio distortions. Maybe watch alongside a few movie trailers again to ensure proper pacing and suspense calibration!

Step 6: Publish and Promote Your Book Trailer

Congratulations, your slick book trailer is ready for primetime! Now distribute far and wide:

  • Upload natively in square, vertical, and widescreen formats
  • Post on your author website, Amazon Author page
  • Share on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
  • Embed in book listings on major retailer sites
  • Run as ads on social media and relevant websites
  • Include links in email newsletters and promotions

Upload episodically too – maybe share a 15 second teaser first building anticipation for the full trailer premiere a week later. Experiment across platforms to determine which trailer edits perform best. I usually see Facebook generating the most clicks and pre-orders from shared trailers. Though YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are all great for short-form content.

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Monitor analytics to pinpoint successful variations. Keep iterating new trailer hooks aligned to new releases or series entries too for an evergreen marketing asset!

Other Tips for Incredible Book Trailers

Beyond the core trailer creation process, a few additional tips can seriously elevate your videos:

Really Nail That Hook

As covered already, those crucial opening seconds must grip viewers immediately. Study other captivating trailers to learn effective hook tactics:

  • Pose an intriguing, unanswered question
  • Show protagonist in perilous scenario
  • Use a compelling quote from the book
  • Feature shocking statistics related to the story
  • Have supporting character endorse why viewers need to check it out

Hook conceptualization takes time – likely more cycles than other trailer sections. Film multiple options and preview for unbiased audiences. Lead with your story’s greatest selling point promise!

End With a Call to Action

Don’t leave viewers hanging after investing time in your trailer! The CTA ending explicitly guides them to:

  • Pre-order if releasing soon
  • Click purchase links already live
  • Visit your author website to learn more
  • Follow social media for updates
  • Sign-up for email newsletter

Empower viewers to take their next steps whether buying immediately or sticking around to learn more. Include links, profile handles, hashtags, etc. directly in the video end frames and description text across video platforms.

Don’t Make the Trailer Too Long

I already emphasized keeping book trailers under 2 minutes max, but even shorter runtimes have pros:

  • More likely to maintain attention
  • Fits standard social media ad durations
  • Allows more budget for paid promotions
  • Quicker to conceptualize and produce

Experiment with 15, 30 and 60 second edits to the same trailer script. I’ve found 30 seconds strikes the right balance to hook interest while leaving viewers wanting more. Plus you can make several trailers this way and use them on various short-form social media platforms.

Test ad performance for each version too – shorter can drive more clicks!

Make Sure it’s Genre Appropriate

Even with actionable tips in this guide, don’t forget your story’s genre itself should steer creative choices. Lean hard into those distinct tropes and styles.

Science fiction and fantasy welcome expansive, elegant cinematic scenes and orchestral scores. Horror embraces unsettling visual distortions, audio glitches and dark, sparse music. Thrillers and mysteries use quick cuts, muted color grading, and tension-ratcheting synth tones.

Immerse in comparable media trailers and mimic what makes others in your genre excel. Align promotional aesthetics with audience content expectations for authentic cohesion!

Should You Outsource a Trailer?

As covered, creating a book trailer yourself is very doable, especially when using AI and/or following the tips in this guide. 

But for those less comfortable directing videos, outsourcing to professionals may ease the workload. Some great perks of hiring out include:

  • Takes trailer production off your plate amidst writing and publishing demands
  • Experts handle equipment, software, design experience you may lack
  • Gain objective external creative perspectives on your story’s highlights
  • Ensures a more likely polished end product

Just be sure to research trailers any potential contractors have already produced. Browse their previous book and film work. Provide explicit creative direction on what your ideal trailer contains. Guide them on genre conventions and specific story moments to feature.

Managing creation remotely or even attending a filmed shoot truly illuminates seeing your cherished scenes adapted to screens. But costs can escalate fast from $100 to over $5,000 based on production scale. 

Weigh if DIY checkpoints above can reach your quality bar more affordably!

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