How NOT to make a book trailer

For years I thought that if I were ever in a position to need a book trailer I’d be independently wealthy and could hire a professional to do it for me.

Barring that, I’d use Flash. I have a basic working knowledge of Flash. I’ve had to teach it to Travel and Tourism students for use in their end of semester presentations, and I’ve had occasion to teach entire semesters of Flash Action Script through eLearning courses. I never considered that when the time finally came, the proliferation of operating systems and browsers that do not support Flash would make that option all but obsolete.

The only other software I had was Windows Movie Maker. My kid made a movie with it while still in grade school–how hard could it be? Little did I know, the software would be the least of my worries.

Here are my three pearls of wisdom of what NOT to do, should you ever consider to go it alone when making a book trailer.

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Pearl #1 – use royalty-free but not for commercial use graphics

I never considered that what I was embarking on was a commercial endeavour. All I wanted to do was get the word out about my book release; I wasn’t ready to start selling books yet. Nevertheless, all of those people I alerted to the release of my book were potential buyers which ultimately made my project a commercial one.

Back to the drawing board.

I eventually stumbled upon (make sure you click “Commercial use allowed” on the licence tab) and (make sure you click “Commercial Use” at the top of the page after doing a search).  Keep in mind you must still check the licence to ensure you have fulfilled your end of the use agreement. Most of the pictures will say to link back to the Creative Commons agreement as well as give the photographer credit, which you can do in the rolling credits at the end of your trailer.

For music, try

Pearl #2 – forget to record your titles, artists and URLs as you go

As someone who just wrote a post entitled “Just Cite the Damn Cite!” I don’t know what I was thinking. Too absorbed with ensuring I wasn’t breaking copyright to realize that if I didn’t have the credits right I was breaking copyright anyway.

Open a NotePad file (or create a file on similar software or go old school and do it on paper) and record the title of each photo, the artist, and the URL (Flickr and foter seem to want a link to the author on their site and not directly to the author) as well as a description so you’re sure you attribute the correct photo to the correct photographer. List your photos in order of appearance in the credits (and say you are doing this in your credits).

Pearl #3 – use Windows Movie Maker

I’m not sure if this should be a “pearl” or not, but like all Windows products, Movie Maker has its ups and downs.

On the up side is its ease of use. Movie Maker has the same drag and drop functionality of any other Windows product making it sort of intuitive to learn.

On the down side is just about everything else. Though the learning curve for any new app is steep, it seemed insurmountable at times for Movie Maker. Problems included how to coordinate the video with the title overlay (video should come first but since mine was a book, I started with the text), getting “slides” close enough to eliminate pauses between them (which made bang-on coordination with the audio file near impossible) and having to convert my MP3 file to a WAV file before I could even import it (I used I also could not holistically change the font, but had to do it piecemeal, one “slide” at a time, which was aggravating because it was super time consuming. Also, Movie Maker only creates WMV files, which meant I needed to do yet another conversion to the less proprietary MP4. And I couldn’t change the background of the file so my  background graphic is a different colour than the surrounding “stage” (which continues to miff me to no end).

In the end I have a passable book trailer for my new release (on 10 July 14), The Revenant, that I can display with pride. I pass this on to you now because forewarned is forearmed. You  can create a sort of professional-looking book trailer on the cheap (FREE!) with a bit of time invested (weekends for a month) and a lot of patience.

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Did you find this article useful? Still have questions about creating a book trailer?  Let me know in the comments below.


4 thoughts on “How NOT to make a book trailer

  1. Lori Schafer

    This is a wonderful post, Elise, and very timely, since I’ve just begun looking into how to create a book trailer myself. You don’t sound as if you liked Movie Maker much – have you run across or heard about a better alternative since then?

    1. admin Post author

      I haven’t, but I have my husband on the case. He used to do desktop publishing way back when and he’s trying to find a better software. For what it’s worth, Movie Maker is okay and it’s already on most systems and so technically free if you have Office installed.


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