Creating A Low-Cost Book Trailer

man enjoying a book trailer

Creating videos can be as satisfying as writing books, so don’t be afraid to extend your communication outreach to new dimensions by producing an inexpensive, but compelling, book trailer.

If you’re an indie author who has earned your chops by persisting and publishing a book (a grand achievement on its own), you know the next stage in the journey — building an audience — has just begun. To get noticed as a writer, you need to work every angle you can think of to get recognized and attract readers. Most authors have absorbed the basic truism that you need an author platform as a central hub for your marketing efforts (if not, here’s an article to bring you up to speed: “How an Author Platform Helps Promote Your Work“), but beyond having a platform, what marketing strategies should you employ and what tactics are most effective for book promotion?

Whether you are active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, or other platforms, video book trailers can engage potential readers visually, aurally, and emotionally, which is likely to spark notice and interest in the maelstrom that is social media. Even more relevant, video trailers can boost sales. A survey conducted by Brightcove, “New Research from Brightcove Finds Video Content Impacts Product and Service Purchases,” shows that 53 percent of consumers reported they engaged with a brand after watching a video in a social media feed. This figure rose to 66 percent for media-savvy millennials. The study also found that 85 percent of consumers between the ages of 18-34 had, at some point, bought a product or service after viewing a video.

Creating your own video book trailer might sound daunting, as well as expensive, but it isn’t. There are tools available that you can quickly master that will help you apply the same skills you’ve gained as a writer to tell the story of your book via video and generate interest. Many of these tools are free and easy to learn, others take a fair amount of effort to master, though the rewards can be substantial.

An easy (and free) entry point: Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Adobe Creative Cloud Express is a browser-based platform with a free starter plan that can get you producing video content in minutes. You combine images, fonts, video clips, audio narration, and music on a timeline that provides a set of simple transitions. Creative Cloud Express offers a variety of themes that simplify design, achieving a polished appearance for your finished works. You can use music clips Adobe provides or upload your own original music. A search tool with links to free, licensed images is part of the Express interface.

Once you have assembled your digital content, it can be rendered and downloaded as a video file for social media posting (maximum 720p resolution) or posted on Adobe’s site with a link you can embed for use in email campaigns, website promotions, and the like. The iOS app is also free, so you can venture beyond video work and build individual web pages or simple social media posts combining text and images (handy for quick Facebook or Twitter announcements). If you’re already part of Adobe Creative Cloud (or plan to join), Express is included in your subscription.

Presentation programs

Slide decks are staples of the business world and their reputations for putting audiences to sleep are legendary. But, with some imagination, good images, narration, and music, you can turn a presentation created with Apple Keynote, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Google Slides into an effective video trailer that pleases the eyes and tickles the ears.

Of these three options, Apple Keynote is generally the easiest to work with and, if you are a Mac user, the program is free (included with all OS X and iOS devices since 2017 and also freely downloadable from the Mac App Store). Keynote contains an abundance of templates, animations and transitions, recording and editing tools, and the capacity to output to the .m4v video format (if the file doesn’t contain copyrighted content, you can just rename it with the more common .mp4 extension, which can be opened and viewed with most multimedia-capable applications). Another plus is that you can create video content on iPads or iPhones using Keynote.

Google Slides is an online app freely available if you have a Google account. Slides provides a full complement of tools for creating timed, animated presentations that contain audio and video content. Although you can’t output directly to video from Slides, you can use a tool like Screencast-O-Matic to make a screen recording of your Google Slides’ presentation. For $1.50 a month, you can upgrade Screencast-O-Matic and gain advanced recording and video editing features.

If you want to use the free online PowerPoint app in Microsoft Office (which looks to have been designed as a Google Slide competitor), all you need is a Microsoft account or Skype sign-in. Features are basic compared to the desktop version and you need a conversion tool to build a video once you’ve created a PowerPoint presentation. There are a ton of free conversion tools available, or you can choose a more polished app such as Movavi PowerPoint to Video ($29.99, Windows-only with free trial available), which lets you add voiceovers and soundtracks to the video. If you already have an Office 365 subscription, you can export videos directly from the desktop version of PowerPoint with narration, transitions, kinetic typography, and animations. Both .mp4 and .mov formats are supported.

Apple iMovie

Apple’s expertise at producing clear, understandable user interfaces is one of the company’s defining characteristics, and iMovie reflects this ease-of-use along with an impressive collection of features that compares favorably to expensive video editing applications. Apple iMovie is free and downloadable for OSX and iOS. The program includes support for 4K, built-in titling tools, 80 soundtracks that adjust to video content length, green-screen effects, a collection of video filters, and more. An integral storyboard tool, designed for making movie trailers, can easily be adapted to design and produce a video book trailer. Because iMovie runs (in simplified form) on the iPhone or iPad Pro, you can capture video content on your mobile device, do basic editing in the field, and then send the content to your desktop version of iMovie to add additional effects, perform color correction, and use other high-end features.

Open-source goodness: Shotcut

Open-source projects have given us a wealth of applications that are tremendously useful and completely free to use (and sometimes modify, depending on the license permission). Shotcut is one of those programs that has evolved into a full-featured prosumer video-editing tool, thanks to programming contributions from a small-but-dedicated development team. Shotcut capabilities are impressive, featuring a variety of audio and video filters that can be easily applied to content you’re creating. The content import and export options are numerous and versatile, including ultra-high-definition (UHD) formats.

Although the learning curve is steeper than with some of the other tools, a manual introducing Shotcut’s video editing techniques is available, or you can turn to YouTube videos to get you started. Most features are fairly easy to figure out by experimenting with the tools and you can end up with a finished video that is professional and compelling. Both Mac and Windows versions are available for download.

Up the ante: Blender and Unity

If you’re someone who enjoys digging into and mastering the latest digital content creation tools, you might enjoy a couple of free applications that can take you way beyond simple videos and let you build stunning 3D animations. Blender and Unity fit this description.

Blender — a free, open-source application — earned its stripes as a pro-level 3D creation and animation tool, but it also contains a powerful video editor. The application is well-supported with tools and tutorials to engage in development projects at a level that rivals many of the top programs in the market. You can get a sense of the program capabilities with videos from the Blender Conference 2019. If you like to learn new programs, you can download version 2.80 from the Blender site and get started creating with it immediately.

Unity is a professional, real-time development environment used frequently by game developers, architectural designers, and producers of animated series for television and web. The surprise factor is that there is an individual tier for anyone — even someone working on commercial content — that is free, offering an amazing opportunity to learn Unity and even produce content for business use. The only caveat is that you must certify that you haven’t obtained funding or revenues doing Unity-related work in excess of $100,000 over the last 12 months. Unity includes access to a supportive community, numerous tutorials, and an incredible assortment of assets, many of which are free, including characters, VFX, templates, terrain and scene generation systems, audio, and more. It’s like a candy store for anyone who is fascinated with 3D modeling and animation. If you’d like to create the most impressive video book trailer that the world has ever seen, spend a few weeks learning Unity and enjoy the results. (You can learn enough to create simple digital content in just a few hours of following some of the interactive lessons.)

Keeping it simple

A video book trailer doesn’t need to be dazzling and brimming with special effects to be compelling and attract an audience. You can get the message across with something as simple as words and music. Kinetic typography is an art form in itself, and one that anyone who is a wordsmith or word wonk should be able to adapt to easily. Any of the tools discussed in this article can be used to produce kinetic typography. Putting the driving force of music behind animated words onscreen can be an enormously powerful communication tool.

Your path to self-publishing


  1. OK, so there’s all these tools to make videos with. What do I put in the video? I mean, it’d be one thing making demonstrations of projects in my craft books, but how do I plug a narrative book in a video? Especially when 95% of the imagery I’m aware of is someone else’s copyright?

  2. I’ve used Windows Movie Maker forever to create videos for my band. Although newer computers no longer include it, it’s easy enough to find a download online, and it is so intuitive. I used it to create two book trailers, and it is a snap to use. I would caution, however, that if you want to use music with your trailer, find something royalty-free. Please don’t “borrow” copyrighted music. Pictures, as well, if that’s the way you choose to go. There are many sites that offer royalty-free photographs (which are stunning, by the way). Pixabay is a great one.

  3. As someone who has produced over 1000 book trailers, and even owns the trademark on the term “book trailer” (don’t worry, I’m not out to get anyone, that just shows you how long I’ve done them), I am thrilled to see this article. Lots of great advice and resources.
    It’s true that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to create an intriguing trailer. Readers love words. Your hook is what can compel them.
    I might add a couple of things here. Though Lee did a great job with this article.
    1. Be clear what your call to action is at the end. Do you want them to go to your website? Know how to find you on social media? Sign up for your newsletter? Contact you for speaking engagements? Or simply send them to buy the book. Be clear what you want them to do at the end. It will help you get more out of the trailer.

    2. Distribution is as important as the trailer itself. Having a good trailer is half the work. Think of it as the lure. Cast it out, show people how great your story is, and then bring them back (in marketing this is called funneling) to where you want them to go and do something.
    The author platforms Lee talks about are important places where you can place your video, extending it to your own circle of influence. But, you want to GROW your audience. Extend it beyond what you already have. Use it in press releases. Ask other authors to share it, or your street team to share it. Heck, ask your mom! Get it out to other people’s audiences, too. Ask bloggers if they’ll share it. Be creative!
    Keep it short, just like online attention spans are. A study my company did revealed that people are willing to watch up to 90 seconds and that was about it. Make sure your call to action happens before 90 seconds.
    Good luck! Share the link to your trailer if you have one! I’d love to see it!


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