How to Make Your Own Book Trailer

Julie CantrellGuest Blogger: Julie Cantrell, author of the bestselling Into the Free

You’ve all seen book trailers – the brief videos used to market books. Like a trailer for a motion picture, book trailers can make your title stand out among the masses.
Many professionals will produce trailers for a hefty fee, but why not do it yourself?

Four Simple Tools

1. Computer: The first thing you need is a PC or MAC with decent operating speed. We used a PC with Windows 7. Older versions of Windows may be slow to process video data.

2. Camera: Recording in high definition (HD) is not necessary for posting on websites like Youtube. We used a digital SLR camera (Canon EOS Rebel T2i), but we did not film in HD. Instead, we used 640 x 480 pixels which created a much more manageable file size. (TIP: Make sure your software will open your video file type before you shoot the trailer.)

3. Tripod: This is a must. Use a tripod. Always.

4. Microphones: If you plan to include external sounds/voices, use microphones.

Five Steps and You’re Done!

1. Setting: Choose locations based on your book’s theme. Obtain permission to film on anyone else’s property, and do not show anyone in the film without their permission (this includes folks in the background).

2. Shooting: Shoot short segments and paste them together using a video software package. We used Windows Live Movie Maker which was easy to use and comes with Windows 7.

3. Editing: Transfer all the video segments into a single folder on your computer. Decide on the order of the videos in advance (ex: save as Trailer1, Trailer2, etc.). Begin inserting them into the software and trim as needed. You can use the audio from the original film segments or block it out completely and use a separate audio file.

4. Adding Music: While some royalty-free music is available online (, my teen daughter composed the music for our trailer. She performed it on our piano, and we recorded it using Microsoft Sound Recorder on our laptop (which is equipped with a built-in microphone). This program is on all Windows computers.

5. Polishing: Your publisher may be willing to add a little polish and a company logo. If so, the best way to share video file access with another editor is to use Dropbox.

Share the Love

Finally, save the file to a common format (MPEG-4 or AVI) or upload directly to YouTube from your software. From YouTube, I embedded my trailer on my website, added it to my author profiles on sites like Barnes & Noble and Goodreads, and shared it with friends through my blogsite. To post on Amazon, SheWrites and others, you need a direct file (not the YouTube upload). Many authors include a link to the trailer in their press kit, and some even distribute DVDs to local booksellers.


What are your thoughts on book trailers? Feel free to link us to your favorites.



A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie Cantrell was the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review. She has served as a freelance writer for ten years and published two children’s books. Julie and her family live in Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm. Her debut novel, Into the Free, released to rave reviews. Check it out!


  1. Patricia says:

    Hi Rachelle. I make my own book trailers, sometimes on iMovie and sometimes on Animoto. Here is the trailer for my coming of age story, TINY DANCER,

  2. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is excellent,
    as well as the content!

  3. As a Newbie, I am permanently exploring online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you

  4. I nearly read all of your post in the site! You really realize my dream and I will do as you say someday!

  5. Nice trailer! The music fits the mood perfectly. I think that video clips is beyond my ability, but I don’t think I’ve done badly with making my own trailers. My latest can be viewed at:

  6. Anthony Peterson says:

    Unless you do that kind of stuff for a living, I would strongly advise people not to attempt making their own book trailers. Hire a talented 24 year old fresh out of film school who has a great show reel.

  7. Wow, I am so impressed and thankful for your tips. This is something I need to do but I’ve been procrastinating.

  8. Thank you
    your blog is very effective.
    i will keep updated with the same.

    home decoration and accessories

  9. Tirzah says:

    You can also create one with animoto access, buy a few video clips, edit some stock photos and get a little royalty free music and put it together creatively.

    Technically you don’t need a camera, tripod or microphone…unless you are doing a voice over or your own video.

    But you do need a computer.

    Most video clips can be purchased and intermixed with edited stock photos to create a great little video.

    I make them. They are not hard to do.

  10. I love this video. Not sure I could do anything this high quality though.

  11. TC Avey says:

    I really like trailers. I purchased a book simply off the trailer!

    Thanks for the tips. I look forward to one day using them!

    Question: Would making one of these be helpful in getting an agent and if so, how would one go about getting it to an agent?

  12. Nicely done. I took a class at a recent writing conference that had some great suggestions for book trailers. There are many options out there.

  13. Jennifer M says:

    Hiring a college stundent is a great idea, I have actually done that and paid them in bbq steaks and ridiculously decadent desserts.They work hard and want to give you the best that they can. And for some odd reason, they can do it all on their phone.

    But let’s say I did do a trailer for my book? I money. I’d need a herd of sheep, a British cavalry officer, several Native Americans, a huge herd of horses and a dialect coach. And a forest fire.

    In the immortal words of Ben Stien “Anyone? Anyone?”

  14. Nicely done!
    Even though the genre of your book is not quite my thing, your trailer makes me want to know what that girl is thinking about. This book is probably up my wife’s alley, so I’ll try to let her know about it. 😉

  15. Hi All,

    Thanks for joining the chat. You’ve all provided great feedback and wonderful ideas. I can’t wait to watch your trailers.

    Please keep in mind, I didn’t intend to imply our little trailer is the BEST trailer …not at all. But if you aren’t George Lucas, don’t have a budget, and can’t recreate scenes from your book in a professional way without looking like a rookie and using low-quality voiceovers, etc., this is an idea that might work for you.

    Of course, there are many other options. There are no rules, except the shorter the better. One minute is the ideal time, but no longer than two.

    We didn’t spend any money because we already had the equipment, the music was free, the actor is my daughter (who wrote and performed the music), and we had fun making this a family project. I let my son pretend to be the director, etc.

    Amazon allows you to upload your video through your Author page for free. It’s set up as a simple process once you have an author page.

    I do think there are many film students who can do an excellent job with a trailer for a low cost, if they have access to the right equipment. Some universities allow them to check out equipment for free, and you may be able to let them use the project as a class project or to promote their new career in exchange for low/no-fee.

    I do agree that spending a lot of money on a trailer is not always a good idea. We all know the profit margin is slim on most books, so we have to weigh the pros/cons of investment (time, money, energy, etc.)… but if this is something you would ENJOY and you already have the equipment…it’s a fun, simple way to create a trailer that will promote your book in yet another channel for free.

    Happy filming! j

  16. Rob says:

    I think the key is to either not spend any money on a book trailer, or spend enough to make it worth it.

    Buying a new camera or paying a friend or college student probably isn’t going to elevate the level of your video enough to be worth it. Even if you just pay them a hundred dollars, that’s a lot of copies of your book that your trailer needs to sell before you break even.

    There’s a reason people pay professionals to do video for them (though as someone whose day job is producing video, I may be biased). If you’re just going to spend $100 on a book trailer, don’t. There are more cost-effective and efficient ways to market your book like Google ads.

    I blogged about book trailers at length a few weeks ago if anyone is interested: (I hate self-promoting, but as both a writer and video pro, I think you might find it interesting)

  17. Dozie Nzewi says:

    Thanks for this lesson. It’s a new world we live in. The media are merging so the practitioners learn new skills. It’s interesting to be able to make film. A skill that will soon be a ‘prerequisite’. Video-literacy. Everybody has a camera these days. Everywhere!. Everybody has a tape recorder in their phones. A good many people already have this skill and You tube presence may soon be important for the CV. “Can we see you doing these you say you can?” Thanks for the lesson. It is important for selling books and more.

  18. Reba says:

    Thanks for the helpful info Julie.
    I’ve seen book trailers before and almost had one done until my son told me that it was silly to pay someone to do something you can do for free. :0] out of the mouths of babes.
    I do have one question though.
    How do you get permission to put you book trailer on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc.?

  19. Wow, you make it sound easy!

  20. Here’s the one I did for my first book…


  21. I was blessed to have my publisher hire a Nashville film maker who does music videos for CMA artists to do the trailer for my book “When Will My Life Not Suck? Authentic Hope for the Disillusioned” I’m thrilled with the result. You have to see how he incorporated an image from the book’s cover to be a connecting theme throughout the 2 minute trailer. Trailer is on website at

  22. Elizabeth Kitchens says:

    I’ve only seen a few booktrailers, and they varied greatly in content. Should trailers be like a blurb–someone narrating over images of characters–or a short scene from the book or just what others have written about the book?

  23. What a stunning promotional piece. Certainly has spurred some ideas and I can’t wait to read the book!

  24. Beautiful trailer, Julie. And what a blessing to have your daughter to collaborate with – she has a gift!

  25. WOW! Thank you for the user-friendly, step-by-step instructions.

  26. Impressive. The music flows. Switching between text and video keeps my attention. I love this trailer. Thanks for the pointers.

  27. Julie, I’m very excited to read Into the Free. It’s waiting for me on my Kindle.

    Thanks for going through the steps. I made a trailer for one of my novels, but never posted it. I’m so careful about things like this–wanted to put things out there that I’ll be proud of years from now, you know, when we’re all flying around like the Jetsons. 😉
    ~ Wendy

  28. Timothy Fish says:

    I’ve done a few. Most recently, I did a video for Extending Art of Illusion. It would’ve been better if I’d taken the time to do it right.

    Book videos are fun to make and can be a useful tool. Book videos can also be a big waste of time and money. Very rarely have I seen a book video that communicates well. Videos for non-fiction books work better than for novels. I believe this is because it is so easy for an author to state why the reader needs the book.

    I see people make several mistakes with book videos. The biggest mistake people make is expecting people to read the text in the video. And worse, they don’t give people time to read the text, if they do expect people to read it. George Lucas mastered the art of using text with video. Most of us will do better with voice overs. People watching video are usually doing something else also. They will not give the 100% of their attention required to watch the moving images, listen to the music, and read the text. Especially since they are probably responding to their e-mail or something while they are watching.

    People also need to be better about telling what the book is about. Perhaps people are afraid they’ll give away too much information. That’s unlikely. People want to know what it is about. Blurbs are pointless. Telling me that someone I don’t know liked the book tells me nothing. But tell me what the book is about and I’ll make my own decision about whether it is something I want to read.

    Of course, I write this as someone who has failed more times than not.

  29. John C. Rich says:

    I might just have to try this…

  30. By the way, the trailer is beautiful and haunting … I love the music – so appropriate – congrats to your daughter.

  31. This is a timely post! After yesterday’s tips on how to impress an agent, I thought I’d start researching how to create a decent video. (Just in case the chocolate didn’t cut it) And today, voila! This post appears. Excellent. And thank you!

  32. Thanks for this post! Making a book trailer is one of those things I had filed under “unattainable for now.” I have neither tech knowledge nor the money to pay someone to make one, but your how-to information just moved the idea into the “maybe” file!

  33. Neil Ansell says:

    I had a lot of fun making mine, as I’d had some camera training at the BBC. Hope it’s ok to link to my own – please delete if not. It may look like I’m being filmed by someone else, but nope, it’s just me in the mountains with a small camera and tripod. I was never much good at editing though, that was done for me by the marketing team at Penguin.

    • Thank you for the link. I’m interested in these trailers because I’ll be making one of my own soon for my book. By the way, I also have spent a lot of time in the back country–the Adirondacks and the Sonora Desert. Not sure my experience has words for it; it was like being away from words.

  34. April says:

    I think most authors would be better off finding a friend/family member/college student who’s good at filmography and paying them to direct and edit the trailer. Cheaper than hiring a pro, but worth the money.

    Because, like with most things, a bad trailer is worse than no trailer. :/

  35. D.C. Spell says:

    I always enjoy book trailers. That visual aid really does wonders. I have to say that I hate Windows Live movie maker, though. Such a bad editing program! I have to use it for my vlogs right now and I hate how choppy editing is. Sony Vegas is a good program to try if you like doing videos! All in all, good info!

  36. Thank you for posting this! I always enjoy an informative post. 🙂

    Whatever you do, don’t use this:

    I did it for a laugh. ^^

  37. Amanda Dykes says:

    I was just wondering about this; thank you! What a neat touch that your daughter composed and played the music… love that.

  38. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing! And, Julie, I’m impressed with your daughter’s composing talent. That song is beautiful.:)

  39. Donna Pyle says:

    Wow, thanks so much for these step-by-step instructions. It doesn’t seem so intimidating now. I’ll be placing this post in a handy file for easy access in the future. Great stuff – and very cool trailer. 🙂

  40. Rick Barry says:

    Julie, thanks for sharing your tips and for sharing the end product of your work. I enjoyed watching!

  41. I’ve actually got a whole page on my blog with a collection (kind of a weird hobby of mine) of my favorite book trailers that other authors have done. I LOVE a well done book trailer. Such a fun art form.

    Here’s the url to that specific page on my blog.

    My very favorite one out of my ‘collection’ is the trailer for Markus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF, found here:

Site by Author Media © Rachelle Gardner.