Here are the details on the process of getting a book trailer made such as size, video length, and how to put it all together in order to realize your vision AND sell books!

What is the purpose of your book trailer?

Really think about what you want the watcher of your video to do at the end of the video. This is called the Call-to-Action. Are they to buy the book? Where will they buy the book? Are you advertising an advance reader copy? Are they to sign up to your website newsletter? Enter a contest? What do you want them to do?

Its been fun getting these short book trailers done for my latest book. My goal for A Spell of Rowans was to encourage reading advance copies and for buying the book. I would be advertising my NetGalley advance reviews, and the places were you could buy it.

Be aware that Amazon will not post videos that promote other sell platforms (such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Apple) so you may want one video outro (the ending) made just for this market. It is for that reason that I made my videos have three outros (the end sequence to your video): one for NetGalley; one that states “Now Available”; and one that lists all the sale platforms.

Where will you be posting your book trailer?

Where you will be posting your videos determine the best sizes for your project. Think about how you will be using it. Here are some possibilities for book trailers:

  • YouTube at your own channel, as an ad, or for a Booktuber reviewer to use.
  • Website use, for your own, and/or as an advertisement on another website, or for a book review website.
  • Your Goodreads Author page allows videos to be posted using a YouTube url.
  • Your Amazon Author pages allow videos to be posted to the main page and/or specific book.
  • On social media, such as your Instagram and Facebook accounts and Facebook groups or in ads.

Book trailers are still a new idea so you may need to research more places that would accept your video.

Where you post determines video sizes

Instagram and Facebook now prefer a square size video so a 1080 x 1080 size would work for both.

The main thing you need to be watch is the time length. Instagram limits the length of your video for different types of posts: Story videos must be less than 15 seconds; Feed posts (square size) are between 3-60 seconds; and IGTV posts (square size) are 15 seconds to 10 minutes (generally). The new Reels are 30 seconds.

YouTube prefers a horizontal size: 1920 x 1080 (16:9).

How long should a book trailer really be?

Generally I find book trailers FAR TOO LONG. It’s not a blockbuster movie trailer! Realize that no one is going to continue watching when they can scroll right past a video that doesn’t show something to them fast!

  • The first 3 seconds should catch their attention.
  • The first 15 seconds is what most will watch.
  • Going over 3 minutes is going to lose you a lot of audience.

The candle video I had originally planned for 15 seconds but it ended up being 26.

The woman with sunglasses went 30 seconds long because it had more title/screen captions.

The woman with train went 35 seconds.

What video format, type, and size?

Plan for a mpg4 output on your video. This is acceptable most places.

Select HD video, not SD when buying video to use. I found Shutterstock had a lot of fun video but look at the bottom of this post for more suggestions and resources.

Be aware of upload limits and size of the files. However, most trailers won’t exceed this if they are short (below five minutes).

Planning your book trailer: research first!

Before you dive into making your book trailer there are some things you need settled first. Such as do you know your book’s genre? Do you know why your readers would buy THAT book? What are the comps (the comparable to your book’s genre) authors and books? What are the tropes that readers will be looking for in that genre (Cozy mystery – small town for example)?

If you have never done a video project before the best thing you can do is study other videos and look for several things:

  • In watching the video, when did you start looking away? Usually within about 15 seconds!
  • How long was their video?
  • How many images did they use?
  • What was the call-to-action in the end? Was it effective?
  • Were you able to READ the captions? I’ve seen a lot of book trailers where the captions were too small or over a background that did not make them pop!
  • Did you have TIME to READ the captions? Most are too long!
  • Do the images match what the book is described as on the book sales page?
  • Does the music tell you want the genre is?
  • Did you want to know more about the book by the end? Or did it answer all your questions? Keep them curious so they click!

Common mistakes I see in book trailers

Trying to tell the entire story AND the kitchen sink. Forget that! This is a teaser, not a book report.

Sentence length is too long. This is a mistake authors make. Length should be short so can be read quickly. A video is a mix of images, music, and words. Keep your words short and impactful.

Using noise and loud music, lots of images, and words at the same time. Try reading while you are hearing music and watching an image. That can be rather difficult. Keep words short. Keep music in the background.

Not using your book’s genre hook, to capture the reader’s attention. If your genre’s favorite trope is a meet-cute – show us the meet-cute. For a locked room mystery, show us the interior of a room.

If showing only the book cover (no other images), make sure text is dynamic enough to hold attention.

Design your book trailer with a storyboard

Now that you know where you will be using your video, what the Call-to-Action is; and the technical details such as length and format, let’s get down to the creative side which is planning the images and words for your trailer.

Some materials you need to have decided before pitching your book trailer to a video professional:

For a video of less than 30 seconds, one (at max 2) video footage is best with an outro (the end sequence).

Have a suggested music score that suits the mood. It doesn’t mean they will use your score but it gives the video designer an idea of what you are thinking.

Know what title sequences/captions you want – also called screens, text screens, quotes. Realize that you get a limited number of these screens in the package you buy at Fiverr (look carefully at what they offer).

You can suggest fonts but your designer may use his/her own that are similar or have a set in the package they always use with no choice (again look carefully at the package you are buying before proceeding). Keep fonts simple and easy to read.

What is the Call-to-Action given in the Outro? The Outro for my trailers is the book cover with the comparable books listed and where you can get it.

In my storyboard, I marked the titles I wanted in the tan color, instructions in green-yellow. You can see the complete storyboard here for A Spell of Rowans (woman in sunglasses).

Working with a video professional to design your book trailer

I’ve used two places for freelance designers: Fiverr (which is very basic stuff), and Freelancer which is more complex in terms of setting up the offer. Before you start, be sure you have done this:

  • Gone to YouTube and looked at other book trailers.
  • Have a book cover, title, and understand why readers buy your genre (what are they looking for from your book?).
  • Have an idea where you will be posting the video.
  • Determined how long you want the video to be.
  • Planned what your call-to-action will be.
  • Know the emotional theme of the video – epic, romantic, suspense, thriller, mysterious, scary, exciting?
  • Have your storyboard done (which includes sample music, fonts, and video).
  • Know what text screens you want. Changing these later will be time intensive for your designer so know what you want to say. A tip from me – it is hard for a viewer to read the screen AND hear a voiceover. Voiceover work also costs so I would stick to music and text screens unless you have a bigger budget.
  • Know your budget and your deadline.

The simplest book trailer

If all you want is your book cover with a few quotes, along with some snazzy special effects, and music, the best you can do is just go to Fiverr. The videos for A Spell of Rowans were designed by Arslan.

Here are some designers (I have NOT used them but they have good basic packages with high ratings) you can check out: Animation Valley, Ravinder18, and RedXdesigner. If you have a romance book, you might want to look for someone experienced in making book trailers in that genre, like AbiAnimation‘s offer.

What to look for:

  • The type of work do they do, read reviews, and see samples.
  • What will they provide? The more a package provides, the more it costs.
  • How long will the trailer be?
  • Are they providing music?
  • Will they be providing video footage and if so what is it EXACTLY? These $5 deals are often just the same video footage where they insert your book cover. Ask before buying.
  • How many revisions?
  • Be aware at the lower costs, they are only providing basic video and text. There will be little scope to have something original.

Here is the screen shot of two different Fiverr accounts, each offering a three tiered offer for a book trailer. Be sure you understand the differences in what they are offering.

Book trailer costs

The videos I did for A Spell of Rowans were designed by Arslan and I feel he went above and beyond with the work. He’s also designing my longer trailer (which I will post an update about once that finishes). He’s not a book trailer designer but more of a video editor so I did need to explain what I was looking for.

The candle video and the woman with sunglasses has 3 separate endings, called outros: 1.) available on NetGalley; 2. Available at these book outlets (listed by name); and 3.) Now available (for Amazon).

Here’s a breakdown of my project:

Candle video: in addition to the cost of $100, I also provided the video of the candle ($89). He provided the music which I approved. For this job, I received 6 HD videos, 3 in a square format (Instagram and Facebook); and 3 in a rectangular format (YouTube). Each set (square or rectangle) had 3 different endings/outros.

Cost per video = $31.50.

The Woman in Sunglasses and the Woman approaching Train also provided me the same amount of videos at the same costs. In the long run I got 18 videos for a total of $567 that I will be using for the next 6 to 2 years.

I paid more than the standard offers because I made a storyboard and sent a convo to the designer. He countered with a bid of how much he wanted for doing my design. This was a Custom Quote and I chose this option because I knew anything cheaper wouldn’t really make me happy (been there, done that). This seemed a fair market value exchange for the length of the finished video and the fact I was providing the man video myself.

Maximum the use of your video by having slightly different endings. That way you can use it for many website applications!

Problems that might happen

ALWAYS closely examine the video the designer provides on their account as an example of their best work; the packages and what they offer; and the reviews. If you are in ANY doubt, always ask a question before proceeding to buy the package.

Your video designer is in a different time zone. This could delay messages between you.

Since everything is conducted through email, sometimes discussions get confused. Add in a language difference, and you need to be very clear about what you need done or changed.

When text is added to video, the time gets eaten up fast!! Having more than one video image for a 30 second video is hard and unlikely to be effective. For a minute video you could do two images. But overall you might need to cut back on what you want to happen in order to stay within your time limits.

Most of these packages allow revisions. If there is something they can do to fix the problem, give them the chance.

Poor translation of your vision. That is why knowing the emotional side of the video can help. For example, you don’t want playful and fun music for your thriller. Neither do you want scary music for your sweet romance.

You didn’t understand how basic the product was going to be. Remember, cost-wise most people on Fiverr are not charging market-value which means your product might not be the Big Blockbuster Oscar-Winning Movie you expected.

Copyright issues with video, music, or photos. These are usually fixed by just requesting a copy of the “permission to use” from the source they got the video from. Video services like Istockphoto, Shutterstock, Envanto etc… will provide the account holder with a “permission to use” which you may need to copy and paste to YouTube or show when posting your video.

Your video book trailer project: can you make it yourself?

You could, and I have. For example, this video was done by me using istockphotos and the video editing software CyberLink Power Director. It was fun to make these for Wicked Wolves, and if you are visual person who loves to learn new software go for it.

But it took time for me to learn a software that I don’t use every day (and I’ve already forgotten a lot of how to do it). You also still need to buy photos and music (due to copyright).

Note: the unicorn sequence at the beginning was made by a freelancer.

Another home-made video for Wicked Wolves. The special effects for the titles are limited as is the transitions between images.

Resources for your video book trailer project

Resources for music, sound effects, and stock photos and videos. The ones with ** I have used.

One way to cut back on what you spend is find music and video footage you like but see if the video designer has access to similar video/music content with his accounts. I always like to provide a suggestion and see what they can find in terms of music for example.

Mixkit** provides videos, sound effects, and music

Shutterstock**: photos, videos, music.

istockphotos**: photos and videos.

Pond5L**: music, photos, and video.

Envato**: good source.

Unsplash: free

Pexels: photos and videos.

Life of Pix: great for backgrounds and basics.

123RF: mix of photos and videos.

Stocksnapio: photos and videos

There are a lot more video resources out there, so I’ve only listed a few. If you have a (legit) favorite, post it in the comments!

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