Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to Make a Book Trailer Using Animoto

by Laura Bowers

Here’s the thing. I’m a borderline non-techy. PowerPoint? Sure, I can fudge a decent presentation. Video slideshows with music? Mine are rather good … after making a zillion mistakes. But creating a book trailer last year for my young adult novel, JUST FLIRT? Forget it. I was daunted, limited, and clueless. Very clueless.

With my release ticking closer and closer, I became more overwhelmed by the mere thought of making a book trailer and when I get overwhelmed, I procrastinate. Tick. Overwhelmed. Procrastinate. It’s a vivacious cycle. I couldn’t afford to hire a professional, but thanks to Chieu Urban’s timely suggestions in this As the Eraser Burns entry, I found my answer:

Enter Animoto.

My apologies for sounding like an infomercial, but it really is a great website for daunted, limited, clueless, and overwhelmed borderline non-techys like me. After much blood and sweat, here’s what I was able to create! it was easy!

Well, correction: It can be easy with no blood and sweat involved if you don’t over-think, obsess, and make tons of mistakes like I did. What might have taken most people only seven hours to complete took me five days. Plus, I wasted a lot of money. Lots of money.

Despite my blunders, though, I like my trailer. The total cost? Had I not made any mistakes, it would have been $165.85. What did it actually cost me? $253.35, but hey, live and learn. At least now I can consider myself quite the Animoto Pro who can help others make their own trailers in seven (kind of) easy steps!

STEP ONE: Storybook
Think about what you want to accomplish with your trailer. To give just a tease? Or make it more like a blurb with a short description? A good way to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t is to search YouTube for “book trailers,” or be genre specific by entering, for example, “young adult book trailers.” Once the ideas start flowing, write down a storybook or script for your video.

For mine, I first decided to go with a short description followed by snippets from a PW review: It’s summer, sweet summer! A secret blog and a flamboyant karaoke DJ collide with a self-proclaimed Superflirt, her sworn enemy, a toxic ex-boyfriend, her flirt-phobic best friend, a lonely outcast, and a very cute but very off-limits go kart racer at the struggling Barton Family Campground. A “sweet and lively summer read,” PW, about a summer of lies, lawsuits … love, and unexpected friendships! By Laura Bowers, author of Beauty Shop for Rent. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Of course, I’ve since shortened this significantly, but it served as a jumping off point. After you get a rough idea for your trailer, make a list of images or video clips that could emphasis certain elements while keeping in mind that with Animoto, you can’t add text directly below or above an image; all text will show up in a separate frame.

STEP TWO: Selecting Your Software
Don’t just take my word for it. There are many video creating services online besides Animoto that could work beautifully. Also, if you own a Mac, your computer will most likely have iMovie installed, which has been very helpful for authors such as Jeri Smith-Ready, who used it to create her trailer for SHINE

If you feel as though Animoto is a good fit, however, I recommend signing up for the Pro plan. Right now, the cost is $39.00 per month, but you will have more music tracks to choose from, and you can upgrade your video to high definition for no additional charge. Most importantly, your video will be unbranded, meaning there will be no Animoto logo at the end, which adds about five seconds to your video and makes it look less professional.

At first, I went the cheap route and used the free plan only to waste $9.00 in HD fees before upgrading to Pro. Mistake.

Also, if you plan on making only one video, be sure your account is not set up to automatically renew at the end of the month. And yes, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. Another mistake.

STEP THREE: Create a Rough Version with Temporary Images
If you’ve researched book trailers tips like I have, you know most folks advise that you now select images or video clips that best represent your book and the script you’ve outlined in Step One. That’s what I did. I made a spend DAYS scouring websites for the perfect images: One that represents a blog. A karaoke DJ, a flirt, sworn enemy, toxic ex-boyfriend, flirt-phobic friend, lonely outcast, two trouble-making twins, a race car driver, love, friendship, and, of course, summer.

Total images purchased: 18 for $205.35
Total images actually used: 8 for $165.85
Total money wasted: $87.50

Another big mistake. This is why I’m suggesting you first create a rough draft using generic photos or clips from your own collection by following these steps: Click on “Create Video.” Select a style for your video. Here’s another benefit for purchasing the Pro plan—you’ll have more templates to choose from. For JUST FLIRT, I picked Through the Blossoms because the colors coordinated nicely with the jacket colors and it had a flirty feel. Next, select your music. At first, I was intent on using something instrumental only, but after hearing “Golden Days” by The Memory Stones, it felt like a perfect fit! Very summery, very breezy. Keep in mind that your choice of music determines the transition speed. Something slow and classical with cause slow transitions whereas a peppy, upbeat song will give you faster ones. 

Now skip to “Add Text.” Depending on which style you have selected, you’re going to have limited room for each slide. You can use both the “header” and “text” spaces, which will make two lines. Next up is adding images and videos, including your book jacket cover. For the rest, consider using generic images from your photo collection until the editing process is over so you won’t spend more than necessary. 

Now put your images, videos, and text pages in order simply by clicking and dragging them into proper place. Once everything is where you want it, hit “Preview Video” and see what you created! Near the top right corner of your screen is a gray box saying how long your video is. It’s best to keep your video under two minutes with one minute being ideal. My final version clocks in at 1:20 minutes, but I wish I would have tightened it up even more with less images, so be brutal. Ask yourself if certain text or images will be necessary. If not, cut it!

STEP FOUR: Selecting Your Images
Now that you have a good feel for your video’s length, and you know how many images you’ll need, it’s time to shop! Very important: Be sure you use only royalty-free photos. You’d hate to have your hard work deleted from YouTube by breaking copyright rules. Some good places to check out are:

There are sites where you can get free stock images for commercial use such as Stock.chng, but I didn’t have any luck with them. Maybe you will. Keep in mind that photos with landscape orientation seem to work better than those with portrait.
Regarding size, I mostly bought 1.9 MP or “medium” size images. I was okay with spending more for better quality, but a smaller size might have worked fine. Some photos were inexpensive, such as the one where a couple are holding hands which cost $6.50, but others, like the one where four girls are jumping into the water, cost a pretty penny! I paid $57.35 for that bad boy, but it was absolutely perfect so I have no regrets. (I bought the smallest size, 794 x 605 PX, 989.34 KB and it worked fine.)

STEP FIVE: The Nitty-Gritty Editing
Now it’s time to perfect your video while keeping in mind that shorter is better! 
In the small gray box that shows your video’s length is a white wheel. Click on that if you’d like to either slow down or speed up the amount of time each image appears. For mine, I set it for one notch above “moderate,” which shaved off many seconds. (Note: you can’t change the speed for text pages.) If you’d like the highlight a certain image by slowing down its transition, such as your jacket cover, click on the image and then hit “spotlight” on the right side of your screen. By clicking on “Advanced Settings,” you can change the title of your video and the thumbnail image. It’s best to not include any external links or direction to outside URLs. If you include a webpage or blog, your publisher might want you to create two separate copies of the video: One with URLs and one without, since Amazon will not post a video with outside URLs. You may also want to keep out any release or on-sale dates.

Now, about the backgrounds and transitions. Oh my gosh, this part drove me crazy! You have no control over backgrounds or transitions between images. It’s automatically selected by Animoto, and every time you hit “Preview Video,” they shuffle and change. The problem is, I didn’t care for some of them. And, I really loved the transition where the pool photo looked as though it was dropped into water, and I wanted the trailer to end with the hand blowing a kiss. So what did I do?

*Warning: here comes the obsessive part.*

I kept hitting “Preview Video” and made note of each different transition. If I didn’t like them, I hit cancel and tried again. If the preview was a possibility, I selected “Produce” and saved it under “Draft 1.” After that, I went into “My Videos” and clicked on the small gray wheel underneath the draft copy that will bring up the “edit a copy” option and allow me to repeat the process, cancelling what I hated and saving what I liked. I’m ashamed to say I saved fifteen versions, spent nearly an entire night narrowing them down to three favorites, and then pestered my family to DEATH trying to select the best one. Seriously. It was ugly. And my poor children still cringe whenever they hear the “Golden Days” song. I hope and pray you have better luck with this for your own mental health. Once you have completed your final trailer, then hit the Upgrade to HD option. I went with the 480p option, which seemed to work just fine.

STEP SIX: Get Approval from Your Editor.
The above video isn’t my original uploaded version. After I loaded my first one to YouTube, I sent the link as a courtesy to my editor before announcing it. In return, I received guidelines from my publisher’s online marketing manager, and suggestions to make the trailer much shorter. Plus, if it wasn’t too much trouble, it would be great to add the jacket credit. 
My first thought was, “Do I seriously want to go through this again?” My second thought was, “Well … yes.” By then, I had some time away from the project, so my original 1:54 minute version did seem too long and could be tightened. And I liked the idea of giving jacket credit, seeing as how I love JUST FLIRT’S cover design, so much to my family’s dismay, I got back to work, but it was well worth the time! Lesson learned: Share your trailer with your editor first, either by downloading a MP4 file or posting it to YouTube and sending them a link before announcing it.

STEP SEVEN: Uploading to YouTube
Finally, the best part! Under “My Videos,” click on your final version, then select “Sharing,” and “Export Video.” If you don’t already have a Goggle account, you’ll be cued to do so. (Note: You’ll have to use a Gmail account.) Once your video is loaded, log into your YouTube channel and add your book description, any reviews, plus a link to your website, blog, Facebook account, etc. You will also have three images to choose from for the thumbnail, in case you don’t like the one YouTube automatically chose. 
And that’s it, you’re done! Easy, right? Well … kind of easy?
Now it seems like a total piece of cake to me. I even created a book trailer for my first novel, BEAUTY SHOP FOR RENT

Because of my previously learned lesson on overspending, I didn’t shop for images until the rough draft was finished. I was able to use an image purchased several years ago, so I only needed to buy two more photos. The one with the piggy banks cost $63.70, but the colors coordinately beautifully with the style template, so I bought it! Again, no regrets. Love, love, love this picture. The trailer also clocks in at 1:10, which is a much better length.
The total time to create this one? Five hours. Seriously. Just five hours!
Total cost? $70.20 for two images, $39.00 for Animoto Pro, $109.20 total. Not too shabby.

As for those images that I didn’t use in the JUST FLIRT’S trailer, I put them to good use in an AsThe Eraser Burns challenge exercise:

Hey, sometimes you just have to be creative. Good luck creating your book trailer and I truly hope this post helps anyone who is borderline non-techy like me!

Happy writing,
Laura Bowers

I am delighted that Laura agreed to share this very informative article on my blog. I hope you will contribute comments and your own ideas on making trailers. If you are unable to use the comment system, e-mail me at maggielyons66 at gmail dot com and I'll post your comments.


  1. Well now, that's informative. I paid $350 for mine from Select-O-Grafix. It's been a worthwhile venture.

  2. Suzanne, can you share with readers what you mean by "worthwhile"? Did the trailer increase your book sales, for example?

  3. Ours increased our sales. There are three. The newest is on the front page of our Web site at The original is on the second page. The third has yet to be posted because, well, this one was produced per my instructions and it just isn't as good as the other two. I am happy to refer other authors to my producers if needed.

  4. Thank you for sharing. I've been trying to figure out how to make a trailer on my own. Your book trailers look and sound wonderful. They are very professional and make me want to read your books. Glad to hear all that effort paid off.


  5. Very interesting and the trailer looks great. I just use Windows Movie Maker for mine as I use my own photos and enjoy the creative process!

  6. Thanks alot for sharing, I've tried it and Animoto rocks, clients love it!

  7. Good to have your input, Martin. Thanks.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing all the videos!! This is an awesome blog about youtube techincal service. We really appreciate and keep do posting such kind of blogs.

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  9. Wonderful post! Youve made some very astute observations and I am thankful for the the effort you have put into your writing. Its clear that you know what you are talking about. I am looking forward to reading more of your sites content.
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