How to Make a Book Trailer: Part Two

In this series of posts, I’m describing how to make a book trailer, which is a video designed to attract more readers to a storyboard_cover_klmckeetextbook, a novel, or some other written document. In the previous post, I talked a bit about how book trailers are being used in publishing and then began describing the steps I went through to create a trailer for my recently published ebook—The Scientist Videographer. I explained that the first step is to study other book trailers to get some good ideas and to figure out what style of trailer might work for your book.

In this post, I will cover the second step in the process.

Step Two: Hone Your Story. In this step, identify your core message and then select key elements from your book and organize them in a way that will intrigue a potential reader. What your message will be and the elements you select will depend on the specifics of your book. Begin by describing what your book is about. Strip it down to the essential story it tells (or what it teaches, in the case of a textbook). Strive to condense your story into a single sentence. In my case, I wanted to get across the message that the reader will learn how to make science videos (for various purposes), which will help them reach a broader audience with their science message.

Next, you want to outline some key elements from your book that will serve to deliver that core message. Here is the text I outlined, which was organized into four main segments:

1. Opening sequence

-A few visuals to get the viewer’s attention
-Book title and author

2. What the reader will learn:

-How to shoot your video
-How to interview
-How to edit your video

3. How the reader can use what they learn:

-Film scientific methods
-Film class field trips
-Create animations
-Create video abstracts for journal articles
-Record class lectures
-Create online lessons
-Develop outreach materials
-Explain current events or discoveries
-Raise your visibility and build an online profile

4. Ending sequence:

-Book title and tagline
-Where to buy the book and get more information

That list probably doesn’t sound very exciting to most people, but it would be to a scientist who wants to learn how to use video to deliver a science message. So think about those elements that are likely to excite your readers. You don’t necessarily need as many as I outlined. For an adventure travel book, you might hone your list to five intriguing statements, for example:

They traveled into the wilderness.

Where their knowledge and skills were tested.

Where perseverance was everything…

…and failure was not an option.

This summer—get ready to read..

[Insert title of adventure travel book]

Also, once the visuals and music are added, the words in your list will come alive. Note that I did not include every aspect of my book in the trailer—just a few tidbits that would convey the essence of the book. I planned to get my message across primarily with visuals, so I used minimal text and no voice over. This approach worked for me, but you might want to verbally explain (on camera or with a voice over) some aspect of your book or your motivation for writing it. Another idea is to have one or more people act out scenes from your book.

Also, I set a time limit of one minute (give or take a few seconds) to get my message across. Any longer, and most viewers will stop watching. By setting a time limit, you are forced to focus on the most important or intriguing aspects of your book and leave out things that are redundant or less interesting. You may find that setting a time limit for the trailer also will get your creative juices going (a topic I discuss in more detail in my book).

You can take the same outlining approach I used to identify key elements. Most authors are familiar with outlines and will find this approach most comfortable. However, eventually you are going to have to develop some visuals to compose your trailer. So if you can begin imagining those visuals as you outline, all the better. You can describe these visual elements in words or draw some simple scenes on your notepad to illustrate what you might include in the way of media in your trailer. I’ll expand on this point in the next post. For now, focus on honing your central message and identify what elements to use to deliver that message.