Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book Trailers for Dummies: does your children’s book need one?


No, I’m not a dummy. 

And neither are you.

And we’re not suckers, either.

So why does everybody make book trailers seem so complicated?  Why is everybody trying to sell us fancy-pants services that will help us sell our kids’ books with the help of video trailers?

The first and most important thing to know about book trailers is this:  nobody really knows whether a book trailer ever, in the history of the universe, made anybody buy a book.

Still, I’m a sucker for new ideas, and thought it would be cute to try doing a few for my new books. 

And it turns out they’re quick and easy.

Granted, mine don’t look totally professional (bit of an understatement).  But given the fact that each of the three I’ve made so far took under an hour and cost exactly $0 to create, upload and promote, I think this is an effort well-spent.  They’re hopefully not going to hurt sales, right?

Also, the more of them you make, the quicker you’ll probably get at it.

You’ll need a few things before you start.

  1. A free video editing program.  I used Windows Live Movie Maker.  The new one won’t run on my cheesy computer, so I downloaded an older version.  I think it’s 2.6-something.  You need something that can add titles; MovieMaker does this, but just barely.  (I’m sure there’s some built-in free equivalent if you’re a Mac.)
  2. A piece of music you like and are allowed to use free.  My go-to spot for this is Kevin McLeod’s site,, where you can find any type of music you care to use.  Remember to give him credit in your video!
  3. Still images from your book.
  4. Video shots (optional), either of you reading the book, kids reading it, etc.  I haven’t done this yet, but you can, and it would probably make the end result more interesting.

Take a look at my own trailers.

So how did my own trailers come out?  I’m going to let you judge. 

Trailer #1.  Ezra’s Aliyah


Trailer #2.  Penguin Rosh Hashanah


Trailer #3.  Shabbat Monsters


(If one of these made you smile… or cringe… I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!)

I’m not putting these up here to brag (totally), but rather, so you can see the progression as I get to know how to put these together smoothly and efficiently.

How to make your own children’s-book trailer.

I don’t want to write a how-to, because I can’t tell you how to work with your video program step by step.  But essentially, you’ll go into your program, pull all the ingredients together, trim everything so it displays the way you want, and then export it as a movie.  (Mine exports to .wmv format.)

Export your movie with the highest quality you can, by the way.  YouTube is going to squash the heck out of it, so you may as well start with something good.

Once it’s exported, watch it on your computer to be sure that what you’ve ended up with is exactly what you want.  (If not, tweak it in your video program and export it again.)

Finally, upload to YouTube, and add an intelligent title, description and keywords, to make your video as findable as possible when people are searching for similar things.

Don’t spend a fortune!

There are folks out there now telling writers like us that we NEED trailers.  And, very kindly, offering to make one for us, for a “reasonable” fee.

I would hesitate.  Going a bit further, I’d probably tell you NOT to spend money on a trailer.

Even if my trailers aren’t the most beautiful in the world, they do a decent job of getting the point across.  How much more value would I have gotten if I’d spent, say, $300 per trailer? 

Given that we don’t know whether trailers sell books, I’d put that value at approximately $0. 

If you have a friend or relative who wants a few bucks to throw together a trailer, fine.  But I don’t recommend hiring anybody specifically for this purpose.  And don’t pay extra to some fancy book promotion company who promises a book trailer as part of their package of services.

Remember that as fancy-pants as it sounds, your book trailer will cost them – as mine cost me – not much more than $0.

How long should your book trailer be?

Maybe I’m getting less patient, but the three trailers I’ve made have gotten progressively shorter.  With the most recent, I made a deliberate effort to keep it under 1 minute, including the music credit at the end.

If you honestly can’t tell people what your book’s about in under a minute, then you have my permission to go longer – I don’t believe there’s a set length.  But people have limited attention spans, so you’re better off getting the point across quickly:  get in, say it, get out.

Whether or not anybody ever watches my trailer (fingers crossed), I’m happy I did these three, and will probably do more – although possibly not for every single book.  The idea of summing up your book in a few words and pictures, putting it to music; the whole activity feels very holistic. 

Not just pure fun, but purposeful fun… paring our writing down to its very essence.

One question I’m left with that I haven’t investigated yet is – who watches trailers for kids’ books? 

I suspect it’s mainly parents, but it would be very cool to create a trailer that actually draws kids in and makes them beg their parents for the book.  I suspect a trailer like that would be even less vanilla and more “sticky.” 

If only I knew how to do it.  Still, it’s a fun learning curve, for a change.

Any ideas for how to make a book trailer truly great?  Let me know in the comments!


  1. Hello, from a children author in Concord, Ca. I have a web trailer on Bought on Fiver.
    I'm listed as william sawyers. Found your site on Linkedin.
    I'm helping out four local schools from my published works with a dollar a book. Rest of my stories free.

    1. Aha, another happy fiverr user! I noticed yours is more of an "author trailer," since it says more about you than your specific books. Fascinating idea - thanks for stopping by & sharing it.

  2. I love your trailers, I like how you shared the highlights of your books, it gives the viewer a good glimpse of the story. Well done. I will probably have to redo mine, now that I have some pointers. BTW are you living in Israel at the moment, or do you live in Canada?

    Author of the Meaning of Life According to the Mosquito

    Debora Broadhead


As always, I love to hear from you.