Book Trailer as Art

Book Trailer.png

Over the last couple weeks I released three videos that I made related to Finding Livelihood and want to share them here. I also want to tell you a little bit about how I made them in case you want to try making their own book video. You could also follow the steps I outline below for making a fun video of you reading a piece of poetry you love or an essay you've written or a story your child wrote or any number of other things.

Book trailer as art

First the backstory. In April I went to the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) annual meeting here in Minneapolis and attended a session led by David Flores, a photographer who creates, among other things, videos for books. The session was called “Promotion as Art: Thinking Beyond the Book Trailer.”

He showed several of the videos he’s made, and they were different than the traditional book trailer. The videos featured an author, poets mostly, reading. Sometimes they showed the actual person, but other times it was voice over while the film showed related photos and clips. There was no interview or description of the book, just something from the book presented in an experiential manner.

Rather than being ads for a book, they were stand-alone offerings. A viewer could watch the video and come away with something valuable from the author/poet, whether or not she went on to read the book. He encouraged those of us in attendance to think outside the box and use our phones and computers to make a video; have fun and be creative; don’t worry about being amateurs.

Taking the challenge

I was intrigued. It sounded like a fun challenge, and so I went home and opened iMovie for the first time to see what I could do with it. I decided I would try for a set of three videos. My first attempt, however, was incredibly boring. At that point I consulted with my friend David Vessel, who is a photographer and videographer par excellence. He helped me understand more about the principles involved in making a video and how better to use the features of a video program and a camera phone. I also did some more reading online to fill in the gaps of what I needed to know.

Over the next couple weeks I came up with three videos. I’ve included one of them at the end of this post. Here are the links to all three on Vimeo and YouTube.

12 steps to making a book video

Here are the basic steps I took. This will get you started on a project of your own.

1. Pick a short section of the book to read. You don’t want the video to go much longer than a couple minutes so pick something less than 300 words.

2. Record yourself reading the section. I used the free recording software Audacity.

3. Find pictures or video clips that complement the recorded book section. You can use what you already have or set out to take something new. Although you could use copyright-free images you find online, to me it seems best to use your own so that even the pictures have your own voice in them.

4. Open your movie software and start playing around with it. Open a new movie project and name it. I used iMovie because it came free on my computer.

5. Import the visual components to the movie software, then add them into the timeline of your developing movie in an order that seems appropriate. You will adjust them later.

6. Import your audio file to the movie software. First, though, you have to export it from the recording software so that you have it as a separate file. Once it’s in the movie software, you can add it to the movie timeline. In iMovie it just slides in as a separate item below the line-up of images.

7. Adjust the length of video clips and the duration of still images within the timeline. Add other effects. You’ll need to learn about the specific features of your own movie software for specifics on doing this. Keep playing the movie while you’re doing this so you can match the flow of images to the flow of words. Let yourself play around until it feels right.

8. Add one or more additional soundtracks. iMovie has some built-in ambient sounds, which I used for one of the videos. For another video, I walked down a moderately busy street in my neighborhood with my phone recorder on, capturing car and airplane traffic noise as well as the occasional rustle of wind and tweet of birds. For a music track, I commissioned the talented Berg Holmgren, who also happens to be my nephew, to write and perform acoustic guitar background for two of the videos. I took a different approach with the third video, finding a piece of royalty-free CC0 music online (you can’t use copyright-protected recorded music).

9. Add a title image at the beginning and credit images at the end. iMovie provides formatted images for this.

10. Select and add transitions between the images. Transition options are provided within the movie program. I used a simple “Cross Dissolve” consistently.

11. Make final adjustments of starting points of audio and soundtracks, and duration of images and clips so that time wise it all fits together.

12. Export the movie file to Vimeo, YouTube, or other destinations. Check the size requirements for where you’re going to export it. Given those requirements and the type of images I had to work with, I exported the files as SD, not HD.

One of the Finding Livelihood videos

Here’s one of the videos I made: Walk The Path. You can view the other two here at Vimeo and at YouTube.

If you like the videos, please share them on your social medial channel of choice.

And if you give this a try for your own and want to share the results, leave a link in the comments below.


You can order Finding Livelihood from: 1) the publisher, Kalos Press; 2) Barnes & Noble; 3) Amazon; 4) Hearts & Minds Books; 5) Eighth Day Books; 6) me (let me know if you want it signed); or 7) any bookstore.