Saturday, September 1, 2012

September 2012: Make Your Own Book Trailer - Easy and Free!

Announcement: My new book is out!

I'm so pleased to show you my newest book! Grandparenting Through Obstacles: Overcoming Family Challenges to Reach Your Grandchildren for Christ released in August from Pix N Pens Publishing.

GTO features twenty true stories which depict challenges grandparents face in influencing their grandchildren with their Christian faith plus how they are overcoming those challenges. Includes stories about when the grandkid's parents are not walking with God; long-distance relationships; non-traditional, blended, or single-parent families; and partnering with the parents.
Includes resources, discussion questions, "Grandparents in the Bible," "Points to Ponder," "Steps to Take," "Scriptures to Study," and "One Way to Pray."
306 pages. $15.99. Order from your local bookstore. Also available now at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and all online outlets. On Kindle and Nook.
A great resource for Christian grandparents. Makes an excellent gift for National Grandparent's Day on September 9th, 2012.

Cover Story: Make Your Own Book Trailer - Easy and Free!

With the release of a new book, I was thinking I needed to have a book trailer for it.

If you don't know what a book trailer is, it's a short advertisement and teaser, like a movie trailer. You can find lots of them on if you want to see some examples.

I'm constantly thinking when I'm writing this e-zine/blog that a large portion of this audience may not think the topic of the month applies to them. But I hope you think otherwise. Even if you're not writing books, use your imagination (You're creative! You're a writer after all...) and think how you might use this idea or technology to get you closer to your own writing goals. Or use it just to have fun. For example, this month even if you're not a book author and have no desire to be one, you might use this same idea to make a video of your photos for your family. Or if you're a magazine writer or blogger, use it to "advertise" where your writing can be found so readers can find you! If you're a magazine editor (and we have some of those in our readership), why not make a video to advertise your magazine and draw in more readers? Anyway, on with the topic...

My first book trailer was for Deliver Me, and I had it professionally made. See my Deliver Me Book Trailer here. It cost me several hundred dollars, and that's with me doing my own voice-over. I'm not at all sure it has helped sell enough books to be worthy of what it cost. However at the time book trailers were a lot newer idea and making them yourself wasn't as easy. So with a thousand other things to do, and no idea how to make one myself, I forked out the bucks.

Recently, in and article titled "5 free and easy ways to promote your book" by Erika Dreifus in the September 2012 issue of The Writer magazine (page 37), I read about I'd never heard of Animoto, but I checked it out.

Like most things these days, you can have a free account and do limited stuff. You can do more if you pay. I decided I would sign up for the free account and make a trailer (a short video) for each of my three books before I paid anything. It took a couple of hours to read and play and figure things out, but by then I had a short trailer for my new Grandparenting book. I also had partly made a second trailer for my first book, Dear America. The next afternoon it took me no time at all to make a third trailer, this one for Deliver Me.

Here's the first trailer I made for Grandparenting Through Obstacles. It runs about 30 seconds, so if you want to take a moment to watch it please do. But then keep reading below it because I want to tell you more...

With the free account at you are limited to about a 30-second video. If you want a longer video, you'll have to pay. But really, you can buy the next level for $30 for a whole year, so that still sounds like a deal to me. (It says $5 per month, which is $60, but then offers half off for a year.) (BTW, I'm not getting any commission from them. I just think this is a good and useful--and FUN!--web site and wanted to share it with you.)

I'm sure you're probably thinking I'm a genius for building all that fancy stuff with all the boxes flipping around and the pretty colors, but--though I hate to dash your image of me--Animoto did all that for me. They have a bunch of 30-second videos all set up and waiting for you. You just choose some photos and text and music and it's all done!

The tricky part is that with the free account and only 30 seconds, you only get about 7 or 8 "slides" (meaning a slot for a photo, video, or text) and then you're done. So while I set out to tell what was in my book, I found I didn't have the time or slots for that. I ended up simply saying basically my book title, buy it here! This will take all the tight-writing skills that you've accumulated.

I know what you're thinking. I just mentioned you can insert photos, text, and video. Yeah! Cool, huh? I used a piece of Animoto's stock video in my Dear America trailer. This one runs 34 seconds. Watch it here:

The video clip originally 5 seconds and bounced two of my other slide out because it took up so much time. But then I discovered I could edit it to 3 seconds and fit my photos back in.

While Dear America has been out for ten years, it was just released on Kindle for its tenth anniversary in March 2012. I've never had a trailer for it. Because it was written after September 11, 2001, and has that theme running through, I really wanted to let people know about it for this anniversary of September 11th. The book talks about getting through grief, knowing God in the hard times, and more that are timeless topics. I really wanted a trailer for it to advertise it this September, and now I have one.

The first thing you choose with Animoto is the style of video you want. (The colorful unfolding boxes in the Grandparenting trailer. This Dear America style is called "Air.") After that you get to choose your music. After I signed up for the free account and began making my first video, I was delighted to discover the large selection of Christian music available. All three of my short videos feature Christian songs.

Once of the nicest things about Animoto is that they've already taken care of all the licensing for you. Unlike royalty-free music sources on the web, I could use some very popular music through Animoto.

The last step in making a video on Animoto is choosing your photos and inserting your text. Like the music, they have a selection of photos you can use, or you can upload your own. I found the upload process a little temperamental, but I was able to upload my book covers from Facebook. I didn't want to mess with trying to find royalty-free photos, so I used what Animoto has on their site. These were quite limited. For the Grandparenting trailer I would have liked to have photos of grandparents with grandchildren but they didn't have any so I ended up using baby pictures. It works, though it doesn't fully communicate the theme of the book as I wanted it.

I also used some of the same baby photos in my new Deliver Me trailer which you can see here. It runs 38 seconds.

I was also able to upload the "2012 Book of the Year" logo for this video, which I thought was a good way to let people know the book won that award.

Once you have a few photos selected, you have precious little room for text so you're going to have to be brief! But it's a good exercise in figuring out how to communicate what's really important quickly and powerfully. The text boxes limit you to just so many characters, so it can be a challenge to make things fit.

The Animoto program will limit you to how much you can add to your video (unless you pay--then you can make longer videos). When you have too many photos or text slides to fit with the 30 seconds of music, it tells you. You simply drag and drop the pictures and text to move things around. Then you can play it to see how it looks. Then you can edit and drag and drop and rearrange and then play it again. When you're satisfied, you "publish" it. At that point you can put it on and other places.

So once you have a book trailer, what do you do with it? You can get links to put in your e-mails or Twitters. And you can embed it in your web site and blog. Next I'd like to figure out if I can put all my videos on a thumb drive and have them play continuously on my netbook computer. If I can figure out how to make that work, I'd like to have my little netbook sitting on my book table at signings. Wouldn't that be fun?

One more tidbit of information that will help you: You may noticed I've put all three of my new book trailers on this blog at the right, but they are much smaller. When I embedded them there, they were too large for the column I had them in. What to do? Here's the answer: When you embed the code into your blog, you can see the HTML code. (That's what you copy and paste.) I know enough about HTML code to have recognized the "height" and "width" numbers. Those are pixels. I simply changed those numbers to reduce the size of the video so it would fit in the column. You want to reduce the height the same amount as the width to keep it proportionate. How? First I divided each number by four and put those numbers into the code. That made it really tiny (one fourth the original size). So I tried making it one third the original size (divide each by 3) and that fit pretty well. It makes the text really small, but what can you do? If the video catches their attention, viewers can see the larger ones elsewhere on this site.

I hope you'll stop by and trying it out. I had a lot of fun with it and I know I'll be making more videos there. I have new books coming out--one for Christmas! (Please visit my new "Coming Books" page!) So I'm looking forward to making videos for those!

Have fun with Animoto! And if you make a trailer, share the link to it in the comments section below so we can all see what you've created!


I know there are other ways to make book trailers too. After they saw my Animoto efforts, somebody shared this article with me, but then you have to get your own photos and find royalty-free music. Still, I may give this a shot sometime when I have the time and energy: Create Your Own Book Trailer Free

Please Check Out:

  • My new "Coming Books" Page. (Click the tab at the top.)
  • My new "Dianne's Events" box in the column on the right at the top.
  • And don't forget to check out the "Writing Opportunities" Page. There are some exciting opportunities there.