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The Making Of A Book Trailer.

Ever thought that making a video advert for your book is the preserve of big budget marketing departments?

Yes, so did I, until recently…

Selling a book is not easy. Every day, thousands of new books are released. Some through the big publishing companies with all the associated fanfares. Some through the smaller independent imprints and others, purely in digital format. Many of those will be self-published. Looking for different ways to market a book when you are on a limited budget can feel daunting, but there are many options out there, one of which is video promotion. These are based on a short ‘Book Trailer’ to animate your ideas with YouTube as a means to reach more readers. Companies spend a fortune on their short adverts, but is it possible to produce a video using cheap and readily available apps?

To make the video trailer for ‘The Third Magpie Blog Tour’, I wanted to start with something simple and familiar, so my first draft was in MS PowerPoint. I thought about what I wanted to include and how to present it. Once I was happy with the basic set of slides, I needed to learn how to turn that into a video. For this I turned to instruction videos on YouTube on how to play slides automatically using transitions and the animation functions.

Here are a couple of examples. The first on adding simple motion and the second, how to turn a presentation into a video.

Slides and animation complete, next came background music. For our video I used an MP3 file of Chopin’s Prelude in E minor. It is important to pick copyright free music. There are plenty of sites that provide royalty free music for background. A few examples I found were: Free Music Archive and Open Culture.

I ended up using YouTube’s audio library to source a copyright free version. To edit the sound file, I used the free sound editing app, Audacity, to cut the music to the right length. I then saved that version.

You can now export it to create a video file for YouTube e.g. in MP4 format.

Once it is saved as an MP4 file, you can upload it to YouTube. This can take a while. You can choose between making your video public, private, or ‘unlisted’ – useful for testing early drafts. Looks good? Now, post it to your favourite social media sites and embed it in your author website.

I wanted my slides to change in time with the music I had chosen. For a simple set of slides you can do this in PowerPoint by recording the presentation and manually clicking to move to the next slide, however it is tricky to get it exactly right. For more precise synchronisation to my soundtrack, and easy refinement without having to rerecord everything, I decided to switch to a paid app, I used Screen Flow for Mac. It does have a free version but videos will be watermarked. It costs $129 to buy. If you want an alternative I have found Screencast O Matic. Again, this does have a free option but the deluxe version with more functionality starts at $20 for a 1 year subscription. I have not used Screencast O Matic to make this trailer.

I imported each slide individually into Screen Flow as a PNG image, as this seemed to look best. Each slide could be moved along the timeline so that the changes lined up with the precise point that I wanted in the imported MP3 music file.

Producing the short section with scrolling reviews, and blog tour events involved a few more steps. PowerPoint animations already allow text and shapes to move around the slides, either when you click the mouse, or after a set time. You can also join together a whole sequence of these. The best one for this “Film Credits” look was unsurprisingly the “Credits” animation. This function can be found under ‘Add Animation’. Once this was set up, I selected the previous slide, hit “record presentation”, and triggered the animation. After importing this short movie into Screen Flow, I trimmed it to the right start and end points, and lined it up with the audio track. A few iterations later, and after speeding up the scrolling, I was happy with the timings and the result.

The final step was to export it from Screen Flow as an MP4 which I then uploaded to YouTube.

The process from beginning to end took about two to three days from the initial idea to seeing it play on YouTube. Most of this was spent researching different approaches, experimenting, and learning how to use the different functions of the apps I ended up choosing, but now I have those skills, making another trailer will not seem so scary, and should only take a few hours.

I hope sharing this can save you many hours.

Let me know in comments if you have any other tips and tricks, or alternative approaches.

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