Friday, February 15, 2019

Painless Self-Promotion: Book Trailer Basics

As my launch date approaches, I’m in a constant quandary as to where I should invest money on promotional materials and where I can get by with a little DIY-ing. The need for a book trailer falls into the quandary category. Is it crucial to have one? If so, who do book trailers appeal to and why? What are some of the key elements required to construct a compelling book trailer? Being the fact-finder that I am, I did a bit of poking around to see what goes into creating one. In doing so, I discovered a step-by-step approach to analyzing previously-crafted book trailers, or to dare to make one for yourself. I took this a step further and made a guide packet to help all of us figure this out together. (Click on the link! It’s yours for the taking.)

Book trailers are short and interesting because they focus on the highlights of a book without giving the entire story away. The purpose of these mini-films is to capture the attention of the viewer and get them interested in reading the book. To make a book trailer, its creator must have a solid understanding of the story’s beginning, middle, and end, as well as four basic elements that make the project great.

Effective book trailers concentrate on only a few main characters and leave the minor characters out. This technique enables the book trailer creator to focus on the most important aspects of the story. Also, it is not necessary to present characters as they physically appear in the story.  Images serve as effective symbols for characterization.  For example, a daisy can represent a tender personality, or a snake might show the evil side of a character.

Overloading the book trailer with too many details causes it to be slow and uninteresting. It is best to choose a few plot points and then develop those through revealing specific detail. It’s best to pick a few key moments in the story and elaborate on them. Highlight what makes a key moment memorable or interesting. Perhaps, state how it creates a plot twist, or how it sets up a conflict between characters. Tell what is at stake or ask a compelling question of some sort. Pare down the plot by deciding which key scenes best represent the overall premise of the story.

If you are considering making your own book trailer, storyboarding your project is a must! Storyboards create visual maps for book trailers by planning for the final book trailer visuals and script in a concrete manner. Movie makers use story boards to combine the script and the visuals together before filming the shots. Plans for sequencing and transitions are made through story boarding – be it text, sound or visuals. Once the story board script and visuals are satisfactorily completed, it is time to create a digital representation of your book trailer project.

After doing the research to make the Book Trailer Basics guide, I’m seriously thinking about attempting this process on my own. Though I might make a mess of the project, I’m going to give it a whirl. How about you? Are you daring enough to take the plunge with me? Let’s do this!

Debbie Gonzales is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator, adjunct professor, and once served as a SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. Deb currently devotes her time to writing middle grade novels, crafting educator guides with Guides by Deb, producing The Debcast (a podcast dedicated to the empowering spirit of the female athlete) and various freelance projects. She’s the author of six “transitional” readers for New Zealand publisher, Giltedge, and the forthcoming non-fiction picture book Girls with Guts: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). Deb currently serves as board member for the Michigan Reading Association. She earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Learn more about Deb by accessing

Did you miss Debbie's previous Painless Self-Promotion posts? Click on the links below:

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: Our new Ask the Editor feature! Katherine Gibson, editor at Zonderkidz will be answering your questions. See you next Friday!


  1. Hey, girl!!! Thanks for including the MINE! trailer. It took a while--a learning curve for me--but it was so much fun to make. Another good point about trailers. Hugs to you!

    1. Loved your trailer, Shutta! So I have a curious little question for you: even though this book was published traditionally, you created your own book trailer? Was I under the mistaken impression that book trailers were something that publishers made for the books they published?

  2. Wow! Thanks for another information-filled post.

  3. This is a great post! Thanks so much, Deb, for sharing your research and knowledge!

  4. Love! Love! Love! Everything about this post! Such a great information packed post - Thank you Deb. P.S. I love the role the music plays in both of the example trailers.

  5. Thanks for sharing what you are learning about this. And good luck with your attempt at a trailer.