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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How to Create a Video Book Trailer Using Windows MovieMaker

A little while ago I published a post about my colleague David Robinson and the video trailer he created to help promote his new novel. You can view that post by clicking here if you like.

Well, I'm delighted to say I managed to persuade David to produce a full-length guest post on how exactly he creates his trailers - and the good news is that the method he uses is so simple (not to mention free) that almost anyone could do it.

I should just mention that the post below includes screenshots and an embedded video; so if you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog for them all to display properly.

Over to David, then...

* * *

Trailers are becoming more important in book marketing, and it's surprising how easy they are to produce.

In order to put together your trailer, you need:

• Images
• Captions
• Music or commentary
• Video editing software

Video software is expensive, but fortunately for our purposes Windows MovieMaker is adequate, and it's free. I use MovieMaker Live because I run Windows 7. Older packages (XP, Vista) may need earlier versions of the programme.

Here's a screen shot of MovieMaker when you first open it.

You should spend some time playing with MovieMaker, familiarising yourself with the menus and the way they work. When you're happy, add your images one at a time. That process is as simple as browsing and importing them.

They should say something about the book/service you have to offer. As a novelist, I have tremendous leeway. I can turn almost any image into a brooding scene from a murder mystery. If you're an entrepreneur, if you turn out non-fiction, your options may be more limited.

It's surprising how many images you DON'T need. For my latest effort (a Christmas novel due out December 1st - see below) I used only 10, and one of those was repeated. Yet the trailer runs for 1 minute 45 seconds. I interspersed the images with text screens which helped carry the trailer forward. On the MovieMaker menu, these are headed "Title" (ringed below) and that leads us nicely on to...


You can apply a caption to each image. Once the photograph is in place, click "add caption" (ringed above) and type your words in. There is no point my going into what you should say. My captions and title screens give hints as to what the reader can expect in the novel. Someone selling a business manual would ask different questions, make different points. If you're an entrepreneur, you should know how to construct your sales material already, and your captions and title screens are simply a condensed version of it.

MovieMaker has a selection of frame transitions. Arrowed below, they're on the animations tab. It's one of the last things I do. Select each frame in turn and apply a transition to it. Captions, when they're overlaid on images, can also have transitions. Play with them, learn what you can do, and make them pleasing on the eye.

The range of animations available is quite restricted, but with sufficient variation, you can still turn out an entertaining sequence.

As you build your trailer, you will notice that each image/title screen has a default running time of five seconds.

Sometimes it's too long, and at others, it doesn't seem long enough, so you can adjust the length of each frame. Music is what governs the running time of my frames, and adding music is the hardest part of the process.

You may prefer a single musical track running all the way through. Because I need to create drama, I vary the track, and I prepare it in advance using the Audacity freeware. MovieMaker provides for fade in/fade out on soundtrack, but it's quite basic.

Whatever you do, don't use copyrighted music. You may think it's fun to overlay your trailer with the current number one, but you leave yourself wide open to prosecution for copyright infringement. I use the work of Kevin Macleod, who permits the free use of his music in exchange for a credit.

I don't use verbal commentary. Because I also produce podcasts, I have the equipment, and again I use Audacity, but marrying a commentary to a sequence of image transitions would, I imagine, be a long process. Don't let that put you off. If you feel you have the skills and the necessary equipment, then go for it.

The one piece of advice I can give is don't use a combined headphone/microphone set up. These usually sit so close to your lips that plosive consonants (P, B, F) literally come through as a mini-explosion on your finished product.

To finish off your trailer add your credits (option on the MovieMaker home screen) and then upload to YouTube. Beyond that, it's all about letting the world know it's there. I embed the finished videos into my website and blog, and I publicise them through Facebook and Twitter.

It's impossible in a short piece like this to go into great detail, but MovieMaker is not a difficult program to master, and if you do get stuck, there's plenty of help on the web. Timescales will probably vary. My latest trailer (see below) took a day and a half to produce, edit to the required standard, and upload.

Do they work? Because I publish through Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, it's impossible to say where sales come from, but the trailers have increased visitors to my site, and in October my sales certainly increased.

Download MovieMaker Live at
Download Audacity at
Find the Music of Kevin McLeod at

Byline: David Robinson is a prolific novelist with 11 titles available for the Kindle and three more currently in production. You can find him at and his YouTube channel is at

* * *

Many thanks to David for an informative and inspiring article. Do take a moment to check out his trailers, including the one above and the one for A Halloween Homicide on my earlier blog post.

If you enjoyed this post, please spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and so on. And obviously, if you have any comments or questions for David (or me), please do post them below!

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Anonymous Skip said...

I find so many people are going for more expensive video programs, and yet, Windows movie maker, is free, and has so many great features.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Skip. Yes, it's surprising how much you can do with Windows Movie Maker, and it's very easy to master. For a quick trailer, such as David's, it takes some beating.

1:24 PM  

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