14 August 2015

How to Produce a YouTube Book Trailer

Fred Barnard, an enterprising advertising executive in the early 1920s, is credited with the phrase "a picture is worth ten thousand words"  in a headline selling advertising in trams. Fred knew he was on to something - and I wonder what he would have made of the power of a one-minute YouTube video?

With over a billion users, the number of people watching on YouTube each month is up 50% year on year. The problem is that over three hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, so how can you expect your modest book trailer to ever be seen?

The answer is to use it across your author platform. My new video has had under a hundred views on YouTube – but has been widely shared on Twitter and Facebook, as well as uploaded to my Amazon and Goodreads author pages, as well as adding interest to my website. Here then, are the (relatively) simple steps to produce your book trailer:

Invest in simple Video production software

There are plenty of low cost packages on the market, so I chose Cyberlink’s PowerDirector, which has an intuitive ‘drag-and-drop’ visual timeline. As well as being easy to use, PowerDirector optimises your video for YouTube upload. PowerDirector also includes a wealth of free templates and effects, although I recommend keeping things simple.

Track down suitable music

It is important to remember the average span of attention you should expect from browsing book buyers is one minute. This means your soundtrack needs to make effective use of such a short time. You need to make sure it is copyright free or obtain consent – and it is easier to make the video fit the soundtrack than the other way around. My brother kindly composed and produced the music to accompany my previous video for The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham. The new one has an extract from Cantiga 166 by Vox Vulgaris and the Swedish composer Rasmus Fleischer was happy to give permission for its use.

Decide on the text

I find it best to use the book description as a starting point – and this can sometimes highlight ways to improve your wording. Six or seven key points in short sentences are all you should try for in one minute. Try it out on a slow reader before uploading the video, to make sure you’ve allowed enough time.

Select images and video clips

I like to start and end the trailer with a cover shot, although it can be tricky to find copyright free pictures and video clips, Fred Barnard will tell you the effort is definitely worthwhile. There are some useful free images listed in Dana Fox’s post, 30 Free Stock Photo Resources, which also has some useful guidance on image licences.

Apply some effects

The most impressive book trailers are surprisingly sparing with special effects. I try to limit it to simple fades, with one or two effects to grab attention where appropriate.

Produce the video for upload

Most video production packages offer a bewildering range of options. I’ve been using an aspect ratio of 16:9 to encode MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) video format in high definition. (MPEG-4 AVC uses better compression than MPEG-2, using less space to produce a video of similar quality with faster uploading.) Make sure you keep all your source files in a folder and back them up, as you’ll need them if you want to update the video later.

Upload to YouTube

If you don’t already have a YouTube account they are free and easy to create and there are instructions here.  You can add the full cover ‘blurb’ for your book as well as purchase links in the video description. I usually create a special ‘thumbnail’ image if I don’t like any of the choices offered by the YouTube uploader.

And finally…

Share with your social networks and upload to your website, as well as your author pages.  When appropriate, you can also add the link to emails - most email systems now allow the recipient to view it within the message.

Good luck!

Tony Riches


  1. I have just started to look in to this. Thank you for such an informative post!

    1. Give me a shout if you have any questions :)