Saturday, June 1, 2013

Book trailers: How to create a cinematic book trailer

Book trailers are becoming more and more popular these days. Publishers are hiring big companies to produce high end trailers for their upcoming books. Book trailers like movie trailers give you a preview of what to expect. They can be as simple as moving pictures with floating texts and some music, or like mine, a complete 3D animated trailer. Here’s an example of what a cinematic book trailer looks like that I produced for my book:

In the end, it all depends on how much you’re willing to spend and what your objectives are. For me, is to get as much visibility for my books as I can. What can a book trailer do for an author? Think of it as an investment in your career. If it goes viral, you’re more likely to be noticed by the media, readers and booksellers.

Here’s how I did mine:

Phase 1: Storyboards/Character Design/Environments

I hired a fantastic character designer to create my characters in 3d. With my limited budget, I could only afford 5 characters. Since I had my storyboard in my head, I knew which ones I wanted.


We also needed to determine what to use as backgrounds. Environments are really important to the look of the final movie, they set the mood. We created 5 different backgrounds for the trailer. Some were made entirely of a 3d environment and some were just blurred pictures as backgrounds.

Phase 2: Animatic/Layout/Cameras

Next came the animatic (series of moving images edited together to determine timing and shot sequence). As a retired Animation Supervisor this was a no-brainer for me. I put together an animatic to better feel the mood and pacing of the trailer. I used the software Adobe After Effects and inserted images in a timeline to get a idea of what I wanted to see. Once I was happy with it, we moved on to the Layout and Camera phase. This is where the 3D begins. The layout was done in a 3d software called XSI from Softimage. There the animator was able to transform the 2d animatic into a 3d moving story. In the layout, it’s very important to set the cameras so that we only work on what we ‘see’ in the scene. The animator then did a ‘blocking’ phase with the animation, roughing in the movements of the characters and establishing timing. Think of it as a rough sketch before you start coloring. We needed to keep the animation somewhere around 1 minute. The more seconds you have, the more money it will cost you.

Click here to see the Blocking movie clip.

As you can see in the clip, the final animation is somewhat different,but the general idea is there.

Phase 3: Final Animation/final Cameras With the blocking approved, the animator now had a visual reference of shots and timing. In final stages of animation, the animator locks all cameras and polishes the animation with facials.

Phase 4: Lighting/Textures/Special FX/Renders
After months of hard work, the animation was approved and could now go on to lighting, textures, and FX. Here’s an example of a shot before and after lighting:

Here’s lighting and FX added for Kara’s power:

Phase 5: Music/End credits

The music was a really fun part for me, and the quickest. I loved the first draft the music composer did as so we stuck with that. We put all the renders into After Effects, added the credits and music and outputted the trailer. Done.

Marketing your book trailer:

You need to market your book trailer as much as you can. Make sure to put it up on Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, your website or blog and get people to write blogs about it. There are also blog tours where they can help promote your trailer. Another way to get noticed is to enter your book trailer in competitions like the International Movie Trailer Festival's 2013 competition:

 The key here is to spread the word. Here are links where you can promote your trailer:

Book Trailer Production Companies:

Circle of Seven Productions: Book Trailers
JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm
Moving Stories Book Trailers and Book Videos
Author Bytes

If you want to make your own book trailer, here are some programs:

Windows Movie Maker – animates still pictures

And for the more experienced:

Adobe After Effects
Adobe Premiere


  1. Great article. We just launched as a venue to showcase book trailers. And for book trailer production check out

  2. Thanks Dan, i'm going to check out right now.

  3. Great, thanks Kim, and if you or any friends have some good ones, we'd love to put them on our site.

    1. Hi Dan, I've sent a request on your site to add mine. Hope it worked: