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THRILLERS with Bite & Nonfiction Books: Making A Video Book Trailer

by | Jan 19, 2016 | Appearance (Theater, Signing, Talks), Ask Amy Videos, Writing Advice & More | 15 comments

SelfiCats_80421608_lorezI’ve had a lot of fun cobbling together trailers for my most recent thrillers. And today, I want to share how I put the trailer together, and also added “click-able” links to the video. In other words, pull the curtain aside just a bit for readers, and also for other book writers.

A book trailer is no different than one created for a movie: short, full of impact-icity, and designed to entice or even compel viewers to BUY the book. There’s debate on how much benefit (if any) book trailers have on sales, but heck–more eyeballs and ears just learning about SHOW AND TELL could potentially help.

It’s a given that the book must be good. And it’s a given that it should be available as widely as possible. Those two aspects must happen for the book to garner positive reviews–which also serve to convince readers your book is worth the purchase.

The real unicorn-rainbow-dust is obtaining DISCOVER-ABILITY. I suspect a well-done and compelling book trailer can help.

movie director dog with a vintage camera


There’s no real “rules” about trailers. Just put yourself in the viewer’s seat and take notes.

1. What makes YOU “click” on the video on YouTube or wherever,

2. What makes you STOP watching before it’s done?

3. What makes you watch to the end?

4. After viewing, what makes you A. like/share/recommend B. take the next step (click/buy/subscribe/whatever).

Based on that, I now strive for 1. Click-able cover image 2. Succinct (under 90 seconds…60 is better…10-15 ideal!–think TikTok) 3. Tension (what happens next? use the CLIMAX scenes of plot, not the whole story) 4. Value added…in my case, free sample chapter

I don’t pretend to be a whiz or professional at movie-making the way many of my actor and producer colleagues are, but for a DIY super-low-budget project, I’m pretty pleased. Using the criteria in the previous paragraph, I’d love your feedback. Does it make you want to click/watch? Did you watch to the end? Would you “click” the link at the end for the free read? (We’ll get to how it was made, including the click-able link, so please keep reading!).

Did you see the clip with Magical-Dawg? Hey, he had to be in there somewhere, since he’s the inspiration for Shadow, my hero-dog character. You can read more about that in this fun blog post.

Cut to the Chase with Book Trailers

One of the so-called “rules” is to keep the video short. Apparently, today we’re all ADD-voyeurs with such short attention spans that—–> OOOOH SQUIRREL! In fact, on a recent Facebook ad with a video, the “average” watch time was 8 seconds. Yikes!

Although now it’s a single video complete with sound, it didn’t start out that way. If you want, watch again and see if you can count how many separate videos, pictures, and sound cues were used to create this final product. Post your guesses in the comments, and I’ll reveal the answer later. *s*

My first attempt at a trailer was nearly 2-1/2 minutes long, yikes! but it’s had over 500 views so I guess folks liked it well enough. For LOST AND FOUND trailer, I shot nearly all the video myself, (some of it OF myself!) and recorded the voice over but purchased the gunshot sound effects. So other than the cost of the software, which I already had, the first video was nearly free. *s* I’ve included that video further down the page, for those interested.

Book Trailers: Captions & Audio

The trailers for the next two books HIDE AND SEEK and SHOW AND TELL cost more because I purchased more stock video and audio. There are free-share sites for this but be careful of licensing and copyright issues. Authors don’t want books pirated, so we must respect the rights of the photographer/videographer/model/actor. I purchased several clips from (yes, they have video, too). I think that I paid $30 for “web rights” version for each clip I purchased from them. So each of these videos cost me about $100.

My book trailer for HIDE AND SEEK (also included toward the end of the post) not only used sound effects but also mood-enhancing music, and I tried to time the musical emphasis with appearance of the subtitles. For thrillers, I think that works well. Other genres probably it wouldn’t matter quite so much.

In fact, most book trailers I’ve seen consist of still pictures representing characters or setting with captions that sketch the high points of the plot. There are folks able to make these types of trailers compelling, but I’m not that talented. I prefer video to still pictures, and I prefer voice overs to captions. Probably using a combination works best because reading vs listening is more (or less) compelling and memorable depending on the individual. Today with the advent of SmartPhones and easy-to-record video, you can often shoot the video and images you need yourself–and do the whole thing for free.

But once you have all the different 10-second clips of images, settings, characters and actions, how do you put them together? Video software, of course.

Review Previous Book Trailers for Future Improvements

Since I first posted this blog in 2016, I’ve changed the covers on my first four books (and had to update the trailers). And I’ve also released two more books in the series. Here are the most recent video trailers, and I like to think, I’ve gotten better. I used purchased clips from DepositPhotos for these. And I also got several of the same model, so I could use the same character for consistency through the series.


There are many kinds of software packages that are easy to use, often free, and provide the effects you’ll want. A simple slide show with captions works well, and can be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo or other host services (even directly to FaceBook) to leverage share-power.

I discovered VideoPad editing software several years ago, and first downloaded the trial version and fell in love. Using the VideoPad freeware, I produced dozens of my short Ask Amy cat and dog behavior videos and several hundred others all available on my YouTube channel here. When you take a look at some of these, you’ll notice the same intro for each (with puppies or kitties added, depending on the subject), so often you can create your own “stock” footage to use time and again.

Here’s how it works. You open the software, click the “add” button to upload images or video clips or audio files, and then drag/drop into various “tracks.” You can layer these as you wish, move them around, create fade in/fade out or other (zoom!) transitions between these components. The audio track runs below the image files so you can time them, and see where (57 second mark) something happens to create your caption to appear/disappear where you wish. I love this software! You can then “export” the file into any of several formats. The MP4 format works for YouTube very well, but you could expert as a .MOV or any of several other options, including low or high definition, save the file to DVD or whatever you’d like. Brilliant!

I promised to share with you the first book trailer I created–here it is, and *blush* I do better now. But I did just add that click-able link to the sample chapter at the very end of the video. That’s a nifty technique and it can be used for ANY video, not just book trailers. I’ll be adding this to many of my Ask Amy videos. To learn how, read on. *s*


You can’t use the “free” version of VideoPad for monetizing. I’m not sure if that counts with simply adding the clickable link on your YouTube account, so you’ll have to check further on that. Several years ago I upgraded to the professional version of VideoPad (it’s only $70!) because it has a few extras that I wanted to use. I just discovered that VideoPad is Available on Amazon here.  

This is NOT a sponsored post and VideoPad doesn’t know they’re being mentioned…I just like the program a lot and (full disclosure) I could earn an amazon referral fee if you choose to purchase the software through amazon. But get the free trial first.

To add links to YouTube, you first need a YouTube account. Many of y’all already have one, if you’re posting video or sharing it. So login to your YouTube account, and “click” on your icon on the top right-hand side of the page (that’s probably your thumbnail image), and then “click” on your “creator studio.”

That brings up a menu on the left side of the screen. On the drop-down menu for your channel, click the “advanced” button. That’s where you will ASSOCIATE a url with your YouTube account. In my case, I’ve associated my website with YouTube, because that’s where most of the pages/content is found that I want to link video to. If you have other links outside of that one allowed website, you can create “legal” links using the Pretty Links plugin (there’s a free version).

For instance, in each of these trailers, I’ve linked the “sample pages” of the book to the book trailer, so that folks who finish viewing the trailer can automatically click-and-read to get a taste of the story. Now, you can associate a site with your YouTube page that you do not own…but then the owner must approve (or not) of that affiliation. Once you have your YouTube account associated with the blog or webpage, then you’re ready to add cards…or clickable links.


Once you have a website associated with your YouTube account, you can add two neato-torpedo types of links. You can add up to 5 “cards” to each video with click-able links. These cards appear wherever you place them, and can have an image with a “teaser” and title. I didn’t use cards in these videos because I wanted folks to watch all the way through–and clicking on a card stops the video and takes the person to that link. I will, however, use cards in some other videos (such as my trailer for STRAYS, THE MUSICAL to include the CD, script and piano score options).

In order to use an associated link, though, you’ll go to the specific video to which you wish to edit/add a link. Click on Video Manager and scroll (or do a search) to find the video you wish to edit. Click the arrow/menu beside the “edit” button and it will reveal several options. Click on “annotations” and then the top right side the box to “add annotation.” To create a click-able box, select “spotlight” and then move the created box to where you wish–a picture, for instance, or an area of existing text. You can also type in text to appear. There are a few tools for sizing the font or changing colors of type, too.

Then check the “link” box below/left, select from the drop-down menu (defaults to “video” and you want “associated website checked), and then enter the url to the page on your website you want to direct folks. You’ll also want to check the box “open in another window” so it doesn’t stop your video. And be sure to adjust how long you want the click-able box to remain visible, using the “start” and “end” times. Once satisfied, click the “apply changes” in the blue box at the top-right of your screen.

Whew! I wrote a book, it seems! Was this helpful? Have you created YouTube videos or trailers for your books? Feel free to post links to your own book trailers in the comments section!


Yes, you can also make trailers for nonfiction. For these, I used page spreads from the actual books, and incorporated original music from the STRAYS show (but you can use any freeware music or purchased audio you want. Here are two I made for my DOG LIFE and CAT LIFE books:

YouTubeButtonI love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!


  1. M. K. Clinton

    You did a terrific job on these, Amy. I need to make a trailer for my book. You have inspired me to try my hand at it.

    • Amy Shojai

      Great! When the trailer is ready come back and post here in the comments.

  2. the Daily Pip

    I don’t know that I will ever create a book trailer, but I so LOVED this post. Your line The real unicorn-rainbow-dust is obtaining DISCOVER-ABILITY might be one of my favorite lines I’ve read in awhile.

  3. fivesibesmom

    These are really great! I need to make some for my books! Thanks for the great info!

    • Amy Shojai

      I think the software is great especially for bloggers wanting to add vlogging to their sites.

  4. Heather

    Great trailer! I didn’t realize that this was a thing, except for having seen James Patterson book trailers on television, constantly, but what a great idea!

    • Amy Shojai

      Oh, wouldn’t it be great if I could afford to put mine on TV like Mr Patterson!


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