book promotion

90 seconds to convince


Do you need a book trailer? A short, arresting burst of colour and sound that advertises your book, like they do for Ocean’s Eleven or Mission Impossible? In the arsenal of book promotion tools, it’s one more to consider. You could live without one and be none the worse, but on the other hand, it can’t do any harm (unless it’s atrocious).

I was inspired to experiment when a composer friend asked me to write the lyrics for a song and then sent me the video he’d made to go with it. Though I knew book trailers existed, I’d never given them much thought till then, but I set to work immediately. Now I’ve finished the first, the second is almost done, and I’ve started on the third. My main conclusion so far? Don’t expect any spike in sales, but putting one together is a real blast.

So how does one set about it? Well, the simplest way is to pay someone to do it. But you’re then looking at a budget of anything between $300 (for basically nothing more than an entertaining slide show) to $15000 (for a scripted film shot on location with actors). If you’ve got money to burn, fine. But since I haven’t, I did it myself, and the result cost me hardly anything – except a lot of time. So if the do-it-yourself route appeals, here – gleaned from my limited experience so far – are a few tips.

Start with a rough idea of the content and progression. Keep it simple – go for mood and atmosphere rather than try and tell a story. It’s not a synopsis but a teaser.

Search for the content – pictures, clips and sound. This is the most time-consuming part, and depending on what you find, your rough idea may need to be adapted. The particular image you had in mind may not exist, so you have to go with what does. Here is a list of sites providing videos and photos, many of them free. The ones I use most are Pixabay and Pexels, while Videvo also has sound effects, as does the YouTube audio library.  A wider variety of sound effects can be found at soundsnap, but at a cost – $29 for 20 downloads or $15 for 5. For music, again YouTube has a reasonable selection, though so far I’ve stuck with Purple Planet.

When you put it all together, aim for a clip of 90 seconds maximum, with an opening that grabs the attention within the first few seconds. The editing stage is where my only cost came in, since I used Adobe Premiere Pro, part of a subscription Creative Cloud I share with a graphic designer. But there are free alternatives, listed here. Depending on the software, there can be quite a learning curve involved.

And Bob’s your uncle! Or will be once you’ve uploaded the clip, not just to YouTube but to Amazon (note that certain specific conditions apply), and your own website. So far, those are the only places I’ve put it, but there are others, listed at the end of this article, which also details the various types of trailer that exist.


Like everything else, of course, the trailer will only be effective if people see it, so we’re back to the problem of promoting the promotional item itself. But I’m not too bothered about that – I just enjoyed doing it, and if a few people come across it, so much the better. I’m still finding my way around the software, and I’m not happy with a couple of points, but for a first effort, I’m reasonably satisfied. And now, of course, you’re dying to see it – and I’m dying to know what you think – so here it is as it appears on my website. Comments welcome!



27 thoughts on “90 seconds to convince

  1. A wealth of information for anyone new to book trailers. Thanks, Curtis!
    That’s a wonderful face, for Magali Rousseau! Where did you get her?

    You might try multiple postings of the trailer on Facebook. I’m kinda typical in that I have no patience with ads in general, but, I look on book trailers as quick entertainment. More people might see your trailer on FB than you’d expect.

    “Keep it simple – go for mood and atmosphere….” I like that. It also sounds like good advice for book blurbs.

    Liked by 8 people

    • Thanks, GD. For Magali, I was in two minds about whether to show her as I like readers to form their own image from the relatively succinct description I give of her. I had my own idea of course but found nothing on the internet. Then I recalled a work colleague of my wife’s who has the same Mediterranean look, and she was extremely cooperative. So now she’s the official face of Magali.
      Thanks for the Facebook tip. I’ll look into it.

      Liked by 4 people

      • victoracquista says:

        Having read your excellent novel, I think you have visually depicted your protagonist quite well and much in line with how I visualized her in my mind.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Excellent advice, Curtis! Well done. All the way through. One glitch: I downloaded your ebook. Tried to do it as epub on my iPad and it said “ unsupported file type.” So I downloaded it as a pdf. Don’t know whether the glitch was on your end or mine.

    For my sci fi stories, I already have illustrations and music. I should be able to build on that.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    Your piece is quite nice. I’m thinking about it. I’ve got the Creative Cloud suite. I’ve noticed Adobe Animate, but have not explored it.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. victoracquista says:

    Bravo to you Curtis and thanks for an informative post. I have been playing around with book trailers for several years. I had a book review trailer made for me back in 2017. The review trailer uses “pull quotes” to intrigue whoever might be watching it and hopefully purchasing the book. It uses still images and an audio backdrop.

    Things have come a long way since then. I like trailer content that says something about the book and also has a review blurb or two as I think that combo has more impact. I see you did that in your trailer and I like it. I have read somewhere that the length should not exceed 60 seconds and 30 – 60 is ideal.

    I recently purchased a subscription to to access their library of video intros, outros, and other content that I can then customize with my own details. I use that content along with additional content such as sound and images using a video editing program, apoweredit. I use the free version available for download here:

    In the past and occasionally still, I use PowerPoint to create a video, but I find the end result to generally look amateurish (which of course it is). Here is an example of probably my best PowerPoint trailer: Compare that to my recent trailer using the combination of tools above: They are each about a minute, but the second is much more dynamic.

    For audio, I mix tracks using Audacity (another free download) and also the audio track functions on apoweredit.

    I put up the content on my FB page, Twitter, and YouTube channel. Lately I have been experimenting with YouTube advertising and have gotten thousands of views for 2-3 cents per view. There is a lot of targeting information and analytics that I can learn from the ad views. I’m still debating the effectiveness, but I am planning a more aggressive campaign shortly after my new book is released next month. I also plan to make another trailer for it.

    I download sound clips from and focus on the content marked Creative Commons. This does not require attribution. I’ve frequently used images from I will certainly check out some of the the other resource sites you mentioned.

    Now, for some feedback on your trailer. I think your audio and imagery are both very good. The audio transitioning is quite good, but the imagery transitioning is abrupt in some places. The text fonts and the way the text is incorporated into the presentation are not nearly as good. Just my opinion. Overall, it’s better than much of what I have seen. I give you credit for what you have achieved. There is a learning curve to all of this and I know I am still on the lower part of that curve.

    Here is an example of one of the best book trailers I have seen. It’s done by an author colleague and is entirely done “in house” as he shared with me. I would like to get my skills up to level where I can produce something of similar quality “in house”, but in all honesty, I don’t think I’ll ever get myself to this level:

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks for the great feedback, Victor, along with some useful links. I really like your Serpent Rising clip – did the footage come from viddyoze? Also the rcdavies one – good examples for me to work towards. As regards mine, you put your finger on the points I know I need to improve. It took me so long to figure out the rest of it that I skipped going deeper into the transitions and the text display. Premiere Pro is pretty powerful and to assimilate it all will take quite a while. I consider the clip just good enough to put out there, but still a long way from professional (which I’ll never be, of course, but maybe I can get closer).

      Liked by 4 people

      • victoracquista says:

        I think you did quite well for just beginning. Most of the footage I used came from Viddyoze but I was able to customize the content within the video. They have a much greater library than I have access to with my basic account. I might buy up to a higher account in the future.

        I’ve been researching some of the links you provided and actually submitted an ad to Trailershelf. The company running that (Wildbound PR) happened to be the company I hired to promote my sci fi novel a few years back. They are good folks.

        I’m going to investigate Premiere Pro. I think Rob Davies used an Adobe video editing platform. I remember him telling me it was rather pricey. One of the concerns I have about investing in a powerful video editing program is how frequently I would use it and does that justify the cost? The learning curve is another kettle of fish. How best to spend time and money seems to be a conundrum of marketing and promotion.

        Recently, I have returned to writing and find it’s more in my comfort zone. Still, how best to devote time, energy, and money to marketing and promotion remains as terrain I am still trying to navigate. To quote Battlestar Galactica, “So say we all.”

        Liked by 4 people

        • Yes, I think we’re all more comfortable writing than marketing, if only because we’re pretty sure that by persevering we’ll get close to the desired result. Whereas marketing, I flounder around a lot more.
          The full Creative Cloud is indeed pricey but it can be shared with one other person / computer. I pay around $20 a month which is still probably too much for the use I make of it, but I do use Photoshop a lot and now Preimere Pro, so I’m reasonably happy.

          Liked by 4 people

  5. As I was nearing the end of your post, I was afraid that you weren’t going to share the video! I enjoyed it; it was very atmospheric. The splashes of red work really well. I think you’re right about 90 seconds being about the longest one of these should go. I’ve watched some that go on for as long as three minutes attempting to summarize the plot. If you don’t mind a suggestion, I would have liked to have seen the book cover for a few seconds longer to imprint the image in my mind, so that if I’m looking for a book and see your cover, I’ll associate it with the trailer I watched.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Nicely done, Curtis! I echo GD (love the hard-bitten face of your protagonist), Victor (his criticism re: the fonts & transitions), and Liz (the splashes of red).

      One other niggling criticism (since you asked for it): Isn’t “out of the blue” a cliche? Is there another way of saying that? “Divorce hit hard.” “Divorce–she never saw it coming.” Something like that. (Most minor of minor quibbles.)

      Overall, I quite like it!

      Liked by 6 people

  6. mimispeike says:

    Curtis, I went back and watched your trailer again, and I watched the R.C. Davies one. Davies’ is slicker, but it doesn’t dig down into personality, which is which turns me on. (I call it street-level emotions.) That big-picture atmospheric stuff does nothing for me at all. I am not itching to read that book. You’ve done a much better job in that regard.

    The woman you present as Magali, she is a brilliant choice. Her face speaks volumes. I identify with her immediately.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Curtis, I agree with Mimi. I found the slick trailer entertaining & I can see it selling books. But, the readers who like your Magali woman are more likely to connect with the book than readers who are entertained. A famous study of the old, highly entertaining Alka-Seltzer commercials -“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”- found that people loved the entertaining commercials but most couldn’t name the product.

      Liked by 6 people

      • I’m always a little baffled by advertising in general. Like you say, I often remember the ad but not the name of the product so I wonder what the point of it all is. On the other hand, it works on our subconscious and without it, brands would be invisble. So I guess for them it’s a must. For my own marketing there are probably more effective ways of spending my time but it’s more enjoyable than most.

        Liked by 4 people

  7. I didn’t see the mention of Vidsplay for free video clips. Also, I take random video and store so I have my own free video…especially since I only need 5 – 10 seconds. It’s obviously not professional trailers, but I go for silliness. One of my first trailers was for The Zombie Next Door. which only the beach scene is purchased. My newest trailer for Reno Red is all my own video. and all my actors are free since they’re my kids and husband. haha I also used Photoshop to put together the clips for Reno Red. Take care.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. I enjoyed the trailer! Now I want to make my own! Someday.
    The only part that felt “off” to me was the nameplate on the door for the PI. It doesn’t warrant a change.
    The video is intriguing. I love, love the face of Magali. I’m rooting for her already.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it. Yes, I wasn’t happy with the name plate either – you can see it’s been stuck on afterwards – but I didn’t find a decent picture and my Photoshop skills are limited!

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s