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08/11/2015 – 8:55am Laura Baker

Movie ClapboardThe purpose of a book trailer is to get viewers excited about purchasing and reading your book.  During the It’s a Partnership: Teaching Authors About Self-Promotion session at the June 2015 AAUP conference, the University of Washington Press shared a handout with the audience with tips on how to create a professional looking video book trailer.  University of Washington Press provides this handout to authors to help guide them through the strategy planning process of producing a book trailer, whether on their own or with the help of a friend or hired professional.

Reprinted with permission, below are eight tips from the University of Washington Press on how to produce a professional looking book trailer. 

  • Start by writing a script that highlights some of the most interesting and accessible aspects of your book research.  You might also consider posing questions that will pique the viewers’ curiosity and make them want to read the book.  The script should be around 250-300 words for a 2-3 minute video.  Another option would be to write 2-3 questions and have someone interview you about your book.  Some questions to consider for either the script or an interview: What motivated your research?  How is it related to current events, social and /or environmental concerns? What can readers gain from reading your book?

  • Select images or video footage relevant to your book.  The ideal video will feature a combination of you speaking on camera and still photographs or video footage related to your book topic, although images with voiceover would be acceptable if you prefer not to appear on camera.  You might also select music to open or close the video.  Fair use should cover images used in the book, but be mindful of copyright restrictions when selecting both audio and visual material for your trailer.

  • When thinking about the audience for your video trailer, assume that most viewers will be educated and informed individuals but who know relatively little about your specific topic.  So, use accessible language and avoid jargon specific to your field but don’t feel the need to “dumb down” your topic.

  • If you plan to self-produce: Filmmaking equipment and software should be available to most university faculty.  If you’re not familiar with these resources at your university, check with your campus library to learn about their equipment rental program and video editing equipment.  For an even simpler option, most Mac computers come equipped with cameras and video editing software.

  • If you would like to hire someone to produce a trailer for you: You could hire a professional company to create a book trailer, but plan on spending upwards of $1000.  You might also consider friends, family members, or students who have some filming experience.

Some tips for your on-camera time:

  • Choose a simple background: a book case in your office, a plain wall, or an outdoor setting.  Avoid having room corners, doors, too much movement, or other distracting visual elements appear on screen with you.

  • Set your chair at least 10 feet in front of whatever your background is (or more if possible).  Doing so will give you a shallow depth of field, putting you more in focus than whatever is behind you.

  • If seated, cut the frame relatively close around your head and shoulders, leaving just a little room between the top of your head and the upper edge of the frame.  Position yourself a little off center.  If you want to avoid this sort of on-screen close-up, zoom out a little more so that your entire upper torso is visible, but still position yourself to the right or left of the camera.

For more takeaways from the 2015 AAUP annual conference see our related blog post Tips to Help Your Book Creation and Production Stay on Track.