How to make a book trailer

The Birth Of a Book Trailer

I knew I needed a book trailer to help promote my debut YA novel Winnemucca. First of all, I love movies. Heck, I live in Los Angeles. And, I worked in the entertainment industry. I knew the power of the trailer. Plus, how much fun would making my own trailer be?

But still, I didn’t know how to make one. Hmmm. I’d incorporated videos in my designs for years at E! Entertainment Television and at The Los Angeles Times. But they were provided to me by amazing teams of award winning videographers. And the photos I worked with were shot by Pulitzer Prize winning photographers. Who did I think I was trying to do this all on my own?

Well, that’s the best part. We aren’t on our own! Writers are some of the most generous people. And so I kept my eye open for trailers that I loved. Enter the wonderful writer Rebecca Rasmussen [@birdsisters] author of The Bird Sisterspublished by Crown/Random House. I was surprised to find out she made her own trailer. Rebecca was very generous with her support and advise. Thanks Rebecca!

So after a load of conversations I managed to conjure up a recipe for book trailers:

  • iMovie application.
  • A killer soundtrack.
  • stock videos.
  • stock photography.

and WaaaaLaaa! You have your book trailer.

A Recipe For Book Trailers

iMovie is a very easy application to work with. It’s drag and drop so no worries there. And it comes with every Mac.

A killer soundtrack is so important. I don’t mind book trailers where the author reads their work. There is something very pure about that. But, like I said, I love movies. Music that evokes your story is compelling and can draw a viewer into the trailer in a unique way. I used Most of the audio clips are very reasonable priced. [I splurged on this and purchased sound for $60 because I loved it and am a music junkie.]

Stock Videos. I’ve seen a lot of trailers that try to tell the story with static images and scrolling or rolling text. It’s a great effect. But, the medium is meant for video. And, if you don’t have any that you’ve shot yourself, stock video sites are great ways to add some punch to your trailer. Sites I like include Both have great selections and great ways to save multiple videos for your consideration so if you are busy, like who isn’t, you can come back later and make your final cut. Again, most videos are very reasonably priced, but watch it, some aren’t. And don’t worry if your video has a soundtrack with it. iMovie let’s you separate the audio channel out and you can use whatever audio you want with any video. My average purchase for a video was $15.

Stock Photography. I use the same sites I recommended above to find images for book covers and for book trailers. Again, stock photography is reasonably priced. But be sure you check prices.

As always, have a budget in mind and stick to it, mine was under $90. It’s really important to get the word out about your book, but what’s more important is how much fun you have doing it!

The Book Trailer

Winnemucca is a young-adult small-town fairy tale about a teenage girl awakening to her own intuition on an enchanted road trip. One lie will change Ginny’s life forever. The truth will will set her free.

Over To You

Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips or tricks from making your own book trailers? If you have anything to add to this article, or even just want to share your own book trailers, then please add it to the comments below…

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time…


Where have I been?

Around the world, in ninety days.

A research trip for a screenplay that was supposed to be five weeks long where I traveled to Australia and Indonesia turned into so much more. Thanks for your patience while I was away. I’m in the process of understanding all the changes that I’ve been going through and putting words to the experience. Surprisingly I’ve had no jet lag when I returned nearly three weeks ago and am instead working very hard on the screenplay and some film documentaries too. There’s so much to process. The trip was life affirming as well as life changing. You’ve been great supporters of my work and I’m thrilled to have you on this journey with me. One of the places I least expected to go was Mt. Everest, and as fate would have it, while I was there the worst disaster in the history of the storied mountain unfolded. An avalanche took the lives of 16 sherpas. They were family members and friends of the sherpas who trekked with me on the Everest trail. Sometimes stories come to you. This was perhaps the biggest story I’d ever been caught up in and it influenced my entire experience in Nepal, which started off as a humanitarian trip to provide dental care to “yakland” kids (children who live above 10,000 feet) some who are orphaned (due to the ten year civil war there) and some victims of human trafficking. This is but a small a window into one of the unexpected, but wonderful stops on my journey.

I haven’t updated my about page, because I really like the fact that I had written there that one of my dreams was to travel to Indonesia. And it’s so nice when dreams come true. I don’t think I’ll update it with my new dreams yet. It’s nice to savor and celebrate moments like this. *pops the cork off the champagne bottle* *pours you a glass* Now about that stand up comedy routine…




Trailer park Thursdays — What I learned making 13 on Halloween’s book trailer

The trailer for 13 on Halloween was the second trailer I produced. I learned a lot when I produced my first book trailer for Winnemucca, a small-town fairy tale. Winnemucca’s trailer was a bit long. The standard seems to be right around a minute and a half at the most. It’s crazy how long two and a half minutes can seem. The minute difference really matters to readers/viewers. I’ve been doing a lot of presentations lately on my trailers and wanted to share this one with you because, as you know, I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to Halloween. I love it. I always have. And 13 on Halloween is free everywhere, so if you like reading about a girl who gets a birthday gift that’s literally out of this world, on her 13th birthday which just happens to be on Halloween, you might want to check it out.  When I produce trailers, they help me see my stories in new ways. My process so far involves writing the novel, then designing the cover, then producing the book’s trailer. I love this creative process because it reminds me of a crescendo in music. I begin with all the characters in my mind, then I get to “meet them” visually for the first time in the process of designing the book’s cover. And finally I get to experience the world in a bigger way when I add music and live action footage to breathe even more life into the story.

When my girls were little, I liked to serve dessert or breakfast for dinner sometimes. I loved it when their schools had upside-down days, or inside-out days. I’ve been thinking it would be fun to do the same type of thing with my creative process. Take that crescendo and reverse it. Start with a trailer, then a cover, then write the story. It’s fun to think about. Mixing things up. Trying something new creatively. But, whatever I do, I need to keep it under a minute and a half! LOL!

Monday Muse: The Sea Otter Classic––Redefine your limits


This Monday I’m inspired by the Sea Otter Classic bicycle races I went to over the weekend at Laguna Seca. There’s a motto FOX, a bicycle shock manufacturer, has––Redefine your limits it’s a fabulous way to start this week. Thinking about what’s beyond our limits. It’s something I like to write about. My characters try to redefine their limits. But, it’s not something I’ve really thought about lately in terms of myself.

What’s beyond your limits?

All of the riders were an inspiration, especially my daughter’s boyfriend, an enduro bike racer. The racers’ dedication and love of the sport is a joy. It’s fun to think about what lies beyond the things I think I can handle. That there might be something more I might try. Something more difficult than I ever thought I could ever pull off. I’m going to redefine my limits this week. I need the extra encouragement to meet deadlines, for sure. But creatively I think I’ll adjust my writing shocks so that I can navigate some steeper, gnarlier trails than I’m used to. Take more risks and thrill in the zesty downhill ride.

What’ a limit you want to redefine?

What I’m listening to as I edit this morning: Could I’ve been so blind by The Black Crowes


The great escape, measuring time & The San Francisco Book Review

I’m back home after unplugging for a five day vacation with the family up to a lake in the Sierras. We had a blast. It’s so good to travel up to the mountains again. That lake is like a second home to us and a place my hubby’s family has been going to for generations.

My daughter and I were able to sneak away from the pack for a while and we started to write a little fairy tale about the lake. It’s the first time I’ve ever written up there. We were sitting on the docks, looking out at the water and she wrote a paragraph and then I wrote a paragraph and before you knew it, we had a wonderful little story brewing. It incorporated a lot of the mythology of the lake, or what we imagined the mythology to be 🙂 , and includes some of our favorite spots too. I can’t believe I haven’t written there before. I guess maybe it’s not what my brain wants to do at 7000 ft? It’s been years since we’ve vacationed there. We keep asking ourselves why it’s taken so long to travel back to the cabin. A place we’d once gone to two or three times every summer. And then it became so obvious. It hit me at unexpected times. In my search for the table extensions, I opened the wrong closet and found his coats still hanging there. Groggy, on an early morning I opened a drawer in the bathroom and found his razor and overnight bag. Ray’s been gone for about six years now. I can still hear his voice up there. I still expect him to come around the fire at night. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure his spirit does. Ray’s been a big inspiration in my writing. He finds his way into many of my books. So, when I returned home to find the 4.5/5 star San Francisco Book Review of Transfer Student. I smiled. What author isn’t pleased that her writing is well received, right? But my happiness doubled because it came from a different place. It brought more memories of Ray and made my smile grow. See, years ago when I was writing the first drafts of the story, I was trying to come up with the language of the Rethan people. I was having a terrible time trying to come up with how Rethan’s measure time. Specifically, I was hung up on inventing their word for year. I ended up calling it a ray. Here’s a link to an interview where I talk more about the behind-the-scenes inspiration for the story. 

I hope you all are getting a chance to escape to a favorite spot this summer. Whether it’s sneaking away to your favorite spot in your garden to read or write or plant something beautiful or just walk around your neighborhood or hang out with friends. Escaping sure is fun.

YA Indie Carnival: A recipe for Nasty YA Characters

Whew, I’m a little late with my post this Friday. Hope you all are having a fantastic beginning to your weekend. I love Friday afternoons at home with a good book 🙂 They are so rare!

Today we get nasty at the carnival and I have to say that I love nasties in YA fiction. They are fascinating. I needed a little help beefing up my nasty in my WIP and got inspired by a great book The Blue Fairy Book. Have you read it? My daughter gave it to me for my birthday last month and I finally got to reading it over the past few weeks. I found a fabulous little story in The Blue Fairy Book called The History of Jack The Giant Killer. OOOO! Isn’t that a GREAT title? And I kind of made a recipe for nasty YA Characters based on what happened in the story:


1 Hero: Jack

1 nasty [terrible enemy]: A giant [add liberally, the more the better]

1 terrible place : Gloomy cavern at the top of a mountain

1 crazy quest: to kill the giant

Story combines the above to have the hero set some sort of trap for the nasty. The hero becomes separated from anyone or anything that might help him/her but ends up trapping/killing/taking care of the nasty. Other nasties seek revenge for their lost buddy and take the hero to a creepy lair. Usually the nasty puts the hero to some sort of test/torture. The hero outsmarts the nasty and ends up saving not only himself, but usually the entire world too or ends some sort of enchantment or  does something that’s never been done before. YAY!

It’s fun looking at stories to see how they’re structured. Especially when nasties are involved 🙂 So, who would I nominate for consideration in the YA Nasty category? So many come to mind. Well, there’s this the man who shall not be named right? Ultimate bad guy. Here’s a few of my favorite nasties: In The Dust of 100 Dogs by A. S. King, the dust and a pirate are the bad guys. GREAT BOOK. I really enjoyed this book. In Feed by M. T. Anderson the enemy is the “feed.” Weird I just picked two books named after their nasties. Is there a pattern here? Of course sometimes our own worst enemy is ourself and this is something I like to explore in my books. What do you think? Who’s your favorite YA NASTY?

Now check out what the other carnis have to say about NASTY YA Characters here!

Here’s what’s new at the YA Indie Carnival this week!

Next week? Fiction Fireworks!

The inspirations & challenges behind TRANSFER STUDENT, an intergalactic tale of beauty & the geek

I wrote the first draft of TRANSFER STUDENT in 2006 after my father-in-law died. It was a crazy, sad time. I was working at the Los Angeles Times on the re-opening of the Griffith Observatory [it had been closed for five years for renovations] and we were back-and-forth between LA and Fresno [a four hour drive from LA], more and more frequently as my father-in-law got worse and worse, eventually ending up on life support. His name was Ray. I named the Reathan word for “year” in his honor.

After Ray passed, just hours after, it was nighttime and my husband Joe, his mom and I all sat out on my mother-in-law’s patio and looked at the stars. She said she knew Ray was up there, one of the stars. And that’s all it took. I had the beginnings of a story about souls that traveled, that starjumped, through space. And I wanted to explore the idea of a parallel planet similar to Earth, a sister planet. Retha is that planet and an anagram for Earth.

There were other things that inspired the story too. Los Angeles was a major inspiration because I raised my kids there and I love the city. So I knew that the female protagonist would be from LA. And since I worked in entertainment for a time, I knew Beverly Hills would be a lot of fun to write about.

I also wrote about places I had more of a connection to––Griffith Park and Zuma beach. And lastly, a news story that unfolded over the years further inspired the plot as I wrote and rewrote Transfer Student.

This same news story is also why I decided to tell Transfer Student from two POVs, a teenage girl and a teenage boy alien. The news story profiled the hostilities surrounding a man who announced he would be having an operation to become a woman. Because he was an official in a municipality this was a very public, personal announcement. It made national news at the time. It captured my attention for a variety of reasons and I knew that I wanted to write a story about how the vessel that a soul inhabits doesn’t define it. A story that’s been written perhaps a million times, but I wanted to write about in a way that explored many things: what it means to love; what it means to be a boy or a girl; what it means to risk everything to become who you really are. Transfer Student is a classic fish-out-of-water story that I’ve written as a love letter to teens and also as a way for all of us to see a piece of ourselves in everyone we meet, no matter our differences, no matter what planet we call home.

As far as the actual writing of the story I had a few challenges. I had never written in a male POV. My early drafts really show that weakness. I always wrote Ashley in the first person. But, I’d always write Rhoe from the third person, as if I was literarily tip-toeing up to the first person present that he’s written in today.

I have no idea how many drafts I’ve written of Transfer Student. But I do know that in order to get to first person present I had to write in the third and past too so I could be sure that the first person present was the only way to tell the story I wanted to tell. There is nothing more immediate than first person present, in my humble opinion. And I want the reader to be on the journey as it happens. To feel and discover with the characters. I want the reader to starjump with the characters and experience the longing and awkwardness that comes when you try to figure out a new world. There was only one tense that would do––first person present.

I hope Transfer Student sounds like a story you’d like to read.


YA Indie Carnival: Location, location, location–where we like to go in books

Today the carnis are blogging about where we love to go in books. Like most readers, I love to go to places I don’t expect. I love to see regular places in new ways and feel transformed. Setting is powerful and I like when it’s used like a character. I try to do this in my own writing. Some of my favorite books have done this so well like THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman, and AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman. In CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff, setting is used to help ramp up the tension and take us to WWII Russia. Cheri Lasota take us to the beautiful Azores in ARTEMIS RISING. Who will ever look at a train station the same way after HUGO CABERET by Brain Selznick? These are just a handful of fabulous reads that take me where I love to go in books. How about you?

In WINNEMUCCA, Ginny’s road blood ripens on an enchanted road trip which begins when her feet start asking her questions she doesn’t want to hear and take her to a place she never expected to go to find her answers. She’s walking along Highway 33, a deserted two-lane road in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley:

I covered my ears to drown out their trouble-making questions, but all I heard were my own.

What happened to Bobby and me?

Why was I listening to my feet?

Had I lost my mind?

A dirt devil twisted over a fallow field in the tired sun and spun my thoughts backwards to the second in Tar Canyon when Bobby’s eyes met mine and I knew only death would separate us. My Big, Fat, Lie-of-a-Life churned in my gut like the dirt devil. I doubled over, more alone than ever before, and I tied myself into a knot so tight I could hardly breathe. I’d been wrong about Bobby. Wrong about a lot of things.

When I caught my breath and lifted my head, the sun ricocheted into my eyes. Devil’s Rope twisted around the top of the chain-link fences that secured Avenal State Prison. I had no idea why my feeet marched me there. It didn’t look like the kind of place a practically married, straight-A student would find the answers her feet demanded. But the ripening like to surprise me.

In TRANSFER STUDENT we see our world through the eyes of a boy alien named Rhoe and see Rhoe’s home planet, Retha, through the eyes of Ashley, a Beverly Hills surfer after they swap lives when Rhoe’s science fair experiment goes wrong:

Ashley decides to airboard to save Rhoe’s reputation even though she’ll risk her own life on planet Retha, a parallel planet to Earth with lower gravity and a little less technology:

Yuke lets go of my hand. I walk up to the launch platform with him and the two Astrals in our heat. We all shake hands. The same handshake Yuke taught me before. For fortune. I still feel Yuke’s hand in mine when I catch him whispering to the other riders.

The muscles in my arms tense. I place my board over my head and run off the platform. Yuke launches right after, followed by the other two Astrals. My feet dangle and I gasp, caught in the gentle cradle of a rising wind. I tug at the board to bring it close and whirl around, nowhere near as graceful as the golden-sparkle riders of the first heat. I set my frog-feet down on my board, adjusting the suction as I lean to any side that pulls me hardest. Dizzy, I have a hard time knowing up from down, like when I get munched int the surf. Continue reading YA Indie Carnival: Location, location, location–where we like to go in books

Transfer Student Book Trailer!

I hope you enjoy the TRANSFER STUDENT book trailer! I’m learning a little bit with every trailer I make. Producing book trailers is part of my writing process and I really enjoy creating them because I get to see my stories in new ways.