August 24

Book Trailers

When is a book a film but not a feature movie? When it is a book trailer!
Year 8 & 9 English classes have been making book trailers of books of their choice.

“The aim of a trailer is to create a sense of the book’s atmosphere, and ultimately, draw the viewer in much like a blurb. ‘Don’t try and tell the story of the book,’ says Justin Ractliffe from Random House publishers. ‘Work on creating a feeling and emotion that you want to engender in your audience.'” [from ‘Judging a book by its trailer’ by Andrew Wrathall IN ‘Junior Bookseller & Publisher’, Term 3, 2010 p.10]


What makes a trailer great?

1. Good music
Trailers are short films – they’re usually two minutes or less, and they have a definite linear progression like any other film. Because they are so short, the potential for good sound design to influence the audience is much larger than for a feature length film. Since songs also have their beginnings, middles and ends, they are particularly well-suited, as most popular songs are not much longer than the trailer itself and can be easily edited down (removing refrains, etc.) A good song can really pull all the disparate snippets of scenes together into one cohesive whole.

2. Good pacing
As with films, a trailer should also carry a start, middle and an end. Trailers – even trailers without good music – are better for being designed like little films, building to one or more “beats”. Often these can lead to a climax, but the individual beats are more important. Particularly for action or adventure movies (but also for comedies), the trailer should quickly get us up to speed/level of excitement about the film, and then can spend the rest of the trailer maintaining that excitement. The trailer needs to clearly tell us the title and author of the book (if not at the beginning, at least at the end of the trailer), where it is available, as well as give credit for the music and images.

3. Keeps secrets!
This one cannot be stressed enough – a trailer should get you interested in reading the book without telling you the whole story. Bad trailers tell you most of the story so that there is no surprise and nothing to look forward to when/if you actually read the book. Great trailers make the audience curious about a story without giving anything away.

4. A clear vision
Good trailers must clearly communicate some essence of the book they advertise. Trailers are made to highlight what is good from the book and to downplay its flaws. It should be properly set up, giving viewers a peak of the story’s promise, but at the same time keeping them anticipating what they should expect, should they read the novel.  A bad trailer will be “all over the place”: trying to do too much, or by cramming simply too many characters/too much information into the trailer. Like a good music video, a trailer should have one primary concept/idea it is trying to convey.

The ideal trailer has all of these: good music, a clear vision, good pacing, and doesn’t tell us the whole story. It’s a teaser that makes us want to race out and read the book.

Take a look at Tristan Bancks’ page How to Make a Book Trailer. it has lots of handy tips and great examples of good trailers, as well as links to programs and resources to help you make your trailer.

Adapted from: Harold 2007, What Makes a Trailer Great, Fanpop, Accessed 24 October 2012,


Here’s the process we use to make our trailers:

* In pairs, read a book of your choice. (The Aquinas Library will have two copies of each book.)

* Study the difference between film trailers and book trailers and examples of each.

Research book trailers in depth to see what devices they use to get the audience’s attention.

* Storyboard your trailer, showing the sequence of frames. Here’s an example of part of the storyboard of the trailer for ‘Stolen’:



* Brainstorm marketing devices. In small groups, discuss which marketing devices would attract the target audience – images, sound, pace of shots etc.

Here is a video to teach you how to use iMovie:

* Learn about copyright and the use of Creative Commons.
Here’s a website which guides you to copyright free material:
Sites for finding material for Reusing or Remixing

Choose music and images for your trailer, or decide which images you need to shoot.
These sites may also be useful as sources:

Search Creative Commons for images, sound and music you may legally use:

Here’s a free music archive site:

Royalty free music:


For sound effects, use Sound bible:

or FreeSFX:

Make your own music with Jam Studio: Another alternative is to use Garageband on your MacBook.* Digital movie cameras and still imagescan be used to take photographs/movie clips for our book trailers, or movies can be taken using the MacBook camera.*

Keep in mind the marking criteria for your film trailer:


High Performance


The trailer flows very smoothly and captivates the attention of the target audience. It compels the viewer to read the book.

(Storyline or plot)

Key scenes or themes from the book have been creatively presented. These make the content of the book clear to the viewer.


Images create a distinct atmosphere or tone that matches the different parts of the story.


The voice track is clean and fully understandable. The pace fits the storyline. The viewer is always engaged.


The music stirs an emotional response that matches the storyline.

Video Editing 

Editing demonstrates a full working knowledge of the software. Many effects were incorporated and used effectively.

(Awareness of Audience)

Strong awareness of the audience in the design. Can clearly explain why they chose the vocabulary, audio, and graphics to fit the target audience.

(Interest level)

A very exciting presentation. It grabbed the attention of the viewer with suspense, humour or intrigue from the beginning.


The presentation was the right length to keep/get the viewer involved. 1 – 2 min.

High Performance criteria only shown, adapted for a rubric by Donna Baumbach

Book Trailers for Readers is another great website that talks you through the process of making a book trailer.

Here are some book trailers submitted for the Queensland Readers’ Cup competition:

Trash‘ by Andy Mulligan. Book trailer by St. Andrew’s College, Sunshine Coast, 2011.

Trash‘ by Andy Mulligan. Book trailer by Padua College, 2011.

Shiver‘ by Maggie Stiefvater. Book trailer by Townsville Grammar, 2011. (One of the students wrote and performed the music. Artwork is also original.)

Shiver‘ by Maggie Stiefvater. Book trailer by St. Edmund’s College, 2011.

Six impossible things‘ by Fiona Wood. Book trailer by Warwick State High School, 2011.

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