What a long strange week it’s been! My book launch for CAMBION’S LAW was a wild ride, though I’m starting to feel the comedown now (note to self: do NOT keep looking at my sales rank). My publisher has assured me the release was a strong success by their metrics, for which I’m extremely relieved and grateful. And some other good things maaaay have happened behind the scenes that I can’t really talk about yet.
Anyway, I’m supposed to celebrate my accomplishments or something, so here:
Basically the week was a whole whirlwind of emotions that I still haven’t fully processed. I will probably post more about that at some later date, but I don’t really have my thoughts assembled in coherent fashion today. Instead, I’m going to talk about…BOOK TRAILERS!
Several people have asked how I created the trailers I’ve been putting out for CAMBION’S LAW and expressed interest in a tutorial, so I’m going to share my process here. Please note that I have no video production or graphics training and everything I do in this realm is self-taught. If you have tips or tricks I’ve missed, or if I get something wrong, please share.
Why make trailers for your book?
Well, in short, because it’s fun. It can be a lot of work to put one together so if it’s not something you enjoy, it’s absolutely not necessary for marketing.
So far, making trailers have been my favorite way of creating marketing materials for my books. I don’t know whether it actually sells copies, but it’s fun and helps me get excited, so it’s worth it to me even though it can be time-consuming. Basically, the more creative I can be while making self-promo materials, the more I enjoy it. I have a visual imagination and tend toward a cinematic writing style, so it feels natural to approach trailers like a movie preview that uses text instead of a dramatic voiceover. It also allows me to make Instagram Reels and TikTok vids without showing my face/appearing on video, things that make me incredibly self-conscious. If anything, I’m meant to be behind the camera, not in front of it.
Navigating Canva’s video tools
Canva is a powerful graphics tool that has built-in video templates and formats sized for various platforms. It is free to use, though unlocking its full library of images, videos, and audio tracks requires a Pro account.
Using the “Create a Design” function, you can create “mobile videos,” which fit a phone screen (1080 pixels x 1920 pixels) or “Facebook videos” which are a more standard 1080 by 1080 size. I have played around with both but prefer the second size because it can still be posted as a TikTok or Instagram Reel and in fact any text may show up better because it is less likely to get covered by the platforms’ logos or captions.
I recommend starting with one of the “video” formats because they will give you access to Canva’s video editing interface. Other formats not labeled as “videos” will provide a slide show-like interface which I find more difficult to use, though it’s worth playing around to see what works best for you.
You can drag the edges of the video frames in the bottom ribbon to change how much of the clip plays. Many clips on Canva are between 10-20 seconds long, with some as long as 45 seconds. Since most places I want to post my videos have a limit on length, I usually use just 2-3 seconds of a clip. I also play around with where the clip starts and ends because sometimes there is a certain part that works better or will provide a spot for a musical sting (an eye blink or gesture, or a certain framing that I prefer).
The plus sign allows you to add additional clips and you can change the order of the clips by dragging and dropping them in the bottom ribbon. As you add clips it will show them in order here.
Planning your video & picking a theme
As I have mentioned before here, I am a pantser. True to form, I don’t do too much planning before starting a video, but I usually start with an overall theme or focus. Here are some ideas I’ve used for video themes and structure:
- A narrative summary, similar to a video pitch, that communicates character, goal, motivation, conflict, and stakes.
- Introduce a particular important character or tease their journey.
- Choose favorite quotes from the book and pick clips to go with them.
- Make a video for a central relationship.
- Envision your book as a Netflix series or blockbuster and create a trailer for it in that style.
You can get inspiration by watching different styles of movie trailers. A preview for an action movie will look different than one for a rom-com. Remember those generic parody movie trailers that went around a few years ago? Those are actually fantastic guides for creating dramatic videos.
Finding and choosing clips
In Canva’s lefthand ribbon, you can search for video clips in the “Video” tab. I have a Pro account, which gives a deeper library of pics and videos, but there are plenty of free clips available as well. Finding the right clip is usually an exercise in trial and error. I will often have a specific image or idea in mind that I want to convey, but may have to use several search terms before I find something that I like.
You may want to consider color scheme and vibe when picking out what clip to use, as well as how they work together and flow as a whole. I will search for clips that correspond with a certain meaningful moment from the book, with a character, with setting, with an emotion, or with symbolic motifs.
One thing that makes a big difference to me is the quality of movement in a clip. A lot of Canva clips are sped up or time delay videos, especially when they show locations or landscapes. This can increase dramatic effect with a sense of racing against time. But a slower clip can create a seductive, tense build-up. That’s one of the main things I looked for when making the sexy Ariel-centric video “Just Incubus Things.” All of the clips I used have a slow tempo so even though they are only 2-3 seconds in length, they lend a languid, sensual energy that ended up working extremely well with a short clip of KALEO’s “Way down We Go” available in TikTok’s sound library.
Also note that Canva has some helpful text templates that can add pizazz, like the one I used in the title frame in the above video.
Be flexible about visual details
It’s easy to get hung up on picking images and video that matches the images in your head, especially when it comes to clips with people who are “playing the role” of your character. My best advice is to be flexible around getting the details exactly right.
For instance, I try to find images that feature women with dark hair when I am portraying my MC Lily, though the models don’t always look like the version of her in my head. Or instead of using a direct image of a character, I might use metaphors or symbolism associated with that character, as in the Ariel video with the golden-eyed lion clip. You can also use clips that represent certain pivotal moments, either literally or figuratively.
Another trick: you can crop or shorten clips to pick out the parts that work from those that don’t. I have used this to stop a clip before it pans up to show a model’s face. It’s not a perfect solution, but it can help if your “actor” looks especially wrong for their role.
Using animations on still images
If you are really having trouble finding video clips that fit your vision, you can use an animation (I like Breathe) with a still image. The Breathe animation creates a subtle zoom-in effect that adds dimension and movement to a still element.
I used the Breathe trick in this early iteration of a teaser trailer.
Sound and musical clips add SO MUCH to a video. The sound you choose can completely change the mood that the images evoke, and some sound files work far better than others depending on the tempo and vibe of each individual clip, how fast you are moving from frame to frame/shot to shot, etc.
Canva provides sound licenses and has a fairly large library of musical clips available in its “Audio” tab on the left-hand menu. For my CAMBION’S LAW videos, I searched audio tracks with keywords like “dark,” “epic,” “electronica,” “emotional,” “sexy.” There aren’t that many keywords used in the Canva audio library so you may need to go through quite a few tracks until you find one that conveys the emotion you’re looking for and fits the tempo of your video.
When you add a track, click on it to add it to your design. You can use the slider to pick where it starts and ends, or splice one or more tracks together. Theoretically you could also layer audio, though I haven’t managed to do that in a way that sounds right to me.
The three dots on the right-hand side open a menu which will allow you to “Adjust” the sound, pick what portion of it plays during the video, or delete the track altogether. Playing with the audio settings in Canva is by far the step that takes me the most time to complete, because I get very intense about making sure the music is in sync with the video.
At this point I usually also fiddle with the length of the clips (you can edit them down to tenths of a second) to help the music track line up with the transitions. My long-suffering spouse has to listen to the same track for hours as I hyperfocus on getting the beat to drop juuuuust right.
There is a self-recording feature in Canva as well, so if you feel inclined to do a voiceover, you can create your own tracks. I haven’t experimented with this but I bet it could be used to fantastic effect by someone with voice talent!
Adjust your approach to your platform of choice.
Note that TikTok videos that use sounds from TikTok’s sound library seem to receive far more views than sounds imported from Canva. I’m not sure why this is. It may be because of potential copyright issues, or just that TikTok wants to encourage users to interact with this function of their app. As a result, I’ve taken to creating versions of my videos with and without sound for use on different platforms. TikTok can have an almost spooky ability to suggest tracks that go well with your video, so if you are dipping your toes into the waters of the Tok, be sure to play around with both the recommended sounds and trending sounds.
However, if you post a video made on TikTok to Facebook, sometimes it will flag the sound as copyright protected in some areas. This means it might be better to use Canva’s licensed sounds there. Canva provides a one-time use license when you download a video using its audio tracks, protecting you from the risk of DMCA takedown requests for copyright material.
Instagram also provides a native sound library for Reels that includes short clips of popular music, although I haven’t found the same change in audience when using native Instagram audio. There is sound recognition on Instagram as well, so if you upload a TikTok video with a popular track to Reels, Instagram will archive it with other videos using that track.
Questions? Have something to add?
Let me know in the comment section below!
Also, I just want to say thank you to everyone who supported my release last week! I’m so grateful for every share, comment, and like, even more so to everyone who has BOUGHT my book (still floored by this!), and especially to everyone who has reviewed! You made my first book launch really special and I appreciate you all so much.