How to Create a Trailer

The latest promotional buzz in eBook circles seems to be trailers. We’ve all seen them not only on YouTube and other online venues, but they are now appearing among network television commercials as well. I just finished my very first effort and you can see it here:

Creating a short video clip as a trailer for your latest publication requires a few extra skills that most writers haven’t developed, but it’s really not that difficult to learn. Since my promotional budget is about nil for this year, I’ve had to dive in and teach myself. What follows is a series of notes that may help you to avoid some of my errors and give you a little jump start on the process.

This tutorial will have four parts. The first will deal with the software tools involved, the second will go into more detail on the individual component creation process. The post-production assembly and editing will be the focus of part three. Disseminating your work to the world will be our final discussion.

Good luck and be sure to let us all know when your first one is posted!

Part One – Tools

As you’ve probably come to realize, there are many different software tools available for your computer. The one you’re probably most familiar with is a Word Processing program, like Microsoft Word(tm) or one of the free Open Source programs like Open Office or AbiWord.

In the making of a trailer, we will use several Open Source Software tools.

NOTE: Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in. Most Open Source software is free for the downloading. Detailed information on Open Source can be found at:

GIMP for Still Pictures

The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a very powerful graphic editor that is on a par with Adobe Photoshop(tm). There are tons of free video tutorials and documentation as well as forums where you can post questions for specific problems. Here’s a few, quick tips:

Let’s start with a digital photograph you’ve taken with your own camera. Go ahead and load one of those old family group photos with GIMP. It should show you two windows. The larger one contains your photo and the smaller is a menu with a series of icons and the title, Toolbox.

Before we go any further, do a Save As from the pull-down menu and give your picture another name. As a safety precaution, ALWAYS WORK WITH A DUPLICATE FILE. That way, if you really mess it up, you can delete it and start over with another copy. Never work with the original of any file.


The first icon in the Toolbox is a gray rectangle with a dotted line for sides. Click on that, then use your mouse to select a rectangular area around one section of the main photo. You might select an area around just the head and upper torso of a single family member, for example.

Now, go up to the pull-down menu and select Image and then Crop to Selection. That throws away all the rest of the photo and leaves you with just the area you had outlined.

Color Curves

Many times, our photos are too dark, too light or we might want to highlight certain parts. The easiest way is with the Curves option which can be found on the pull-down menu under Colors.

As an experiment, click about 1/3rd the way up the diagonal line and drag it up a little bit. Do the same about 1/3rd from the top of the line. Then, click and drag the middle down a bit. Experiment by dragging the three points to different areas and you will see what a powerful tool this can be for photo manipulation.


Once you’ve created that masterpiece you want to show off in your video, go ahead and do another Save As to a different name. Maybe add a “02” to the filename, so you know what version of the image you are working with now.

Under Image on the menu, select Scale Image. This option will let you resize the image to the format you will want to use in your video. Keep in mind that most videos on the web are rather small. There’s no reason to use a huge picture in your video as the editor will just cut it down, anyway.

In the next part, we’ll go into some more detail on these functions.

Audacity for audio recording and editing

This program can be a bit daunting on first glance, but it’s actually very well designed. Nothing will beat watching some of the free tutorials or reading the instructions, but here are a few tips:

Ambient Noise Removal

One of the reasons I use Audacity for a sound editor is that it is very easy to remove background noise.

When you are ready to record your voice, start the recording and wait about ten seconds, then begin your story or song or whatever.

When done, the first thing to do is ‘select’ a portion of the blank space before you started to speak. That is the ambient noise in the room from HVAC, computer fan noise, etc.

From the pull-down menu, select Effect and then Noise Removal. This will open another window with two steps. The first step is to click on “Get Noise Profile”. This samples the quiet area that you selected a moment ago.

Now press Ctrl-A to select your entire recording and go back to the pull-down menu for Effect and Noise Removal. This time, click on the OK button and it will strip all of the background noise from your recording.

Keep in mind that this does nothing for barking dogs, screaming kids or unmarked, black helicopters on the front lawn. But those are better avoided anyway.

Fade In / Fade Out

A professional touch to any recording is to have the background music fade in at the start and fade out at the end.

Select the first three to five seconds of your music. Then, from the Effects menu, select “Fade In”. For the last three to five seconds, select “Fade Out”. That’s all there is to it.

KdenLive for video editing under Linux or Mac

KdenLive is only available for Linux and Macintosh systems. Currently, it is in the late BETA stages of development, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. It’s a full-featured, professional-grade non-linear editor. There will be more on this later on.

Movie Maker for video editing under Windows7 or Vista

Movie Maker for Windows can automatically turn your videos, photos, and music into a great movie. AutoMovie adds a title, credits, transitions, and effects, and fits it all together for you. There is an earlier version of Movie Maker available for Windows XP machines.

Notepad++ for Windows text editing

Notepad++ is not the Notepad that comes packaged with Windows. It’s a sophisticated raw text editor with a lot of features useful not only to programmers but also for the casual user. It’s a good idea to use it to replace Notepad on your Windows systems.

NOTE: A raw text file means that it contains no formatting or font data. In Windows, it can be created using Notepad. Do NOT use Word or any other word processor that allows fancy fonts. They will cause problems later on if you do.

Coming Soon

In Part Two, I’ll delve a bit deeper into the creation process, using some of the tools described above.

3 thoughts on “How to Create a Trailer

  1. Wonderful!

    Your article here is worth the time and attention to read it.

    I have made a couple of music videos (fan based – just fooling around to see if I could do it) I wished I would have had this a year or so ago!

    As a reader, I love book trailers – and the y are worth the time and attention to do (especially if you do it yourself.)

    Thank you for such a great post. I am sure, after the holidays, people will get caught up on their group mail and will respond enthusiastically.

    Can’t wait for post part 2.

    Wishing for your success in 2010

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