Animoto Book Trailer Assignment Sheet

Creating Book Trailers

A trailer for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce.

The trailer was created by Jarod Lambert and his son Charles (age 6).

What are book trailers?

Chance and Lesesne (2012) define a book trailer as "a visual representation of a book. In one way book trailers are similar to a movie trailer; they are designed to interest a reader in a particular book" (27). Of book trailers, Heidi Spencer says, "It's not a summary. It's a teaser" (Springen, 2012, 28). And the Digital Booktalk web site ( relates the following:

Commercial conceptualizations of video book trailers are valid and have their place as they serve a valid and specific function: to sell specific books. But it is not what we envisioned ten years ago when we invented the concept and coined the term Digital Booktalk. Our vision of book trailers has always been to create opportunities for students to re-enact the main storyline of books they read, using live video clips, pictures, music, voice-overs and other digital tools. The original intent was to provide a means for reluctant and striving readers who had trouble visualizing what they were being asked to read and help them make better choices with selecting books from reading lists. (Emphasis in the original.)

Given the varying purposes assigned to book trailers, we will focus on the methodology of creating trailers. Each purpose assigned to trailers has value. There is utility in the book trailer as a means of advertising books in the school library. We want to find ways to connect students to engaging texts. We can share examples of book trailers on our library web sites, and provide examples of how students and teachers can engage in the process of creating book trailers. As we engage in this process of creating, teaching, and advertising, it is useful to keep in mind Bates's notion that "[s]chool libraries today aren't just about the physical walls and hardcopies on the shelves. They are about virtual spaces, and meeting the needs and wants of students in a medium they are constantly plugged into" (2012, 76).

What about using book trailers instructionally?

Talk of book trailers tends toward publisher, teacher, and librarian creation of trailers as a means of advertising books to various audiences. Advertisement and connecting students with books are important purposes, but I want to focus on book trailers as a tool in the classroom. To be sure, there are web sites that share student created book trailers. One example is Book Trailers for Readers. My goal is to have students creating book trailers for a variety of purposes and using a variety of tools. This site provides access to a variety of resources students and teachers can use to create book trailers.

Book Trailer Presentation for Houser Elementary Staff

Read Write Think Book Trailers Lesson Plan

Sample Book Trailers

From Carol Johnson at Buckalew Elementary

Trailers saved as PDFs from PowerPoint files.

From Third Grade Students at Coulson Tough Elementary (K-6)

The Spider and The Fly by Tony DiTerlizzi

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendack

From Sites on the Web

Book Trailers for Readers

  • Among others, includes book trailers created by students.

Miami Dade College Library

  • Most trailers on this site are through YouTube.

Eastern Washington University Library

  • Includes links to additional sites with examples.

Book Trailers for Literacy

  • These are hosted by Dr. Mark Geary at Dakota State University.
  • Most trailers on this page are downloadable as .wmv files.

Resources for Creating Book Trailers

Book Trailer Creation Tools




iPad app  used to create movies. This is the tool used in the librarian staff development session for creating book trailers. Videos created using iMovie can be uploaded to a Vimeo account (amond others) for online hosting. Current price: $4.99.


Presentation app. During the staff development session, we will use it to create "blank" images and to create images that include only text. Current price: $9.99.

Garage Band

Use the Garage Band app to create your own music. Music can be converted to .mp3 and can be used within iMovie and other apps/programs. You don't have to worry about copyright concerns because you created the music. Current price: $4.99.

Vimeo App

Vimeo Web Site

The Vimeo app can be used as a free alternative to iMovie. Videos created using this app can be uploaded to a Vimeo account. Current price: free.

Vimeo (the web site) is a video hosting service similar to YouTube. Videos can be uploaded directly from iMovie and the Vimeo app to the Vimeo web site. Current price: free; premium and pro options available for a fee.

Animoto App

Animoto Web Site

The Animoto app can be used to create and upload videos to the Animoto web site. Current price: free.

The Animoto web site can be used to create videos. Videos created using Animoto are based on still images. It is not possible to upload video clips into a trailer created using Animoto. Many book trailers found on the web are created using this tool. Current price: free; subscription options are available.

Microsoft Photo Story

This is downloadable software for creating video. Photo Story is similar to Animoto in the kinds of files that can be included in the video. This software will not allow you to include video clips in your book trailer. The software must be installed on a computer.

Windows Movie Maker

This is downloadable software for creating video. Movie Maker is similar to iMovie in the kinds of riles you can include in your book trailer. It will allow you to include both still images and video clips. The software must be installed on a computer.


Bates, N. (2012). Weaving a virtual story — Creating book trailers 101. Knowledge Quest, 20(2), 72-76.

Chance, R., & Lesesne, T. (2012). Rethinking reading promotion: Old school meets technology. Teacher Librarian, 39(5), 26-28.

Springen, K. (2012). The big tease: Trailers are a terrific way to hook kids on books. School Library Journal, 28-31.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Thanks to Cynthia Leitich Smith’s lovely Book Trailer & Giveaway, I was inspired to post this for any author faced with the daunting task of creating a book trailer for their novel, but who has limited video skills and absolutely NO CLUE where to begin. Oh, yeah. That was me last June: Daunted, limited, and clueless.

Very clueless.

Despite the release date of my young adult novel, JUST FLIRT ticking closer and closer, the mere thought of making a book trailer overwhelmed me and when I get overwhelmed, I procrastinate. It’s a vivacious cycle. I couldn’t afford outside help, but thanks to Chieu Urban’s timely suggestions in this As the Eraser Burns entry, I found my answer:

Enter Animoto.

My apologies for sounding like an infomercial, but it’s a great website for daunted, clueless, overwhelmed people with limited funds. After much blood and sweat, here’s what I was able to create!

And it was easy!

Well, correction: It COULD have been easy with no blood and sweat necessary if I didn’t over-think, obsess, and make tons of mistakes. What might have taken most people only seven hours to complete took me five days. Plus, I wasted a lot of money.

Lots of money.

Despite my blunders, though, I like my trailer. The total cost? Had I not made so many mistakes, it would have been $165.85.

What did it actually cost me? $253.35, ouch! But hey, live and learn. At least now I can consider myself quite the Animoto Pro who can help others make their own trailers in seven (kind of) easy steps!

STEP ONE: Storybook
Think about what you want to accomplish with your trailer. To give just a tease? Or make it more like a blurb with a short description? A good way to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t is to search YouTube for “book trailers,” or be genre specific by entering, for example, “young adult book trailers.” Once the ideas start flowing, write down a storybook or script for your video.

For mine, I first decided to go with a one-sentence description followed by snippets from a PW review:

      It’s summer, sweet summer! A secret blog and a flamboyant karaoke DJ collide with a self-proclaimed Superflirt, her sworn enemy, a toxic ex-boyfriend, her flirt-phobic best friend, a lonely outcast, and a very cute but very off-limits go-kart racer at the struggling Barton Family Campground.

A “sweet and lively summer read,” PW, about a summer of lies, lawsuits … love, and unexpected friendships!

By Laura Bowers, author of Beauty Shop for Rent.

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers.

Of course, I’ve since shortened this significantly, but it served as a jumping off point. After you get a rough idea, make a list of images or video clips that could emphasis certain elements while keeping in mind that with Animoto, you can’t add text directly below or above an image; all text will show up in a separate frame.

STEP TWO: Selecting your software
Don’t just take my word for it. There are many video creating services online besides Animoto that could work beautifully. Also, if you own a Mac, your computer will most likely have iMovie installed, which has been very helpful for authors such as Jeri Smith-Ready, who used it to create her trailer for SHINE.

If you feel as though Animoto is a good fit, however, I recommend signing up for the Pro plan. Right now, the cost is $39 per month, but you will have more music tracks to choose from, and you can upgrade your video to high-definition for no additional charge. Most importantly, your video will be unbranded, meaning there will be no Animoto logo at the end, which adds about five seconds to your video and makes it look less professional. At first, I went the cheap route and used the free plan only to waste $9.00 in HD fees before upgrading to Pro.

Also, if you plan on making only one video, be sure your account is not set up to automatically renew at the end of the month. And yes, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. Ouch.

STEP THREE: Create a rough version with temporary images
If you’ve researched book trailers tips like I have, you know most folks advise that you now select images or video clips that best represent your book and the script you’ve outlined in Step One. That’s what I did. I made a spend DAYS scouring websites for the perfect images: One that represents a blog. A karaoke DJ. A flirt, sworn enemy, toxic ex-boyfriend, flirt-phobic friend, lonely outcast, two trouble-making twins, a race car driver, love, friendship, and, of course, summer.

Total images purchased: 18 for $205.35

Total images actually used: 8 for $165.85

Total money wasted: $87.50

Say it with me. Ouch! This is why I’m suggesting you first create a rough draft using generic photos or clips from your own collection by following these steps:

Click on “Create Video.”

Select a style for your video. Here’s another benefit for purchasing the Pro plan—you’ll have more templates to choose from. For JUST FLIRT, I picked Through the Blossoms because the colors coordinated nicely with the jacket colors and it had a flirty feel.

Next, select your music. At first, I was intent on using something instrumental only, but after hearing Golden Days by The Memory Stones, it felt like a perfect fit! Very summary, very breezy. Keep in mind that your choice of music determines the transition speed. Something slow and classical with cause slow transitions whereas a peppy, upbeat song will give you faster ones.

Now skip to Add Text. Depending on which style you have selected, you’re going to have limited room for each slide. You can use both the “header” and “text” spaces, which will make two lines.

Next up is adding images and videos, including your book jacket cover. For the rest, consider using generic images from your photo collection until the editing process is over so you won’t spend more than necessary.

Now put your images, videos, and text pages in order simply by clicking and dragging them into proper place.

Once everything is where you want it, hit Preview Video and see what you created!

Near the top right corner of your screen is a gray box saying how long your video is. It’s best to keep your video under two minutes with one minute being ideal. My final version clocks in at 1:20 minutes, but I wish I would have tightened it up even more with less images, so be brutal. Ask yourself if certain text or images will be necessary. If not, cut it!

STEP FOUR: Selecting your images
Now that you have a good feel for your video’s length, and you know how many images you’ll need, it’s time to shop! Very important: Be sure you use only royalty-free photos. You’d hate to have your hard work deleted from YouTube by breaking copyright rules. Some good places to check out are:

iStock Photo

There are sites where you can get free stock images for commercial use such as Stock.chng, but I didn’t have any luck with them. Maybe you will. Keep in mind that photos with landscape orientation seem to work better than those with portrait.

Regarding size, I mostly bought 1.9 MP or “medium” size images. I was okay with spending more for better quality, but a smaller size might have worked fine. Some photos were inexpensive, such as the one where a couple are holding hands which cost $6.50, but others, like the fours girls are jumping into the water, cost a pretty penny! I paid $57.35 for that bad boy, but it was absolutely perfect so I have no regrets. (I bought the smallest size, 794 x 605 PX, 989.34 KB and it worked fine.)

STEP FIVE: The nitty-gritty editing
Now it’s time to perfect your video while keeping in mind that shorter is better!

      In the small gray box that shows your video’s length is a white wheel. Click on that if you’d like to either slow down or speed up the amount of time each image appears. For mine, I set it for one notch above “moderate,” which shaved off many seconds. (Note: you can’t change the speed for text pages.)

If you’d like the highlight a certain image by slowing down its transition, such as your jacket cover, click on the image and then hit “spotlight” on the right side of your screen.

By clicking on “Advanced Settings,” you can change the title of your video and the thumbnail image.

It’s best to not include any external links or direction to outside URLs. If you include a webpage or blog, your publisher might want you to create two separate copies of the video: One with URLs and one without, since Amazon will not post a video with outside URLs.

You may also want to keep out any release or on-sale dates.

Now, about the backgrounds and transitions. Oh my gosh, this part drove me crazy! You have no control over backgrounds or transitions between images. It’s automatically selected by Animoto, and every time you hit “Preview Video,” they shuffle and change. The problem is, I didn’t care for some of them. And, I really loved the transition where the pool photo looked as though it was dropped into water, and I wanted the trailer to end with the hand blowing a kiss. So what did I do?

*Warning: here comes the obsessive part.*

I kept hitting “Preview Video” and made note of each different transition. If I didn’t like them, I hit cancel and tried again. If the preview was a possibility, I selected “Produce” and saved it under “Draft 1.” After that, I went into “My Videos” and clicked on the small gray wheel underneath the draft copy that will bring up the “edit a copy” option and allow me to repeat the process, cancelling what I hated and saving what I liked.

I’m ashamed to say I saved fifteen versions, spent nearly an entire night narrowing them down to three favorites, and then pestered my family to DEATH trying to select the best one.

Seriously. It was ugly. And my poor children still cringe whenever they hear the Golden Days song. I hope and pray you have better luck with this for your own mental health.

Once you have completed your final trailer, then hit the Upgrade to HD option. I went with the 480p option, which seemed to work just fine.

STEP SIX: Get approval from your editor.
The above video isn’t my original uploaded version. After I loaded my first one to YouTube, I sent the link to my editor before announcing it. In return, I received guidelines from my publisher’s online marketing manager, and suggestions to make the trailer much shorter. Plus, if it wasn’t too much trouble, it would be great to add the jacket credit.

My first thought was, “Do I seriously want to go through this again?”

My second thought was, “Well … yes.”

By then, I had some time away from the project, so my original 1:54 minute version did seem too long and could be tightened. And I liked the idea of giving jacket credit, seeing as how I love JUST FLIRT’S cover design, so much to my family’s dismay, I got back to work, but it was well worth the time!

Lesson learned: Share your trailer with your editor first, either by downloading a MP4 file or posting it to YouTube and sending them a link before announcing it.

STEP SEVEN: Uploading to YouTube
Finally, the best part! Under “My Videos,” click on your final version, then select “Sharing,” and “Export Video.” If you don’t already have a Goggle account, you’ll be cued to do so. (Note: You’ll have to use a Gmail account.) Once your video is loaded, log into your YouTube channel and add your book description, any reviews, plus a link to your website, blog, Facebook account, etc. You will also have three images to choose from for the thumbnail, in case you don’t like the one YouTube automatically chose.

And that’s it, you’re done!

Easy, right? Well … kind of easy?

Now it seems like a total piece of cake to me. I even created a book trailer for my first novel, BEAUTY SHOP FOR RENT:

Because of my previously learned lesson on overspending, I didn’t shop for images until the rough draft was finished. I was able to use an image purchased several years ago, so I only needed to buy two more photos. The one with the piggy banks cost $63.70, but the colors coordinate beautifully with the style template, so I bought it! Again, no regrets. Love, love, love this picture. The trailer also clocks in at 1:10, which is a much better length.

The total time to create this one? Five hours. Seriously. Just five hours!

Total cost? $70.20 for two images, $39.00 for Animoto Pro, $109.20 total.

Not too shabby.

And what ever became of all those images not used for JUST FLIRT’S trailer? I used them for an As The Eraser Burns challenge exercise:

Hey, sometimes you just have to be creative. 🙂 Good luck creating your book trailer and I truly hope this post helps someone out there who is as computer-clueless as I was!

Happy writing,


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