My Zero-Hour, Low-Cost Book Trailer in 12 Fun Steps

by Karen Jonson

The title of this article is an homage to Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. The secret of his four-hour workweek treatise is not that you work only four hours each week, but that you only Work four hours on tasks you don’t love. The rest of the time you should spend “working” on activities you enjoy doing.

For example, artists probably don’t feel like they are working when they are creating art. Similarly, if someone loves conducting business, making deals, and negotiating contracts, then they may love their workdays. If you love what you do, then your “work” is not considered Work, according to Ferriss’s definition.

This theory works for me in my writing career — most of the time. But some of the writing I do for clients is boring and, therefore, very much Work. Similarly, editing a book for the umpteeth time is labor-intensive Work.

However, creating my new book trailer was nothing but pure pleasure. I loved the whole process, from creating a storyboard, to filming video clips, to tweaking my clips to perfection. Every task in the process stimulated my creative brain cells. That’s why I can say that I “worked” zero hours on my new book trailer. It wasn’t Work at all.

My Homemade, Low-Cost Book Trailer

What’s more, my new book trailer cost me nothing. Granted, it cost me my time, which is, of course, worth something. But the time I spent on this project was an investment in my future. After all, video is one of the most powerful ways to communicate and boost your website’s SEO.

The catch-22 of video is that having them made professionally can cost a bundle. Hundreds, even thousands of dollars. And authors still have to invest the time to provide the copy and images to the production company, and proof development versions along the way.

I didn’t have the money for a professional book trailer. But I wanted one as part of my book promotion plan. So instead I took the project on myself using my Apple computer, its built-in iMovie program, and video clips I filmed myself. And I did it all in just a few days.

Prior to this project, I had never used iMovie before. So I took a class at my local Apple store. During the one-hour session, I learned enough to use one of the program’s templates. There is not a big selection, but I found one that I liked. The template is actually for a movie trailer, which is a bit unorthodox. But it fit, so I went with it for my first book trailer.

12 Work-Free Steps to a Book Trailer

Here’s how I created my first book trailer in 12 easy, fun, and work-free steps:

1. I took a one-hour iMovie class at my local Apple store. I learned about the program’s templates, and how to drag and drop in video clips.

2. I selected a template that provided a great theme for my book.

3. Back at home, I pulled out my research, including photos and newspaper clippings, and came up with an idea for the trailer.

4. I sketched out a rough storyboard based on the template.

5. I shot short videos using my iPhone.

6. I began inserting the video clips into the template. Each spot for a video clip tells you how long the clip needs to be. The template also gives you some “production direction.” I also added copy where indicated.

7. I watched my rough cut and determined what else I needed. Then I shot more video clips.

8. I edited some of the clips, including cropping, and added the “Ken Burns” effect where appropriate, which is a zoom-in or zoom-out effect.

9. I continued watching, reshooting, and tweaking until I finally had the video basically the way I wanted it.

10. I posted the first version on my Facebook page and asked my friends for feedback.

11. I made a few more changes based on friends’ feedback. I continued tweaking the video clips until I was completely satisfied.

12. I posted my new video on YouTube.

The final result of my homemade book trailer is a cinéma vérité style video — which fits so perfectly with my book’s story.

This project was so much fun and so not Work that I can’t wait to make my next video.

I’d love to know what you think of my first-ever video — the book trailer for my new memoir, Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tirzah Lou August 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

Hah…makes me wish I had a Mac and iPhone. I still say animoto is a great PC alternative but this sounds like a LOT of fun.

Wish I did have a Mac.


Karen Jonson August 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Hi Tirzah,

I love my Mac and iPhone. I’ve actually owned Apple computers since the early 1990s. I could never go back to a PC. But I’ve heard from others with PCs that there is a movie program for the PCs. Perhaps you can check it out.

Thanks for reading my post. I hope you’ll sign up for my blog.



Ronald Destra October 20, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Great trailer video…


Karen Jonson October 23, 2012 at 8:02 am

Hi Ronald.

Thanks so much.

I like you book trailer too.



Tamian Wood October 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Nicely done Karen. It was a very enticing video with great music and drama. I’m impressed!

I had a pro create mine to display my cover designs, but I might have a look at imovie for a follow up when I have more designs to show off. Most apple things are pretty easy to use so, I don’t see why I couldn’t tackle it. What file format is the resulting export and are PC users able to open/see it?

Kind regards,
Tamian Wood
Professional Cover Designer


Karen Jonson October 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Hi Tamian,

Thanks so much. I’m happy to hear you liked it.

I exported it directly from iMovie to YouTube, where it’s hosted. Yes, PC users can view it.



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