Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Adventures in Making a Book Trailer

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Adventures in Making a Book Trailer

Let’s be honest; there are some really fantastic book trailers out there. There are also some dreadfully dull ones. When I decided to create a trailer for my forthcoming novel, Matadora, I gave some serious thought as to what choices I did, and didn’t, want to make through the process. After researching trailers online and taking notes, I set some ground rules for myself:

#1 Don’t “star” in your book trailer. There are numerous examples where the author is filmed reading from whatever work s/he wants to promote. Even when a writer is a great reader (a different set of skills is required for these two roles) the result is usually too earnest. If the writer is a weak reader the trailer is doomed.

#2 Do approach the book trailer assuming it should be a stand-alone work of art. The trailer should be visually beautiful, pleasurable to look at. People remember beauty and the purpose of a book trailer is to help potential readers remember your book so they will read it, and possibly even buy it, later.

#3 Don’t attempt to retell the book’s story visually. A book trailer should not be a mini version of the book. A one or two minute video cannot reveal the long line of a character’s life or develop and pace a believable plot.

#4 Do stick to one dominant image or message. Keep things short. Again, with the intent of attracting potential readers and giving them something memorable to hold onto, you want to be clear and effective. You want to hook the viewer and then leave them wanting more. That’s all.

#5 Only work with people you respect and trust. Better yet, if they are friends.

The team effort involved in making the Matadora book trailer was immensely rewarding for me. I loved the insanity of not knowing where our shoot was going to take place until 48 hours before we actually shot. (Thank you Cinecycle!) I had absolute faith in my colleague’s abilities and was prepared to accept whatever we came up with. Whereas normally I would need to be in control of my work at all times, in the case of the trailer I was uncharacteristically relaxed. In fact, I rented an impossibly small suit of lights (one of only two in the city and the only filmable one) before securing an actor to wear it. I enjoyed barking out directorial orders (a nice change from bossing around pretend people.) The process of standing behind the camera and watching a picture come to life was mesmerizing. Finally, having the result snap together in a relatively short period of time (hours, days and weeks, rather than years) was so gratifying that I wish I could do it all again, and soon.

In the end, this is what I learned: making a book trailer is a whole lot more fun than writing novels. Don’t get me wrong. I have good reasons for writing novels – to make order of chaos, to open my imagination to others, because writing has become my oldest companion, because I love the thrill and magic of taking a blank page and turning it into a whole new universe, because if I don’t write I am unhappy - but writing novels can be a lonely experience, with the writer tucked away inside her own head for a very long time. When you make a book trailer you are part of a team.

My team consisted of three exceptionally talented and generous friends: Erin Rielly Clarke ( and had a sensual and fresh vision for the trailer from our first conversation, and she kept to that vision with stunning results. Joanne Vannicola ( embodied the matadora so completely that I now can’t imagine having asked anyone else to wear that suit. Evalyn Parry ( wrote an original song that contextualizes the visuals and her haunting voice is pitch perfect. When I look back at my list of rules for making a successful book trailer I see that we followed each rule. The result is fantastic.

But then, I’m completely biased.

Maybe you should view the trailer for yourself at:
and let me know what you think.

1 comment

Way to go Elizabeth - love the article, and props on the video too! We think you've captured the essence of the book's story so well, we're stalking your publicist for a copy! We're sharing your insights on MovingStories.TV too, hope it helps spread the word (and video!) far and wide :)

Best from a big fan of your novels,
Producer, BookShorts

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Elizabeth Ruth

Elizabeth Ruth’s first novel, Ten Good Seconds of Silence, was a finalist for the Writers Trust of Canada Fiction Prize, the Best First Novel Award and the City of Toronto Book Award and was named a top 10 book of the year by NOW Magazine, the Vancouver Sun and the London Free Press. Smoke, her second novel, was chosen for the One Book, One Community program and also named a top 10 book of the year by NOW Magazine. Her most recent novel, Matadora, will be published in April, 2013 by Cormorant Books.

Go to Elizabeth Ruth’s Author Page