Promo video/visual presentations for authors

This is aimed at writers who are not necessarily computer wizards and just need a few pointers on how to put together a short video/slideshow presentation to upload to social media to publicise their books and raise their author profile. I shall use the term video throughout for convenience.

First point is that it is vital you create this show in plenty of time and not at the last minute. There will be snags and you do not want to sit at your computer tearing out your hair as I did trying to create the video for Dearly Ransomed Soul, from start to finish, in one day. Ending up either in tears or throwing things at the dog is not a good frame of mind. Preparing the video in good time will also give you time to play with it because you are not time deadlined and the whole process will be more enjoyable.

If you need to look at the vehicle for your video I suggest you go to your favourite search engine and enter “Slideshow software” or “video software” as a search term to see what is out there, how much it costs and what it does. In other words, do your research, just like you do when you are writing a book.

The most used software at the moment is probably Animoto  – videos are easy to create and you can get 30 seconds worth free but you will pay through the nose for anything more. If you only want to do a vid once or twice a year, think carefully. Here is the current pricing structure. That said, you may find the free 30 seconds is fine for what you want to achieve. If you are going to make a video a regular part of your promotion, I also suggest you create a YouTube channel and upload them there. They will be easily accessible and, after you have a few on your channel, you can link your promotion material to the channel itself and not just the individual videos. Prospective readers will then see information on all your books. And, don’t forget that saying about a picture painting a thousand words!

I use iMovie, but this doesn’t always play nicely and, in the case of Weebly, refuses to load into my website, which is why I have changed website provider to WordPress.

Powerpoint. Available in MS Office for Macs and PCs. It can create sophisticated slideshows suitable for presentations to the Board Room, but you need to give yourself time to learn all the bells and whistles for best effect.

Here is a rough template of my process.

  1. When I first began to make promo videos, I subscribed to Animoto and became intoxicated with the powerful tools it has, cramming in as many pictures as possible. However, people surfing the internet get bored very quickly, so I advise making the presentation/video last a minute or 90 seconds at most.
  2. How are you going to go about collecting the material you need, from where and how are you going to present it? Finally, what music do you think will best accompany your show?
  3. Crack on and play. Check it is right before publishing.

Let’s flesh that out.


First, you need to write a rough outline of the story you want the video to tell. Choose a few key points in your story and put them in a phrase or sentence. Make the sentences ramp up the tension. Include a question or two, especially in the last picture. Don’t forget, everything is tweakable, so don’t agonise too much at this point. Avoid using too many pictures, my main failing in the early Tudor Enigma videos. If you check the YouTube link below, you will see that all my early videos have pictures whizzing past at breakneck speed.

Ideally, in the space of a minute, you only have time for 8 or 9 pictures, otherwise your audience will go cross-eyed and feel a tad seasick. If your software allows and the picture is appropriate, use two captions for one picture. Just because you can change your picture doesn’t mean you have to.

Now you know the caption for each picture, you will have a better idea of what kind of pictures and music will match. Go find them.

And here is a word of, not caution, but warning.

Do not assume you can romp into Google images or music sites and start downloading and using the pictures you find there. 98% of them will be subject to copyright. If you find the perfect picture, try to contact the copyright holder and ask their permission to use it. If you do not, you are liable to prosecution and a HUGE fine. Trust me, I’m a librarian!

Read this –

And this –

Infringing copyright is THEFT!

Collecting your source material

Right, now I have scared you half to death, how do you find the material you want?

There are several websites where images are free. I use,  or I am also lucky enough to have a husband who can manipulate photos that we have taken. I sometimes realise I only need part of a picture, so I crop that in Powerpoint or Paul plays with it in Affinity. The most famous software for photo manipulation is Photoshop, but it is extremely expensive.

Here is another beware. Loads of websites like Shutterstock, Dreamstime, freedigital photos et al, all have the word free in their search engine banners. They are not free. Earlier, I said about creating your show in good time and not at the last minute. Why? Because in the stress of trying to get the whole thing put together and out there, you can fall into the trap of signing up to these image providers, only to find afterwards that there is probably a month’s trial free, after which you pay megabucks for each image. If you do sign up, you will find your inbox stuffed with spam e-mails for months afterwards. Of course, if money is no object, go right ahead.

Music can be more tricky. There are no fixed amounts of a song you can use without violating copyright. Beware of sites that come with added payload you don’t know about, downloading things like MacKeeper to your computer and making Yahoo your default homepage without your permission or knowledge. You only find out this has happened when you click onto your Internet Homepage and find it isn’t the one you are used to. Download a programme called Malwarebytes Anti-Malware or similar to help identify and delete these unwanted programmes if this happens to you.

Because many music sites come and go on an almost daily basis, my best advice is to enter “copyright free music” or “public domain music” (using the double quotes to make the words a phrase search) into your favoured search engine.

When I wanted to use Nigel Hess’s It Came Upon The Midnight Clear for the accompanying music to the Georgia Pattison Christmas short The Midnight Clear, I wrote and asked him. I was permitted to use one minute of the track on Facebook, Twitter and my website until 31st January. Very restricted, especially when the Weebly website upload stalled incessantly.

I have now put public domain music on that video and The Midnight Clear is on my YouTube channel (link below). Notice how the music is placed so that it begins to grow on the words The family dinner was not. The music helps increase the tension of the video. Compare the number of pictures in that video with the others. It is far less frenetic. If you do write and get permission to use music, make sure you acknowledge that in the video.

A final word on music. It can make or break a video. When the film Jaws was run without the music, the test audience laughed in the opening scenes where the shark is swimming back and forth. When the iconic soundtrack was added, some of the audience screamed.

Time to PLAY…

This is the fun bit. Getting the pictures in the right order, making sure they match the caption, getting the right bit of the music – if you end the video on a tense point, you need the music to reflect that, so it would be most logical use the end where it comes to a climax. When you are happy, keep playing the finished product through. Wait until next day and play it through again to make sure. Chances are you will find something that needs tweaking. At this point, you can publish it.

To sum up. 

  • Don’t do this if time is short. Leave enough time to get it right without you becoming frazzled.
  • Plan and outline what you want the video to say. This is a marketing tool after all.
  • Do not infringe copyright. Get permission if you cannot find a suitable alternative.
  • Keep all photos for your videos in one folder. You may be able to use them next time.
  • Remember that the video clip will likely be small in frame size and not hi-res so there is no point in having huge and busy pictures.  A small portion of a picture is more likely a better choice.

Happy Playing!!!

You can read more about April Taylor, including the videos on YouTube here:

FaceBook  Twitter  Amazon UK  Amazon USA   YouTube


One thought on “Promo video/visual presentations for authors

  1. Thanks for a very informative and useful post, April. I’ve been playing with the idea of promotional videos for some time, but always thought the process would be too time consuming. However, as a photographer with a large number of personal images to mix with those available from the real free sites, I should be able to put something together. I especially like your advice about both planning and the selection of the right music. I shall definitely have a go. Thanks for the inspriation.


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