Scripting Options

There are three formatting options when writing a book trailer script: timeline, storyboard and screenplay. Each has strengths, limitations and complexities. Timeline is the most simple and useful during the early phases of writing. Storyboard is useful when visualizing the trailer. Screenplay is the most formal and complex. It is a language for working with a production company and crew, as it is a universal format. Let’s look at the three with examples.

Timeline Structure

Timeline is a simple format. It is useful during idea formulation, and if the production team is yourself, you might stop with just a timeline.

First Example: Non-fiction trailer for Book Trailer 101

The first example is a non-fiction trailer for this website. Non-fiction trailers are a good place to start, as they are easier to write. Non-fiction trailers have to only answer four questions:

  1. Genre: Topic of the book.
  2. Problem: Key problem addressed.
  3. Promise: How does the book solve the problem?
  4. Differentiation: How is the book different from other similar titles?

This is the timeline script for the first Book Trailer 101 trailer.

I structured the script to help you understand how LEAD timing works.

Examining the LEAD elements:

1. Lead – Answer the viewer’s question: Why should I give you 30 seconds of my time?

“Your book is finished. Congratulations.” This is meant to entice viewers to want to watch. This assumes they are writers with books in progress or completed. As they are the target audience for this site, that is a natural fit.

2. Excite – Build interest – Why should I continue to listen?

“Yours is one of a million new titles in North America this year. How will you make it stand out?” This explains the problem that the number of new books released this year is large. In marketing speak, this is called “creating the need.” BTW, I did not make up this number. It is based on the requests for ISBN numbers in North America from traditional publishers, as well as larger self-publishing firms. The data covered to 2012, then I extrapolated to 2014 for self-publishing and left traditional publishers the same, as their numbers have been stagnant for the past few years.

“A book trailer can ignite your marketing strategy. Now where do you start?”  Present the solution.

“BookTrailer101, creating an effective limited budget trailer.”  While this was the original idea, I later shortened it to just BookTrailer101, as I found the sentence too hard sell.

Learn the 7 Steps of How to Create a Book Trailer.

  1. Identify Audience
  2. Create Building Blocks
  3. Select Approach
  4. Write Script
  5. Acquire Media
  6. Assemble Video
  7. Upload/Promote trailer.

3. Amaze – Hook – Why is this book different?

“More than how to assemble a video, How to create a Book Trailer” In my original research, I found the sites that teach book trailer creation focus on how to find media and assemble the video, but spent no time on writing the script. To me, this was like teaching someone to use a power drill, then saying “You have the tools now go build a house.” My challenge was how to summarize that BookTrailer101 was more than just how to assemble video.

4. Direct – Directive – How do I learn more or buy?

The script is in Timeline format. Each block of time is a group of lines. Each line begins with either: VO (voice-over), Sound Effect, Video, Image or Title. In the Lead, the scene starts with a voice-over, the image and video appears along with the background sound of a crowd cheering. In voice-over, the narrator says the line. Partway in, the picture of the books appears and the cheering starts. Then the video of fireworks appears behind the books. CSP 14998604 means use CanStockPhoto number 14998604. This makes it easier to buy the final images. If the image has been selected, show a thumbnail on the right.

As I was assembling, I found the crowd cheering was too much of a distraction. The fireworks, narrator and background music were enough.

Second Example: Brock’s Agent by Tom Taylor

Tom was a student in my Jan 2015 course taught at Trent University Oshawa. Tom’s trailer for Brock’s Agent demonstrates a nice example of guiding the viewer through the introduction to the book. The trailer is a level-1 trailer using music by Kevin MacLeod and to create the video.



A deadly mission for upper Canada’s first secret agent in the War of 1812. (Setup)


The future of two nations and an empire hang in the balance. (Stakes)

A kidnapped girl to rescue, and a fortune in furs to fight for in a battle to the death. (Goal)

A traitor to both sides must be found. (Adversary)

Only one young man stands in the way … Brock’s Agent. (Protagonist and tie to title)


One country’s hero is another’s scoundrel. (Hook)

“… this ripping yarn.” Canada’s Globe and Mail (Praise)


Picture of the book and website

Trailer Arc


Storyboard Structure

This is a sample storyboard from Amber Robinson of Amber Animation created. Each image builds on the timeline format with an image of what will be showing. Often the image will be a scanned sketch.

While there are many storyboard packages, a presentation package such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Open Office’s Presentation can be used. Place the sketch on the slide and put the narrative details in the notes. Then print the slides with the notes.

Amber Animation: