My picture book publicity movies By Moira Butterfield

A couple of years ago I started making mini publicity movies for my books. I post them on Youtube (I haven’t ventured onto Tiktok). I did post on Instagram TV but that doesn’t seem to exist now. Instagram now has a short reel thing going on, to try to go up against Tiktok presumably. 

 Nobody asked me to do this, but for various reasons I don’t spend time visiting schools so I decided it might be helpful to appear somewhere. Now I offer my mini movies to my publishers, who can use them for publicity if they so wish. That led to me making one specifically for a US publishing conference, and involving my illustrator. We tried to make it stand out and the publisher was very happy with the end product. 

The opening of a movie for a US conference. We animated the vehicles and added sounds.
Featuring illustrator Bryony Clarkson. 

I find it a lot of fun to experiment with movies, though I think it’s fair to say my early efforts were somewhat haphazard and a wee bit crazy-looking. My various forays have certainly taught me a lesson about not trying too hard in front of the camera! But I learn a little each time I make one and I want to share some tips below in case you fancy trying movies, too. 


I don’t generally get more than a few hundred views on Youtube but one of mine has racked up 67k views, so you never know. That one was boosted when the book got read out by a celeb, and is also used in schools in the US through Quarto Classroom. 

67k people have watched the videos for this Quarto book. The movie featured me and my next-door neighbour - beekeeper Phil. I haven't told him about the 67K yet. He might want paying or
he might just freak out! 

I didn’t find setting up a Youtube channel hard. It was very clear. I put child settings on it and limited comments. I can take down my posts at any time. Nothing is permanent. 




*  I script my movies and use an app called Teleprompter on my phone. It enables me to type in my script and then scroll it as slowly as I want. I mount my phone on a selfie stick which also has a small and somewhat rickety fold-out tripod on its base for standing on a table. 


* I like to go out and about with my movies and that has taught me that the place where I live is unbelievably noisy! There seems to be daily drilling somewhere, plus revving trucks, car horns and sirens – and especially people calling their dogs in the park behind my garden. So it’s best to film somewhere quiet, and definitely not at school run time if you’re in town. Very early in the morning works well if I can get my act together. 


* I film my movies in sections that get edited together. That way I can do takes and retakes and choose the best. Doing everything in one take is just too tough because I might garble words, sneeze, fall over or perhaps swear at the neighbour’s drilling! 


*Being outside doesn’t require special lighting but I did find that the outdoor light reflects the colour of my clothes onto my face. This resulted in a very green face when I wore a green dress! It’s worth experimenting with clothes to minimise skin reflection. 

Green and ill-looking! 


That's better. 

*I do have a desk halo light for filming inside but I haven’t actually used it yet. I brought a cheap green screen that I have used, however. It’s on a very rickety stand but it does the job (when it stays up) and enables some graphics to be put behind me when necessary. I used it  for my movies on Dance Like a Flamingo and Sing Like a Whale (Welbeck), so we could add some of the illustrations. 

The green screen gets knocked out to add graphics 

I like to get kids involved if I can. Luckily my relatives are game and give
permission to be shown. 

* I don't mind looking a bit amateur. I am an amateur filmer! I do want the movies to have some character and so I'm happy that they aren't too slick, but I don't want them to be too ropey either. I pay a friend to edit my movies the way I want them – as I don’t have the skill. They add the graphics and music. 

Publishers don’t pay me because I do this off my own bat. I know that novels, for example, get publisher-funded publicity reels but I’ve never been offered one. Perhaps one day I will, maybe even prompted by my amateur forays into the movies! 

PS: After I wrote this blog I did some filming which came out pretty badly. No worries. I get to throw it away and do some more takes, but here are a couple of fails. 

Er...I think those binoculars are the wrong way round, and did someone train the spotlight on your nose? 


Moira Butterfield is known for writing non-fiction picture books. She is currently writing a follow-up to her bestselling Welcome To Our World (Nosy Crow). She has three books coming out in May – Maya’s Walk (OUP) aims to make daily repeated walks much more fun for pre-schoolers and their grown-ups. Grandma’s Story (Walker) aims to introduce children to the concept of history and get them chatting about childhood with the grown-ups they know. The Secret Life of Birds (Quarto) is part of the Secret Life series (following Trees and Bees). So she has a lot of filming to do! 


Link to Moira’s movies:

twitter @moiraworld 

instagram @moirabutterfieldauthor

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