date is fast approaching when my picture book, Monster Maddie, will be published. Like all writers, I am aware of the need
to promote my work, and I've been checking out book trailers as a means of doing this. These short videos can be a great way
to let your target audience know a little about your book, and tease them into buying it.
how do I go about making a short video? Luckily, I count Kim McDougall as a good friend. Kim is a wonderful writer and
all-round creative person, who began the great new site, Blazing Trailers. Advertised as "Books at the speed of fun", Blazing Trailers is a video preview library where writers can post their trailers
for free. There are already three hundred trailers and it's only been open since February.
Kim has created over fifty trailers/video book previews, (you can see some here: and is very generous about sharing her knowledge
and expertise. Below, she explains what a trailer is, goes through the basic steps in making one, gives tips on music, sound
and special effects, discusses cost, and adds a short list of trailer makers. Next month, Kim will again be my guest, and
will discuss how to promote using book videos, as well as giving many more useful resources for those interested in making
for Book Promotion (1) by Kim McDougall
is a video book preview?
A video book preview
is a short movie that promotes a book. These videos can then be posted on websites, blogs and video sharing sites. They can
be fun, genre-bending and little works of art in their own right, but in the end, they are commercials and are all about name
branding. Some authors lose sight of this fact when making them.
***Note: You might
be wondering why I keep typing the tiresome ‘video book preview’ instead of ‘book trailer.’ The term
‘book trailer’ was actually trademarked by the production company Circle of Seven. Seems silly, I know. I can’t
imagine how they would ever police this, as the term is already in general use. But if you look at the trademark site, someone
has actually paid to trademark the word ‘the’ also. I believe this is more of a claim-to-fame thing, but to be
safe, I would suggest never using the terms ‘book trailer’ together on your site. I say fiction trailer or book
makes a great trailer?
Trailers need to
reflect the mood of the book, give enough information to entice a customer to buy (without giving away the whole plot) and
above all catch the viewer’s attention. One to two minutes long is ideal. Most viewers won’t stick around longer
than that. If you think of a trailer as a commercial, this is already longer than any TV ad. I see many trailers that are
4-5 minutes of image after image that make no sense to someone who hasn’t read the book. Try to use fewer images, but
select those that will make a big impact. Adding movement, either in live video or zooms on still images can also engage the
viewer. Finally, music can make or break a trailer. It’s important to find music that sets the mood, doesn’t irritate
and works with the beat of the images.
It might seem like
quite a daunting task to compress your whole book down to a few images, but if you follow these simple steps it will all fall
into place. As a writer, you have a natural talent for making a trailer. After all, the procedure is much like writing a novel.
First you outline, then you fill in the blanks and revise.
The following is
a basic plan for making a trailer. Start with this and then let your creativity go. As long as you remember that the whole
idea is to get people to remember your name and your book, then once you hone your movie-making skills, you can turn your
trailer into a your own little work of art.
the basic plan for making a trailer.
A. Write the script:
This is the layout
of your trailer. You can start with your jacket flap blurb, a very short synopsis, or write a short blurb that reflects the
mood of the book. If you’re planning to use a voice over, this blurb can be longer (250 words). If you are using on
screen text, keep it short, 6-8 lines. Remember that each line will have to fit comfortably on the screen.
When writing the
script, try to think in images. Are there any recurring themes in the story? What are the dramatic scenes that can be played
B. Search for images
At the end of this
workshop, we’ll list some sites to find royalty free images and video. Searching these for appropriate stock is probably
the biggest time suck in the trailer process. Learn how to use the advanced search on each site to save time.
Take each line of
your script and find an image to represent it. This may be simple for a line like this:
enjoyed being a nurse.
But not so easy
for something like this:
is a man-made invention, disdained by the gods.
Keep this in mind
when writing your script. Vague sentences will be harder to represent. For the first sentence you will most likely find a
suitable image of a nurse that looks like your main character. For the second one, you may have to think outside the box a
bit. Maybe find a video of a clock ticking or a time-lapse of clouds swishing overhead.
C. Assemble the
images and titles.
Try to make the
transitions from one image to another smooth. Choose a font that’s easily readable. If your images have a lot of different
colors, the text might be difficult to read. In this case, think about putting the text on their own screens before the images.
Make sure each line of text appears long enough to read it. Try reading it aloud slowly. If the screen changes before you’re
done, lengthen the image time.
using voice-over, add it now.
D. Find some music.
We will also list
music resource sites later in the workshop. Luckily, most of them are donation-based services, so you can try several pieces
of music before you have to settle on one. Everyone has different tastes in music, but try to put your preferences on hold
and find something that reflects the mood and story. Once you find a piece, try tweaking the length of the images so that
dramatic beats of the music are used to good effect. You will be surprised at how this often happens naturally.
Make sure you show
your name and book cover at least twice in the trailer. I usually begin and end with the cover. Don’t forget to include
your website, links where to buy the book, your publisher and the music credit.
tips to remember when planning a trailer:
1. Add Movement
For budget reasons,
most trailers are made with still photos. To avoid the slide-show feel, add movement to your stills, by zooming and panning.
Too many vertical pictures on a horizontal screen (with blocks of black on either side) can seem amateurish. A simple fix
is to crop and pan these pictures to fill the screen.
2. Hand held home
Unless your going
for the Blair Witch look, you should avoid this at all costs. If you feel you must use home video, use a tripod and make sure
the the lighting is good (don’t shoot against a bright window!). In general, the microphones on home video cameras are
lousy. Unless you are going to use a large mic input, delete the soundtrack to the video or use a voice over. One exception
to this would be interviews with the author. These can be quite effective (especially for memoirs or non-fiction books), but
keep them short (30 seconds max). Again, make sure the lighting and sound is acceptable.
My Rainbow Sheep trailer has home video, but you can see I wiped out the sound.
example of an author interview in a trailer:
3. Special Effects
first starting out, it can be so much fun to play with all the gadgets on the movie making software. Special effects are supposed
to be just that-special. Limit their use and they’ll have more effect. Try to keep transitions between images and titles
4. Stock photos
Make sure all your
images, video and music are royalty free. Just because a picture is posted on someone’s site doesn’t mean you
can use it. Likewise with music, there are many ‘free’ music sites out there. These sharing sites are for private
use, not commercial use. If you plan to use your favorite Elton John song in your trailer, you’re going to run into
some trouble. Even if the irate rocker doesn’t show up on your doorstep in fuzzy sunglasses ranting about copyright
infringements, you’ll still have trouble uploading your trailer. Many video sharing sites have built-in filters that
detect copyrighted music. You can have your upload privileges suspended just for trying it.
5. Sound effects
The sound of a door
creaking, or a siren in the distance can add drama and realism to your trailer. There are many sites that offer free and inexpensive
sound effects. Try adding some to your trailers, but try to keep them natural. The viewer should not be thinking about the
sound effects. Here’s an example of a couple of trailers with sound effects.
This one uses sound
This one uses sound
On screen text or voice-over?
Most trailers have
text on the screen with music as the only sound. This is mostly a limitation of the people making the trailers. Not everyone
has the know-how to make a decent sound recording. Others (like me) have lousy voices for the job.
Assuming that you
have the equipment and inclination to make a voice-over, what are the benefits of one style over the other?
make a trailer stand out as more ‘professional’ but only if the sound quality is good. Poor sound quality will
have the opposite effect.
But just because
you can do voice over, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Some trailers have a more intimate feel with on-screen text.
Also, certain types of music (like loud rock) isn’t always conducive to voice-overs.
So if you can’t
do a quality voice-over, don’t fret. You can still make a great trailer without it. If you want to try making your own
voice-over, here are some tips.
Recordings for Trailers
WHAT YOU NEED
A computer sound
card - Comes standard in almost every computer
A program to record
Many windows computers
come with these:
=WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER
=WINDOWS MOVIE MAKER
Free mp3 recorder
A microphone that
plugs into your computer by USB (not serial port). These are about $30.00
A quiet room,- no
dogs, cats or phones or common noises in the background please. Turn off air
conditioners, fans, and any appliances that hum. Check for fluorescent lights;
these hum too. Often, outside noises can intrude so try to do it on a quiet day.
HOW TO PROCEED
Record each line
as a separate file. This is easier if you make a mistake to redo it. It's also easier to incorporate them into the trailer
one file at a time.
Don't get too close
to the microphone or too far away. Stay the same distance for each line of recording.
Listen to each line
(with headphones, if possible) and check for any popping noises or other distractions. Redo any lines with extraneous noises.
4. What does it cost?
after you’ve gone over all that info, do you still want to make your own trailer? If so, you’ll need to budget
for it. Here are the main components and their costs:
Images: $1 to $3
each. If you need to zoom into a picture, you might want to buy a higher resolution image which can cost up to $5. No need
to buy super hi res pictures for video streaming. You can also find some free images, but be sure to check the licensing.
Video Clips: $20
each. This is the price from iStockphoto. This is one of the only stock image sites that has video too.
Music: You can easily
find free music and donation-based music sites. I usually give a small donation to these, $5 per song. Other music sites can
charge $30 - $60 per track.
Sound effects: There
is an abundance of free sound effects there, but if you have to buy them, they are usually $3 -$10 per clip.
So, going conservative,
a trailer with 8 images (at an average of $2 ea) with 1 video clip, one music clip (with a $5 donation) and two sound effects
(at $5 ea) would cost $51 to make. You can cut out many of these costs, by finding free stock or going without video.
What will it cost to have someone else make it for you?
is a difficult question to answer as the prices are all over the place. You can have one made for as little as $75 or as much
as $2000! In general, you get what you pay for. My prices are on the low end of the spectrum, but I don’t do any custom
video photography or animation. I need to use stock photos like anyone else. If you pay the big bucks for a pro trailer, you’ll
get something uniquely yours.
What should authors keep in mind before contacting someone to make their trailers?
where they get their photos. You can check prices on those sites to make sure they are jacking their prices up too high. Trailer
makers need to make money too, but if someone offers a low price, they might be making it up by charging extra for photos
or music. So make sure you know all the costs before you start. You also want to be sure that they are going to use only royalty free
images and music. Your name will be on this trailer and you don’t want to get caught up in a copyright lawsuit. Ask where
the trailer will be posted. I post my trailers to at least 6 sites, and then give the original to the customer to post it
elsewhere. Make sure you get an original version of your trailer. It’s yours; you paid for it.
Here’s a list of places and people who make trailers
Preview the Book
Circle of Seven
Linton Robinson has a great guide to making trailers at http://adoroworks.com/tutvideo.php It’s a $6 download.
Kim! I'm very much looking forward to adding to my knowledge with next month's column - Using Video for Promotion (2).
Have you been to these sites?
The Imperfect Parent
Online magazine. Paying market.
9-10,000 words. $200 prize.
Life Bytes Anthology
Real stories about online dating
The Book Chook blog
My blog shares my passion for children's
literature and literacy. Recently I posted about a great word game to play with kids. There are some examples to drive my
blog readers crazy!
You must check out this stunning example
of a wonderful writer's site.
Until next time, write on!