I have lately been making book trailers. I’ve made one for IXEOS, and one for Solomon’s Throne, as well as one for my husband’s nonfiction book on the 2012 election. I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed making them, which is weird, because it’s basically a visual blurb, and I’m not very good at writing blurbs. After all, if I could tell the story in a couple hundred words, I wouldn’t have written 90,000!
Here’s what I’ve learned about making book trailers.
- If you, like me, can’t figure out iMovie or another video editing program, pop over to Animoto. They have great templates, a ton of royalty free songs, and the program is very easy to use. I’m thinking about doing book trailers as a service, and if I do, I’ll upgrade to the Pro level for more templates, but there are plenty available without that. (I also may bite the bullet and learn iMovie, but I won’t have time for that until at least October!)
- A trailer is a commercial. You don’t need to tell your whole story. You need to entice the viewer to want to check out the book. To that end, think of it exactly like a blurb or a query letter to an agent/publisher (if you do those!). You need to make the trailer compelling and provocative, using words, images, and appropriate music. The three together can create an exciting preview of your book… Or leave the viewer scratching their head!
- The text part of a trailer is going to go by relatively quickly. You can’t use too many words! Not everyone is a speed reader. Take advantage of both text panels and captions. For instance, in the Solomon’s Throne trailer, I didn’t want to drag out the geography, so I used captions rather than a text panel followed by photos. Photos of Africa are more evocative than the word “Africa” by itself, so make use of images to tell your story.
- Watch out for spoilers! Just like in your blurb, you need to be careful not to give out too much information. Leave the viewer questioning the plot. Things like, “Well, how would they get out of that?” or “Why would she fall in love with him?” are great questions to evoke in your viewer.
- Pay attention to the feel of the music. I personally don’t love techno music, but for IXEOS, it’s a perfect fit. Just because you love a song, doesn’t mean it’s the right song for your trailer. If you’re writing horror, the music should leave you feeling a little creeped out, when heard in combination with the images. A light romance should have music that makes you feel happy; a heavy romance needs music that has a bit of pain in it. Unlike a book, a trailer is going to engage multiple senses in the viewer, so take advantage of it.
- Be careful with images. I use a combination of purchased images from stock photo companies, and ones found on the web that are either “public” or where no attribution can be tracked down. Photos and illustrations are the property of their creator, just as your book is your property. Respect that. The interwebs have a lot of pictures that have been published so many times that the original is impossible to find, if indeed the photographer even made him/herself known. Just be careful, do the best due diligence you can, and if you get a letter stating you used someone’s photo without permission, be prepared to remove it.
- Be clear in the text, and watch spelling and punctuation. I wrote “county” instead of “country” the first time around in my husband’s trailer, and I spelled “Quinn” “Quin” in the Solomon’s Throne one. Editing is still king!
- Get feedback from others. Before you publish the video and make it permanent, have beta-viewers take a look. This is a key piece of advertising — you want to make it the best it can be!
If you’re not a visual person, this might be more of a challenge than you want. There are others out there who will make great trailers for you, just like people doing covers and editing and formatting. View their portfolio and pick someone you’re comfortable with. Also spend a bit of time talking to them about their process and what they want from you. Will they want you to write a script or just give you a synopsis? How much control will you have — and how much control do you want? Will you get to see the video before it’s produced? How many re-edits do you get at the set price? What resolution will the finished product be?
There are many pieces to the advertising/marketing/promotion puzzle, and I think you should do as many of them as you can. You never know when your next “biggest fan” is going to stumble across your book trailer or audiobook and fall in love with your writing.