Monday, September 17

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, September 17, 2012 No comments
As the marketplace for reading material becomes increasingly crowded, authors are finding that brief videos can be an excellent way to introduce a story to readers.

First, I'd like to share the one I created for my novel. Then I’ll explain some of my process, as well as my thoughts what I believe works and doesn’t work in developing a book trailer (especially on a limited budget).


Determine the overall tone of your book. Is it light and humorous? Mysterious? Action-packed? This will guide all other decisions about the script, images and music.

Develop a script for the trailer that gives readers a taste of what’s in the book. Vague, hype-driven sound-bites might be de rigueur in  film marketing, but they don’t tend to convince readers to pick up a book. The most effective trailers cover some key points of the main story arc.

Try to be specific enough, yet leave some unanswered questions. In my trailer, I give three images that are very story-specific, but aren’t explained: a sorrel pony, discarded mannequin parts and an axe. That such an odd combination of things play into the climax adds intrigue. Readers want to know why they’re there. Nothing but reading my book will answer that question.

Get feedback on your script before you invest a lot of time hunting for images or footage. Chances are your critique partners will tell you to trim it considerably.

Think twice about doing a live-action trailer. Sure, they’re impressive. But they feel like a bait-and-switch to readers, who’ll end up disappointed when your book can’t actually deliver what a completely different medium promised. A book is written content. Fear not the use of still images and text. These will give readers a better sense of your story. And they’re loads cheaper to produce.

Consider how much you want to cement character looks in your readers’ heads. No offense to Rupert Grint, but he’s not really how I pictured Ron Weasley. I like the fictional Ron in my head far more than actor whose face is now burned in my brain. Readers like books because they give that power--to imagine characters how they want. Silhouettes, back view and interestingly cropped images are all good ways to bring characters in without cementing their looks.


Finding images to work with your script can be a long, slow process. Give yourself several weeks to poke away at it.

Be vigilant about copyright with images. You can use your own photos/footage or hire someone who will sell you rights. If you search online, purchase rights from a royalty-free site, seek Creative Commons attribution license work from places like Flickr, or try my favorite, morguefile, which is all free-use, no attribution. (A “morge file,” my illustrator friend tells me, is where pro artists trunk things created for a project but not used). If your license requires attribution, be sure to add “credits” to your script.

Music is, of course, another consideration. Use only what you can obtain rights to. There are loads of sites offering royalty-free music. This means you don’t continue paying for every use--it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re totally free. Many have a one-time fee to obtain rights for your project. For totally free music, look for “attribution license” music, in which you can use pieces as long as you list the composer/performer in the credits. The composer for my trailer is Kevin MacLeod of the site incompetech.

Try out your script with any music you’re considering. Chances are you’ll need to do some tweaking to get everything to fit. Storyboarding with Word printouts can be a quick and easy way to test whether the music will work well with your images.

There are many software options for putting together quality videos. Much of the freeware out there doesn’t have a ton of functionality, though. But before you rush off and plunk down big bucks for software, let me let you in on a little secret. You can turn PowerPoint presentations into video. The newest version of PP has that conversion capability. If you already have familiarity with PP, it offers a wide variety of effects and functions, and pretty good control, especially if you use text.

Remember that a trailer is just one piece of a marketing plan, so budget accordingly. I spent weeks of time creating mine, but no money at all. The images and music were free. I used software I already owned, plus some freeware to help embed the music.

Do you think book trailers are helpful for marketing? What do you think makes one effective?


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