Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DIY: Book Trailers for Authors on a Tight Budget

Up to a year ago, if you had asked me whether I watch the clever book trailers that most authors were coming out with for their novels, I would have said, "What for?" A book and a short series of clips about events in the book – why is that necessary? Surely, the two couldn’t be more different. You can appreciate that I have these slightly naive moments and not hold that against me, right? Then, I started to think about the some of the best books I had read lately, and in particular, the comments I would make about them, like “I could really see that scene; the author paints great visuals with his words,” etc. For each of them, the author opened up my imagination, so that I could visualize the world of his or her characters on the page. When you can connect readers with your characters and portray a world so vivid that it’s so clear in the mind’s eye, you’re doing a great job as a writer.

Book trailers add another layer of marketing tools to your work, a means by which you can portray the most important events or a summary of the main conflict facing your characters AND hopefully, convince buyers to snag the book. Still, for a while, I was unconvinced that I should attempt one. After all, I didn’t know a thing at the time about getting the right images and music. I didn’t know what I wanted to convey in a trailer. That’s the hardest aspect of all. If you are unsure about the story elements you should focus on, look at your blurb or synopsis. What were the key themes you focused on? Before you begin the process, ask yourself, what’s this story about?

Once you’ve defined your focus, time to assemble everything you need. Do you want pictures or short clips? Voice narration or just text? What type of soundtrack, if any, would suit those elements? If you’re on a budget, you’ll have to choose very carefully. Also, think about the length of your trailer. The first one I did for On Falcon’s Wings was a whopping two minutes and forty-six seconds, which equals WAY TOO LONG! Think of your book trailer as performing the same function as your blurb or pitch: it needs to entice a reader, but it should also be also short . So, I learned something from the first trailer and have keep all subsequent ones to less than a minute and a half. 

I’ve already shared with you my favorite photo / video sharing sites, for cheap and quick access to high quality images. Titling each visual works for me, though I have liked several trailers where the author or someone else narrates. If you have a microphone and recording software, you can do it. Let’s skip to soundtracks.

Music conveys the mood of your story and should complement the visuals. Have you written an upbeat chick-lit tale? Does your historical work feature an epic battle? A tragic love story? I’ve found two great sites for soundtracks that complement any book trailer. Pond5, where I obtained the music for Sultana’s book trailer, offers tracks from sale in every length and variety, from acoustic sounds to world music. Incompetech, which Gemi Sasson recommended, provides royalty-free music. I like this site in particular because you can search by mood; for those epic historical battles, try searching by Feel with the elements of Action and Intense.

Now that you’ve compiled your photos or videos, added the music and decided on the narration, how are you going to put everything together? I rely on Windows Movie Maker and Windows Live Movie Maker, software that comes pre-installed on most PCs. Simplest way to put everything together is to save the music, visuals and if you’re using it, narration, to one folder, ready for import.

I’m showing a much older version of Movie Maker here, but the process remains the same; grab your visuals in the order you want to display them. Next, add your music and/or narration. If the music is too long, you can trim it. You can add stylistic elements to your visuals and titles; do you want to zoom in on your hero’s face as he prepares to meet his adversary, showing the tired, sagging lines etched in his features and then fade to black? Do you want the title to remain stationary, or ease in and fade out? Have fun with the process, but don’t include every element.

Here are two examples of what I did with Movie Maker, with the trailer for Long Way Home, an upcoming contemporary novella, and Live Movie Maker, for Sultana’s Legacy. Both are somber stories, so I chose visuals (courtesy of Fotolia) and soundtracks (both from Incompetech) which would convey that mood.

After the compilation and editing are finished and you’re ready to debut your brand-new trailer, where can you go to upload? There are a variety of video sharing sites you can try. My personal favorites are YouTube and Vimeo. Have an author page on Facebook? Upload it there. Of course, you should have an author page at Amazon’s Author Central as well – you can showcase up to eight videos there. I believe you’re still limited to one upload at the UK and German Author Central sites. Are you a Goodreads author? Post your trailer there too.

And, if you’re like me, and still wondering whether all this effort is worth it, I know firsthand that it can be. Within the first week of my trailer for Sultana, which I posted on YouTube, someone left this comment: “I NEEEED THIS BOOK !!!” Which she promptly bought from Amazon. You never know who might discover your work and the mechanism that will lead them to it. In the competitive world of book publishing, book trailers can be one way to stand out.


Johanna Garth said...

Thanks for inspiring me Lisa, now I'm resolved to keep working on my trailer today!

Lisa Yarde said...

If I inspired one person, then my work here is done. LOL, thank you, Johanna and good luck with the trailer.

Michelle Gregory said...

thanks. once again, you've taken something complex and simplified it. i might just do a trailer for Eldala in my spare time, which i'm suddenly finding more of.

Lisa Yarde said...

I'd love to see that, Michelle, especially if that trailer involves Adrian Paul :-)

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