Friday, January 3, 2014

Making Your Own Book Trailer--Guest Blog by Authors Juliann Rich and Aren Sabers

You've seen them:  short, sassy movies, using imagery, themes or even text from a soon-to-be-published book.  A moving visual image to entice you--the reader--to purchase that book.  

Book trailers have come out in the last decade.  From novelty item to common device used by publishers and authors to pique interest, generate web presence and platform.  Even used in school classrooms by teachers to entice reluctant readers or prompt discussion, designed by students as part of arts-and-communications curricula.

Are you excited about making a book trailer?  Authors Juliann Rich and Aren Sabers, creators of their own successful book trailers, share their best tips in this guest blog.  Their websites and trailers are listed at the end of their post--be sure to check them out.  Fun, entertaining, and moving--and hopefully offering excellent reasons to read their new books!

Are You Ready to Make a Book Trailer?   
When making our first book trailers, we learned to consider the audience for each book. What are their expectations as readers?  There are far fewer trailers for literary novels than for, say, young adult novels. Young adults are an ideal audience for a visual, sharable representation of a book, because they gravitate toward media.  (If you don't make a trailer they may just make one for you. Or several!)

But the down side:  your genre welcomes or expects book trailers, but your trailer will be one in an ocean of book trailers. What will it take to rise above the noise?  This was our second big question. 

Book trailers also create a certain relationship with an audience. It helps you establish your voice, introduce you as author to your readers. We love middle-grade author Kurtis Scaletta's trailer for his book Mudville and the Vlog work of John Green.

Book Trailers as Social Media Tools  
Trailers occupy a unique niche in social media.  Following the "rules" of this form of publicity, trailers need to:

1. Entice (by being funny, visually arresting, fresh, clever, or surprising)
2. Inform (give readers the information they need to know only to convince them they want to read your book--a trailer is not a book synopsis or even a pitch).  
3. Be sharable (the holy grail of book trailers--make it entertaining or interesting enough for readers to share with other readers, initiating a viral publicity campaign)

If you search on YouTube, you'll quickly be inundated with book trailers: author-made, fan-made, and even professionally shot and directed.  Higher-quality trailers can leave you feeling intimidated.  Fear not. There are plenty of creative ways to represent your book on a budget.

The Cinematic Book Trailer
Book trailers that are cinematic--emulating movie trailers--often don't work very well on a budget.  Good ones are worth watching, such as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin and The Women by T.C. Boyle.  Another favorite is the trailer for Skagboys by Irvine Welsh. It's simple, cinematic, moody, but reveals nothing about what the book is about while making you want to race out and buy it.  

Book Trailers That Celebrate the Power of Text
On the other end of the spectrum is a trailer which makes brilliant use of voice and text only.  Check out this one: Blackbirds and Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig.  Another great example is Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Book Trailers That Use Animation
A beautiful example of a simple, powerful, homemade trailer is Steve Brezenoff's The Absolute Value of -1.  Author-drawn, simple text, and his own guitar for the soundtrack. A more complex example is Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala, which uses illustrations from the book itself, set to haunting music for a memorable effect.  

As production budgets increase, we see some examples of book trailers guaranteed to cause trailer envy, such as Leviathan by Scott Westerfield,  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, and Going West by the New Zealand Book Council.

Book Trailers for Picture Books
Even picture books have book trailers, which may seem strange until you see something like Green by Laura Seeger. Gorgeous. 

Trailers That Put the Author Front and Center
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a nonfiction book that simply shows the author, Rebecca Skloot, discussing her book. Her passion is infectious.
Many author-in-real-life trailers take the opportunity to show the author's humor. For example: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Lowboy by John Wray, and Tasteful Nudes by Dave Hill.

But if you don't know Zack Galafiinakis, James Franco, or Dick Cavett, check out what you can do in your home with your own kids running around in the background: Got Milf? by Sara Maizes.

How to Get Started:  Copyright Issues and Movie-Making Resources  
The most important consideration when gathering images, video clips or music for your book trailer is the issue of copyright.  Because your book trailer will be used to promote your book, you must have commercial copyright to anything used in your trailer.

You can avoid legal issues by generating all the material yourself. This is great IF you're a photographer, videographer, music composer, and musician.  

But if you're not a Renaissance person, you can hire someone to create your trailer for you--which can get really pricey really fast.  Or you can do it yourself! 
That's right.  You can do it yourself even if you've had zero training.
Step 1:  Software  
The first step is to download iMovies (Mac) or a similar home-movie-editing software for PC.  Read the instructions (or see the tutorials below).  Begin gathering your materials before you begin the movie-making, though.

Step 2:  Images 
Royalty-free images and video are available from a variety of sources (iStockphoto, Shutterstock, etc.)  Read the license information carefully before purchasing your materials to make sure you receive a commercial license. You are promoting a product: your book, or yourself.  (Consider a brief subscription, and check for available coupons online to reduce expense.)  Opt for video, which often isn't included in monthly subscription fees.  A few moments of movement can heighten the visual interest in your book trailer.

Step 3:  Music  
For royalty-free music, sites such as Audio Jungle offer thousands of audio clips that can be used for commercial projects. You can search by "trailer" to find shorter clips and even refine the search further by entering other key words like "romantic" or "thriller."  

Your music will create much of the atmosphere for your trailer, and also determine its length. Most book trailers range in length from 30 seconds to two minutes. However, that's not a hard and fast rule. See some of the longer examples listed above.

Putting It All Together
For her trailer, Aren used Photoshop and iMovie with a combination of stock photo stills altered with Photoshop to achieve the effect she needed, stock video, and personally shot video. She also contacted a local band and asked permission to use their music. If she completely reworked her trailer (and she might) she would make the imagery more spare but absolutely keep the music.

Juliann downloaded iMovies and then purchased her photos/videos from Shutterstock and her music from Audio Jungle. She began by putting in the music track and then added the photos and videos, futzing with it until she was happy with it. With her Shutterstock monthly subscription, Juliann was able to download pictures for her first two books and was able to design their book trailers. Her first attempt was more straightforward with still shots and text set to music. In her second book trailer she incorporated some elements of video, which she felt was a great addition.

The process of tweaking timing is too complicated for a blog post and one that is best learned through experimentation. We recommend searching for tutorials for iMovie or your PC software.  Here are two good ones:

Book trailers are a medium where small choices deliver big impressions.  Be thoughtful about your decisions. The more you play and experiment, the more you'll understand your options and be able to achieve your creative vision.

A word about timing: matching slide transitions with peak moments in your soundtrack will heighten the dramatic tone of your trailer. Likewise, avoiding this will create a lower level of drama. Whichever option you choose, you will find that your story will be told through both the images and the music and through the magic they create together.

A word about text:  less is more. You will not be able to present the entirety of your book's content in 30 seconds. No way is that even possible in two minutes! You will need to focus on the heart of your book. Play with your script. Make your narrative short and compelling.

A word about fonts:  avoid a ton of font changes. This can derail your viewers' attention, making them miss your all-important content. We recommend choosing a consistent font for the bulk of your narrative and only highlighting a few key phrases through use of a special effect.

Sharing Your Trailer via Social Media 
What do you do with your stunning book trailer once you're done? First, upload it to a video site like YouTube or Vimeo.  This creates a hyperlink or embedding ID.  You can it on your website, featuring it on your home page and also on your book page.

Then, feel free to brag a little. You could hype this up to a "Book Trailer Reveal" like a cover reveal and have it be the topic of a blog post. You could even hire a blog company for a one-day reveal blitz similar to the cover reveals many authors do. Definitely share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr--wherever you have a social media presence.

Add your book trailer to your Goodreads Author page and your Amazon Author page. Goodreads and Amazon are often the first places readers encounter books and your trailer should be right there, piquing their interest and introducing your book.

Do your best to make your book trailer creative, beautiful, thought-provoking, funny, or an object of art. If you do this, you will be adding meaning to that vast social machine on the Web, as well as enticing readers to choose your book from the countless titles available.

Check out our websites and book trailers:  Click here for Juliann's book trailer, here for Aren's book trailer.  Let us know how we did. We welcome your feedback!

Juliann Rich, author of Caught in the Crossfire and Searching for Grace (Bold Strokes Books, 2014)
Aren Sabers, author of The Deadlands and Whereafter

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