Friday, April 13, 2012

Writing101: Book Trailers

Once upon a time, writers like Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austin sat hunched over wooden desks next to oil lamps, scribbling out fantastic prose in longhand with bottles of ink sitting just within reach. They sent voluminous manuscripts -- ink spots, and all -- off to publishers, who were happy to turn these gigantic collections of parchment into beautifully bound books. Those days are long over. Today's writer has to become an expert on using the Internet, a star in social media, an editor, a book formatter, a software guru, a forum nut -- and yes, even a graphic designer. Want to be a professional writer? You'll be lucky if you spend even half of your working hours actually writing. Among the many non-writing tasks you'll be asked to perform, you need to learn about book trailers. What they are. Who they're for. What to do with them. And, oh yeah -- how to create them from scratch. Put away your bottles of ink, and get out a keyboard.


What's a Book Trailer?

Commercials have existed for as long as television, and movie trailers have been made for flicks since the silent film era. Above all, movie trailers -- those minute-long clips you see in theaters for upcoming films -- are advertisements. And even if you aren't from Hollywood, you can make one for your book. And you should.

Your book is not the same as a film, I know. But people love looking at videos online -- go and ask YouTube if you don't believe me. Good luck getting through the piles of money that litter the path to the front door. An exciting book trailer, presented like a movie trailer, can create interest for a book the same way it can for a film. And here's the good part: you'll be advertising something they can immediately buy without even moving from the chair. You don't have to motivate your audience to wait three weeks, then get fixed up and go out to the theaters for a big night on the town. You just need them to click a link, and then another link. Think you can create a video that might make them want to do that? Sure you can!

Creating a Book Trailer

No one understands better than you what your book is about. Now condense all that into a minute-long series of text and images, and you've got a book trailer -- after a good four hours (or more) of pure tedium and stress. First, start thinking of the main points in your book. Is it about love? Murder? Grief? A coming-of-age tale of two sisters? Describe your book, to yourself, in a few words (no more than one sentence). Now you've got a starting place for your book trailer.


Think about all the trailers you've seen. First, the trailer introduces a character, a place or some concept. "The end of the world" may appear on the screen in bold lettering. In the background, a ruined cityscape will slowly come to life. Now I'm hooked. Why did the world end? If the world has ended, what's happening? Show me another image -- a heroic man with a gun standing in shadow. The text reads: "One man must save society." Who is he? I want to know him. Now I'm drawn in, I'm being carried along. And that's how you make a book trailer. Take me through different images, different catchy lines and at some point introduce me to the book. Remember to tell me where I can get it, the title of it, the author, maybe even throw the book cover in there at some point so I can be certain of what I'm buying when I go looking for it. End dramatically, and the trailer's over. Now I'm rushing through cyberspace to buy your book.

So...now you just need a bunch of images and software that helps you create a video from scratch. It's daunting, but it's actually easy if you know where to look. If you've got Windows 7, you've probably got movie making software already on your machine. Look for existing software first on your Mac or PC. If it's not there, you'll need to turn to free software online. No problem -- it's out there. Windows has a safe, very user-friendly free software package, and so does Mac. If that fails, try looking at CNet's list of software.

Once you've got your video program installed, open that bad boy up and start to play around. Throw some of your existing photos on there, music you've downloaded and play around with the tools. Once you're satisfied you know how it works, open up a new project and get to work. You're going to put this trailer live on the Internet, so the first order of business is don't break any laws. You have to have copyright-free, license-free, free free free images, video and music for your trailer. No logos, no footage taken from any movies you like, no songs you bought on iTunes. No. Even if you own it, you don't have the license to re-distribute it and YouTube will remove that trailer. If you took the video yourself of some trees blowing around (or whatever), that's fine. It's yours, use it. If you took the images and they don't have any logos or copyrighted material in them, use them. If you made the music, use it. Otherwise, make darn certain you're downloading something that you're allowed to use. You can find free music, free images and even free video footage that you're welcome to use. Take the time to do so, because you'll just have to fix it later if you don't. Arrange all your elements in your movie maker software, upload it to YouTube (accounts are free; you've already got one if you've got a Google account of any kind) and start promoting that book trailer.

Buying a Book Trailer

Okay, wow, that's a lot of work. It takes a ton of searching and no shortage of stressing to produce a book trailer that others will like. You can always make it easy on yourself by hiring someone. There are companies out there that specialize in creating book trailers, and still others that have found a niche in making indie book trailers in particular. Look for them on writers' forum groups. Find book trailers by other indies on YouTube, and if they were made by someone else you should see that person or company's logo at the end or beginning of the trailer. Contact them through social media, or their official website, and you're in business. Professional trailer makers will have a specific questionnaire for you to complete, or specific questions about what you want, and they'll take care of the rest. If you've got the money to spend, a professionally-made book trailer can make a big impact.

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1 comment:

  1. I use ubuntustudio.org and avlinux (http://www.bandshed.net/AVLinux.html) liveDVDs that have openshot, lmms, and a host of other software to create videos. All free.

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