ETA (8-15-2018): This post has been updated with the newer version of the REMOVED trailer that I made myself.
We all know what trailers mean for films. We wait for them and squeal over them when it’s a movie we’ve wanted to see forever. But a trailer for a book? You’d be surprised how common they are nowadays. Probably some of your favorite books have trailers and you didn’t even know about them!
I made one for REMOVED (watch it above!) I watched dozens of book trailers before I had made mine, and, coming from a film background, I knew there were a few points to keep in mind.
Do it yourself or hire someone: I got lucky here. I won a giveaway hosted by Carrie Butler at Forward Authority (She is no longer in business) for $100 in design credit for my first video. The second video I made myself. Since I already create all my images myself, I asked Forward Authority to build the trailer for me. She provided me with a questionnaire that I filled out so I could get a sense of what I wanted my book trailer to be. All in all, we did three passes of the trailer back and forth, first with comp images and then again with final images and music. It was a straight-forward process and freed up my own time to work on other things. If you don’t want to hire anyone, there are a lot of free or close-to-free services you can use. iMovie (Mac) is a good one to learn which is how I built my second trailer. Windows Movie Maker is another. And I just found out about an online video editing app called Animoto that seems cool.
Keep it short: Really don’t go over 1:30. Mine is right there at 1:26 but the bulk of the action happens before the 1:00 mark. You will lose the viewer’s attention if they have to read 2 or more minutes of text.
Use strong, compelling language: Don’t take your blurb and just animate it. Boring. Write out a script with a few short statements that use strong adjectives and action words. In my script, I made sure to use such words as “ripped” “plummeted” “danger” to build tension. This works well for REMOVED because, yes, it’s a science fiction romance, but it’s also a mystery with high stakes.
Choose your music carefully: there are plenty of royalty-free music sites out there but I suggest watching a bunch of book trailers first before you use your music. Make sure you’re not using the same music as dozens of other book trailers. If you decide you hate all the free music, consider contacting a musician to help. In my case, I have very talented and awesome friends :) I contacted my good friend, Jason Snell (Bombardier), to compose my music for me. He’s a musician and DJ, and his skill set and music genre is hard-core techno and industrial music. I knew he would make me something amazing.
In an email I wrote to him, I described the trailer and my book as “fairly monotone in color (which is funny to say since it’s just words on the page!) but yes they wear what I term as ‘Nishikyo grays’ which are simple gray tunics and pants for normal everyday clothing but then there are bursts of color with kimonos, yukata, and street festivals. So with these visuals in mind, I had decided I needed something rough and dark, but not too harsh for audio. I think most of the visuals will be muted, desaturated, or black and white with pops of color.” Then I described what I like and wanted in the music: “something dark, moody, maybe low synth, a good drum beat that crescendos near the end then dies off for the credits.” He nailed it in one go! The music you’re hearing was what he produced on my description.
Have a visual style in mind: The style you see in the video is how I picture my book. Dark and gritty with pops of color. I was so certain of the style that I wanted that I edited all the images myself before handing them off to my book trailer video designer, Carrie. Yes, I am particular.
So, lots of people ask, “Do book trailers sell books?” Honestly, I have no idea. When I decided I wanted a book trailer, I knew it would be an extra marketing piece to have, another thing to help my series gain some exposure. And something for fans of my series too! I’ve heard from several friends already who read my book that they love the trailer, so at the very least, I gave a few people 1 minute and 30 seconds of fun :)
Before readers pick up your book, several promotional efforts will contribute to their overall impression of the work: the cover, your book trailer, advertisements, blurbs, teaser images, etc. Of these, the book trailer will have the unique opportunity to engage two senses at once—sight and hearing—so you’ll want to make sure they work in tandem. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you post one:
1. Should I make it myself, hire a professional, or use a cookie-cutter video generator that everyone else is using?
2. Where am I going to obtain royalty-free music, images, and/or video?
3. Have I written a script that can be executed in less than two minutes?
4. Are the images/videos that I’m presenting uniform in terms of size, shape, and filter?
5. Do the visuals complement the beats in the song I’ve chosen?
6. Is there enough contrast between the text and imagery?
7. Would this entertain me if I were an unbiased viewer?
8. Is everything consistent with my other promotional efforts?
Now go out and make something fun!