Thursday, 2 February 2012

How To Make A Book Trailer

Research on book trailers is inconclusive. Do they help sales or are they a waste of time and money?

I don’t even have a book for sale but I do have a book trailer. Why? For the simple reason it was fun. I did a workshop on making book trailers and had an absolute blast making this one myself. It must have satisfied some inner, more visual creative craving that isn't writing related!

NB: sometimes the video file plays smoothly for me and sometimes it doesn't. If you have a similar problem, I suggest you press play, then pause, and wait for the whole file to buffer before attempting to watch it. Apologies. 

So if you can make your own book trailer cheaply and easily, cost ceases to be so much of an issue – even if, maybe, the book trailer has no significant effect on sales. 

So how does one go about making a book trailer? Here are some guidelines and resources you can use. I am assuming familiarity with the software I refer to, but if you have a technical question, please do ask in the comments.
  1. Write an effective script. Start with a back cover blurb (or write a new one) to build your script from. It needs to be specific. In reality, this is going to end up looking a bit like a three line elevator pitch. I know, I know. Tough call. We all hate doing it. Do it anyway. And I stress it must be specific.
  2. The blurb needs to be broken down into 20-25 specific phrases. Specific. You want the reader to have a clear idea what your book is about at the end of this. Check out my script in the trailer above. Use sentence-correct capitalisation and punctuation. Don’t start each phrase with a capital. You’ll want the last screen to be information about your book and where it can be purchased. This last screen should stay up a bit longer at the end.
  3. Start a Microsoft PowerPoint slideshow and put each phrase on one slide. Don’t use fancy entrance and exit options for text, they’re distracting. Your slide transition should be set to ‘fade smoothly’. You need the slides to transition in the time it takes to read the phrase aloud. You’ll need to test this and adjust the options. Sorry – this is different for every version of Powerpoint so I can’t tell you where to find this but it should be reasonably easy to locate. One version has a nifty feature where you can play the slide show to set the timings. You click when the slide should transition and it saves the timing.
  4. Find yourself a nice font. It should be easy to read but not a boring, standard font. If you have a published book, you might aim to match the font on your cover. I get my fonts here but there are other sites you can use. Make sure you choose a TrueType font.
  5. Find pictures to match your phrases. You don’t need one picture per phrase. You’ll notice I have some pictures that appear for multiple phrases. I get my pictures from Dreamstime which has the advantage of allowing you to download watermarked images. You can use these in a ‘test’ before settling on final images and paying for them. If you use Dreamstime, you should use the ‘Small’ size when purchasing pictures.I suggest waiting until you have chosen all the pictures you want to use, then buy a subscription package. You'll get more pictures for your dollar. I have dozens of spare ones left over that I can now use for other things.
  6. Add each picture to the appropriate slide. You may need to reposition the text, change font colours, sizes and background colours. Keep in mind the overall theme or mood of your novel. If you couldn’t guess, mine is a little dark, yes?
  7. Find royalty-free music to match the mood of your trailer. I got mine here and it was free, but you can buy music as well. the site I use allows you to search music by theme and mood. I cannot emphasise mood enough. Listen to the music in my trailer. Think about how much it adds to the trailer. We are writers, we move people with words, but don’t forget that music speaks to us in a very visceral fashion. This is why they use it in movies – it’s a very powerful tool.
  8. If the music is too long, you’ll need to edit it. I used a programme called Cakewalk for this. I had no idea how to use it when I purchased it but I figured it out. It’s relatively intuitive. There is a small cost to purchase. You can get it here if you’re interested. I had to shorten mine and to be honest the music may need to be shortened a fraction more just to end at precisely the right place but I simply haven't had time to attend to this detail yet. We don’t add the music to PowerPoint, we add it when we convert the PowerPoint presentation to a video file.
  9. Once you’ve completely assembled your slideshow, the next step is to convert it to a video file! You can get software here to do this (if you don’t already have some). There are three versions here: a free edition, a free trial edition (which puts a banner on your trailer) and a version you can purchase for $45.00.  I used the free version and it worked just fine but you might choose to invest in the complete version.
  10. Once you’ve downloaded the program, open it and click ‘Add’ then select your PowerPoint file. Then click ‘customise’, go to the ‘Music’ tab and click on the green music note with the plus sign. Select your music file.
  11. On ‘Profile’ select the format you want. MPEG 4 or WMV are the most common. Select ‘High’ for both video and audio quality. Output is the file destination on your computer.
  12. Click ‘Start’!
And that’s it! Once your PowerPoint has finished converting into a video file you can watch it, upload it, put it on your website, blog, Facebook page and share it with all your friends!

If you are interested in learning more about how to write a script for a book trailer and choosing pictures and music that suit the trailer, as well as more resources for pictures and music and technical guidance on how to use various programmes, I highly recommend this ‘Create Your Own Book Trailer’ workshop. 

Happy book trailering!

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Kelly Gamble said...

I love book trailers. I hope they become the new norm.  It gives me a way to see how the author visualizes their work and of course, let's me know what the book is about.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I enjoy the good ones. I really enjoyed making this one. For a moment, I contemplated making book trailers for other people, then remembered how little time I have LOL

Ellie Garratt said...

Stunning post and book trailer. You have a new follower!

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Thanks so much, glad you liked it!

Andy Holloman said...

cool, cool, cool....you inspired me !!!  thx for the heads up on making a trailer.....i thought it was interesting that you made trailer in advance of finishing the book, that was truly creative way to kinda get a feel for the "end product"  ...write on!

Erica Lucke Dean said...

Amazing trailer! I suppose I should make one for my book. It really does draw you in to make you want to read more.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Glad to have inspired you! I had finished writing the book, just not editing it, nor did I have any intention of self-publishing it at the time I made this trailer as I was about to send the manuscript off to a publisher who'd asked for a partial.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Thanks, glad you liked the trailer! It's always nice to hear it's effective :-)

Tim Moon said...

Great trailer! Is that actually a book you're writing?

I think the problem with book trailers isn't usually the trailer itself. It's the unfounded expectation that someone watching it will be so thrilled that they will instantly go buy the book. That's just not the case. When you watched a trailer for a movie did you instantly go buy tickets for it? No. But it prepared you for a future purchase by planting the seed in your head and hopefully swaying you into selecting that film over another.

Plus, I think a lot of authors just post it up on YouTube, usually with few if any subscribers to their channel, tweet about it, and then post it up on their blog and call it good. No anticipation was built up, no one knew it was coming out, or when it was coming out, so of course - few if any people watch it.

A little bit of research into effective video marketing techniques, of which there is a TON of free info online, would probably help out immensely.

Like I said, great trailer. It's among the best I've watched because it actually interested me in the story.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

 I've never given it much thought, but you're probably quite right no that I DO think about it. How much hype does a blockbuster movie get? The trailer is just part of that. Obviously writers don't have the same resources that Hollywood has, but expectations can still be built using a writer's platform, such as holding twitter parties and marketing a countdown to an announcement (like JK Rowling's Pottermore announcement). Things like that in conjunction with a book trailer may well be more effective.

Thanks for the compliment on the trailer, I put a lot of effort into it :-) Deathhawk's Betrayal is currently under consideration by Harper Collins.

Karen White said...

Thanks for sharing all this.  I actually enjoy the trailers with static pictures rather than videos with (sorry but I have to say) often cheesy acting.  I'm an audiobook narrator, and have been thinking about creating trailers for some of the books I work on.  Will definitely make use of your instructions.  
but of course mine will have the text narrated as well as in print :)  Does that appeal to others?

Amberr Meadows said...

I think trailers are a great idea if it's done neatly and creatively. I've seen some that just look awful before, and others--like yours--look fantastic. I think if someone goes through the trouble of making a trailer, it already sets them apart from many who are too lazy to take that extra step. Kudos to you, sweetie!

Joel Arnold said...

Thanks for this post. I've been thinking of doing a book trailer, but really had no clue how to go about it.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

 You're absolutely right, book trailers with video usually ARE cheesy acting! Because most writers can't afford or justify more. The exception was Rhiannon Paille's book trailer, which totally rocks.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

 Thanks! I put so much effort into this, but partly because I totally fell in love with the process. Which was weird, I'm not usually a visually creative person. I was happy with the outcome though. I think it's true of me to say that when I have a really good impression of 'mood' in my head, I create something that's great. I discovered this recently writing 4 short stories - threeI had this fabulous 'mood' I wanted to create, and the stories came out really well. The other I didn't, and it was less satisfactory.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

 Me neither, until I did the workshop! Glad this helped.

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