Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to make a good book trailer

This was a guest post on Adopt An Indie, and I thought my readers might enjoy reading it.

Book trailers have recently grown in popularity with the advent of YouTube. Large publishing houses have budgets to hire actors and produce special effects, but self-publishers and smaller presses are “stuck” with a lower budget. What are some ways to set yourself apart and make your video look professional?

DON’T go too long.
DO keep it under two minutes. 

Unless you have interactive or extremely interesting content, you’re going to lose people if you go longer than a minute and a half. If you have a nonfiction book and you’re featuring an interview, that would be a good reason to go longer. 

DON’T make your video look like a family slideshow someone plays at a high school graduation.
DO vary from simple stock photos and cheesy transitions. 

Some things you could incorporate to avoid the boring stock photo slideshow:
-- Stock video. One website is (You do need to register to download their videos, but I can vouch that I never received junk mail or anything crazy from them.) Just google "stock video" and you're bound to find a lot of resources.
-- Voiceover. Read your blurb or speak from your main character’s POV. Make sure you're using the best quality you can. Download Audacity, a free and simple recording program available for all three major operating systems. 
-- Use a list ("How to tell if your best friend is a werewolf", "Three things Carrie Smith is about to find out", "Three ways to know if your father is haunting you". The last one is from Haunting Miss Trentwood, and I loved it.)

-- Use lines from a journal of the main character (which is what I ended up doing for Finding Fiona)
-- Explore effects from other video editing software. For example, Amanda Hocking’s Switched trailer. (I searched and searched, but I can't figure out what software she used to make this. It's her best kept secret so far, but it reminds me of effects I've seen for After Effects, which I doubt self-published authors are going to buy and learn how to work simply for their book trailers.)

DON’T make your video a dry rehashing of the blurb. 
DO make use of the audio and visual mediums. 

Is your book a horror? Use creepy music. 
Is your book fast-paced? Put the video to fast music and avoid slow transitions. 
Is your book a renaissance fantasy? Make sure your photos and text give off the feel of an older time with magical possibilities. 

DON’T take pictures and music from anywhere.
DO make sure you have the proper rights to use commercially.

Your video is trying to sell something, thus it's commercial use. Respect the hard work of photographers and music artists by gaining permission and crediting as much as you can. If you have a Mac, you can use the loops in GarageBand to make your own music, which is what I ended up doing for the Finding Fiona video. 

DON’T throw together transitions, fonts, and photos from all over the internet.
DO give it a seamless look. 

Use the same look throughout the whole video. This isn’t your time to experiment with different effects. It’s your time to snag a potential reader, and if everything matches everything else, you’ll give off a professional vibe. Bonus points if your video matches your book cover, your blog, and your website. Branding!

DON’T be confined to one simple way of doing things. 
DO explore your (or other!) video editing software. 

If you have Windows, you'll probably have Windows Movie Maker; and if you have a Mac, you'll have iMovie. If you want the opposite, visit your library or a college library in your town to see if they offer those operating systems and programs. Or ask around to see if any friends or family has something you could use for a couple hours.

Here are some other free video editing programs:

Video Spin
List of 10 Free Video Editing Programs

This is a big learning curve. If it's too much hassle, don't bother with it. Which leads me to the next point. . .

DON’T stress yourself out over something that hasn’t yet been proved to drastically influence sales. 
DO treat it as a learning experience and have fun!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post! I've got to start working on one of these. I love the idea but I'm just not creative that way, so it's been tough for me to decide what to do.