Writing Wednesday: How I Make A Book Trailer
This title was carefully chosen: this is how I make book trailers. How you should do it I can’t say. But if you like my way and want to emulate, you knock yourself out.
I have as of right now done three book trailers. Two of them are at my YouTube channel, and the third is still somewhat green, plus it’s waiting for a book cover image, so it’s just on my Mobile Me account. I have a fourth one ready to go (technically it was the second one I made), but they cost a bit of money to make, so I’m waiting for a less rainy day, since it’s a book which seems to do just fine without a trailer. (Special Delivery. And I’ll post it eventually. Just need to find a spare $60 or a good argument.)
This was my first trailer, which I’ve posted here before.
What I love about this one is how incredibly short it is. Of course, Nowhere Ranch isn’t at all a complicated story.
But even if it were, I’d still have been shooting for as short as I could get. My very first attempt at at trailer was for Special Delivery last fall. For some insane reason I made it first in Keynote, with all these flash images and stuff, and I thought I was pretty cool. Then I sent it to my sister-in-law’s husband, the Hollywood film editor. I asked him to please critique it for me.
His response? Way, way too long. (A minute and a half.) Way too much text. Short, he said, as short as possible. Under a minute for sure, thirty seconds if possible. I thought, okay. But then I never went back to it, because I really didn’t know what to do.
When I started getting ready to do promo for Nowhere Ranch, my publicist said I needed to get on YouTube because it’s insane the number of hits it gets, and she was all about breadth of exposure. So I made a YouTube channel and got ready to make a trailer again. I decided this time I was just going straight to iMovie, no Keynote, and less text.
But without a lot of text to hide behind, I really felt exposed and strange. I thought a blurb was bad: now I have to tell my whole story and get people to pause and key in my book’s title or my domain name with just a few lines? No way. I needed images, and more than just the book cover. And music. There HAD to be music.
And so I went to istockphoto.com.
I went, to put it mildly, crazy. I registered, made a lightbox, and grabbed any and everything that sounded good. Even as I reached for images and video, I thought, "There’s no way I could fit this all in a thirty second video, let alone afford it." But I had all these visions. I wanted cutaways. I wanted to represent the arc of the book. I wanted Hollywood cinematography in less than thirty seconds. I could do this! And it was exciting. And fun. And then I began to tally up how much it would cost, and I thought, "Whoah."
So I whittled, and then I whittled some more. I downloaded comp images and video and a converter software so the stuff would freaking load in iMovie, because it wouldn’t for reasons unknown. I made my copy text. I inserted it in title frames.
I watched the trailer as I put it together, over and over and over, and I moved stuff around, and then I watched it some more. And some more. And some more. And eventually, I had what you see above. I’d lost over half the copy, solidifying the whole story into two simple sentences—and they rhymed! How cute. And one video. One single video, and the book pages, which I made in Adobe Photoshop.
Here’s what I started with: this is my lightbox at istockphoto, which it won’t tell you is my lightbox, but they’re still the right images, here. If you click on them you can see some are video and some are stills. I had all these ideas about how that one guy touching his hat would be Roe, and all manner of wild things. In the end the guy roping the sunset was the simple winner. But I had to have all that mess first to be able to know what I needed.
Just as this set for Double Blind became this trailer:
I made this one in honor of the whole DA BWAHA thing. Whenever the next round starts, I’ll toss the link around the net a bit. I figure might as well try to get some sales out of all this.
DB’s trailer was by far the quickest and easiest I did. Now, I have some stills in there, which not all are stock that I got. I tried to find stuff that was so ubiquitous on the net that they seemed de facto public domain. Were I richer, I’d purchase stock photos for them all. If someone complains about an image, I will redo the trailer. But for now, this is what it is.
Music, though: For NR, I bought stock audio. For DB, I let my daughter show me how to make songs in Garage Band. She was disappointed in me because I didn’t really want to compose and just used a stock melody, but hey, it was free. And decent enough for me. I may try to let her compose the next one for me, which will give her an incredible thrill.
Double Blind’s trailer is longer. Some of this was due to the music. Some of it was the stills. I wanted to show what they did in the story a bit more, and I picked things that had themes. Plus at this point part of the trailer is for fans, so I want a fan to watch and go, "There’s Bellagio! And the LIMO!" and stuff like that. The images could maybe be slowed down, but if I recall, some of it was trying to hit the right part of the music. It has to fade at the right moment or it doesn’t really work, and I’m not that adept with cutting down the music part.
Music, though, played a huge role in the third trailer. The length of the trailer plus the placement of video and certain parts of the text got determined by the swells of the chorus. This audio was absolutely too expensive, but I loved it so, so much I had to have it.
This is the lightbox for the third trailer. I SO wanted to use that tree! And I was sure I’d open with that black hole loop. And up until I realized the trailer would be over $200 I had the two guys in there (Charles and Timothy, natch), but really, it works best the way it is. I really, really love this one. I’ve been working on it all yesterday afternoon and today as a sprinboard into some almanac stuff my brain is whining about not wanting to do regarding the story. I just go watch this over again a few times and I’m ready to go.
I don’t think I can embed it, so you will have to click the link here. (It takes a second to load, but I promise, it’s worth it.)
For me the ideal time to make a trailer is just as the proofing/galley stuff is firming up. It’s usually about then I hate the book with a fiery passion and the idea of promoting it makes me want to hurl copiously. Making the trailer is like birthing the book again, except shorter and more fun. The music makes it exciting for me. Finding the right images makes me happy. And I LOVE checking my YouTube channel to see how many people have viewed it. Someday someone will even leave a comment. Hopefully not something nasty.
So that is how I make book trailers. Your mileage may vary.
The nitty gritty for those interested:
Total cost of trailers:$40-120
Total time? Minimum of three hours, but some have taken well over ten. And this is with me having played with iMovie and clip converting/editing software a lot.