Making a Book Trailer

A couple months back, I made my first book trailer. This was a lot of fun, in part because it tapped the artistic side of my brain that wasn’t dealing with editing. For some, creating a book trailer can be intimidating. Some are worried about the expense, others are worried about the tech side of things.  As TALKER 25 nears its glowing birth into the world, I thought I’d show you how I created mine and provide tips to hopefully make it easier to create yours.

STEP 1: Script

You gotta plot your trailer before anything else. It’s a query in A/V form. You want to give a sense of your book without giving too much away. You don’t want to make your trailer too long because unless you’ve got some great connections, your trailer’s gonna rely on visuals and sounds that just don’t compare to movie trailers.

What you have that movie trailers don’t (or at least don’t usually have well) are your words. Your words are your weapons. Employ them. Sparingly though. Like in a query, you can’t explore everything. KISS it. Keep It Short & Stimulating.

My script:

15 years ago dragons came to our world. Reds. Greens. And the wingless Blues.

They attacked without warning… Entire cities were wiped off the map.

Millions were buried beneath the rubble… or incinerated.

The end of humanity seemed imminent.

But then humans discovered the dragons’ weakness and it was the dragons’ turn to die.

The war between monster and man finally seems over. Most of the dragons have been killed or imprisoned on reservations and there hasn’t been a major attack in North America in three years [Note: this particular line is almost word for word the one I used in my query]

But the real war is just about to begin.

And at the center of it… is a girl they call…

TALKER 25.

Choose a Side. April 22, 2014

STEP 2: Make it more exciting

The words above are not words I’d write in a book. They may or may not be interesting alone. Thankfully, we’re not just limited to words. We can frame them with pictures, sounds, etc. We can add pauses and beats for effect. Yay!

But, oh shit, now we’ve actually gotta figure out how to make that razzle-dazzle of media make sense with our words. Do we want lots of pictures? Do we want just a few, where we fade in or out on them to create mood/texture? Are we illustrators who have the time to create our own imagery? What about sounds? Do we want ambient noises? Music?…

This is where most of the work usually comes. It’s storyboarding on a micro-level with additional aspects.

If you want pictures, there are plenty of websites to get them. I got mine from Shutterstock. But that costs money (since I needed pics for my T25 tie-in website www.kissing-dragons.com, I decided to shell out the coin). If you don’t want to spend money and you’re not a digital artist or brilliant photographer, I’d recommend creativecommons.org. 

When using media, make sure that you don't infringe on copyright, and attribute it if necessary.

When using media, make sure that you don’t infringe on copyright, and attribute it if necessary.

If you want to spruce up your trailer with sound, Creative Commons is a great place to start as well. I also found a ton of great clips at http://freesound.org/. The caveat here is that there are different licenses for these sounds, some which require attribution, and some which are noncommercial (which you should not use).

For my trailer, I wanted to add in some music tracks… sci-fi type/war-type stuff to help further generate the mood I wanted (mystery with a dark edge). An excellent website I found for this is https://www.pond5.com/, where you can pay for individual clips (most run from $1 – $5).

Odds are, until you actually start creating your trailer, you’re not gonna know exactly which sounds/pics/media are gonna fit best. You’re drafting here, so give yourself some wiggle room.

STEP 3: TECH BS

Now we’ve got to put it all together. If you’ve got a tech background, this can be kind of fun. If not, this can be quite paralyzing. There’s plenty of free editing software out there. The easier ones to use (e.g., Windows Movie Maker, iMovie) are somewhat limited, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (particularly if you’re not too fond of computers). Others are pretty powerful, but require lots of pre-learning, which in my mind isn’t worth it.

I wanted something that was somewhat easy to use, but also pretty powerful. And since I like to do video-editing on the side for myself, I purchased and downloaded CyberLink PowerDirector12.

Given my kitchen sink tendencies, I wanted to get a little fancy with my sounds (layering, fading, etc.) so I downloaded Audacity, an impressive and fairly easy to use audio mixing program. Best of all, it’s free. I also did some image manipulation using GIMP, kind of like Photoshop, but free.

STEP 4: Putting it together.

Once you’ve figured out your software, figured out which pics, sounds, etc, you’re gonna use, you’ve got to put your puzzle together. Getting all the pieces to line up usually isn’t too hard, but making them fit just so can be tricky. You’ve got to play around with timing, leading-in and leading-out, transitions, etc. A different form of revision.

To me, this looks like fun! It's not everybody's cup o' Joe though.

To me, this looks like fun! It’s not everybody’s cup o’ Joe though.

NOTE: If the software side of things is beyond the pale for you, you can always skip steps 2 – 4 and outsource your trailer to professionals, like those at WaveCloud.

A trio of book trailers:

  • Adi purchased one image, but otherwise made her amazing trailer entirely for free.
  • The second trailer was one made via WaveCloud (and cost at least $299 to make according to current pricing).
  • Not including the cost of a month’s subscription to Shutterstock, the overall cost of making my trailer (software+sounds) was roughly $100. I’m going to make a trailer for my Kissing Dragons website, too, at some point, but that won’t cost me anything since I’ve already got the pics, software, and sounds I need.

Ultimately, before making a book trailer, you should ask yourself: Is it worth it? If you don’t have a big platform (e.g., high-profile author, lots of twitter followers, etc.), the answer could very well be no. A few people might see your trailer on your website, YouTube, Goodreads, etc., but will that translate to sales? Is the time expenditure and potential cost worth an extra book or two sold?

For me, the answer was yes. I enjoy the visual medium. It was a nice break from the written one. Also, along with my tie-in website, my trailer allowed me to provide some backstory that was either not included in my book or was nixed from it. This makes a kitchen-sinker like me very happy.

__________________________________________________

JM AP Close_Straight

Joshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with  dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops April 22, 2014. For more info, visit www.joshua-mccune.com or www.kissing-dragons.com

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “Making a Book Trailer

  1. Ashley Leath

    Loved the trailer Joshua! Your choice of music was a very nice tie between the tension in the words and the visuals. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Awesome trailer! DRAGONS! And EEE, there’s mine! For anyone going the “free” route, I heartily second Joshua’s advice about reading those licenses carefully. There can be a lot of stuff to wade through to make sure you’re doing it right, but in the end, hey, free images! 🙂

    Also, YouTube has this thing now where It Knows what music you’re using in your video, and if it thinks it’s copyrighted, it gives you scary threats and warnings. It did this to me, even though the music I used was okay to use with proper attribution (which I did). I ended up using Vimeo instead.

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  3. Fantastic post, Joshua! Thank you for demystifying the whole mysterious process of book-trailer-making. I bet a lot of people are going to bookmark this post for the future!

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  4. Can’t wait to see the trailer and read the book!

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  5. Ok. Just watched the trailer. Fantastic job!

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  6. Wow, Josh! Thanks for spilling all the beans! This is SUPER helpful. I still have one big question, though: time. How much time do you think you invested in your trailer altogether? What step was the most time-consuming? What pieces of it did you have to learn to do versus those you already knew? I’m afraid that once I start, I’ll go down the rabbit hole and no one will hear from me for months. 😉

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    • Joshua McCune

      Laurie, great question. Honestly, once I had the media, making it (scripting and using software to make it) only took a few hours (6 – 10, maybe)…

      Gathering the media, however, was a long process. The sound gathering was pretty quick (a few hours on Pond5 and freesound.org), but the picture gathering took a long while (in part b/c Shutterstock only allowed for 25 downloads/day)… part of that, though, was for my website… if I’d just been going for the book trailer, I’d guess roughly 10 hours.

      All told, conservatively, I’d say it could take 20 – 30 hours. That’s assuming a certain level of comfort with the software. If you’re coming into it with software phobia (which I know you aren’t ;)), then that time could double b/c you’ve gotta learn the software and figure out how to interface it with the media.

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  7. This is so timely for me since I’m working on my trailer right now. Thanks for sharing your process and advice, Joshua!

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  8. Parker Peevyhouse

    Wow, this is so detailed. Thanks for sharing all the links.

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  9. Well done, Joshua. I’m almost tempted to give it a try…or marry a kitchen-sinker

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    • Joshua McCune

      Lol. I think it’s one of those things where if it’s something you’d think you’d enjoy, go for it. If it’s gonna be another stressor, though, it’s probably not worth it.

      Like

  10. Love your trailer, Josh! And I really appreciate all this information! Great stuff!

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  11. Christine Hayes

    Josh, so much to love here! Thanks for making a scary topic seem much more approachable.

    Like

  12. This is a goldmine. Thank you so much for sharing all that you learned.

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