It’s a funny thing about book trailers — nobody in the publishing industry seems to be sure you need one when a new book makes its big debut. The other funny thing is that nobody seems to be sure you don’t need one.
Personally, I love book trailers. As a reader, they give me a taste for the story, the setting, the characters. As an author, I’ve had great luck with them. Readers seem to enjoy them, and they’re an excellent way to introduce yourself in advance of a speaking engagement or a meeting with a book club. This 2011 book trailer for Dandelion Summer has been watched over ninety-thousand times, worldwide. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p1p-0TQrms. This more recent 2013 book trailer for The Prayer Box has been watched over ten-thousand times on various sites. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvuDuh8PdDs.
The average production value of book trailers has increased in recent years, but a great book trailer doesn’t have to be a massive drain on the marketing budget. In a minute, I’ll share a few of the secrets we’ve learned.
First, let me introduce you to our newest mini-movie — the trailer for The Story Keeper, an Appalachian tale in dual time frames, present day and 1890 Appalachia. Here’s the book blurb:
Successful New York editor, Jen Gibbs, is at the top of her game with her new position at Vida House Publishing — until a mysterious manuscript from an old slush pile appears on her desk. Turning the pages, Jen finds herself drawn into the life of Sarra, a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in the turn of the century Appalachia. A risky hunch may lead to The Story Keeper’s hidden origins and its unknown author, but when the trail turns toward the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place Jen thought she’d left behind forever, the price of a blockbuster next book deal may be higher than she’s willing to pay.
Because it’s a dual time frame story, covering the tales of both Jen and Sarra, we’d written the video script to reflect both characters. Several scenes were planned. As you’ll see when you watch it, we ended up with a six-word script and one scene. Sometimes, the magic just happens, and you have to go with it. I love the way the trailer came out. It’s short and has the feel of the story.
I hope you like it, too. Even more, I hope you’ll be tempted to read the novel. The night I first learned about the bizarre historical mystery of the Melungeons (Never heard of Melungeons? Google it — I think you’ll be fascinated, just as I was), I literally dreamed this story, beginning to end. I saw it in my head like a mind-movie. I’ve never done that before. I think The Story Keeper was meant to be.
I’ll write more in another post about the old Appalachian house where the porch shots were taken — that’s a tale in itself, but for now, let’s get to the trailer tips before we part ways and you (hopefully) rush off to check out The Story Keeper and learn more about the Melungeons.
Tips For Designing a Great Book Trailer
1. Start early. As you’re working on book edits, put aside clips, quotes, and scene notes that illustrate the pivotal points of the story and that might convert well to video. Think about setting, characters, crowd shots and so forth.
2. Think about what you already have. Don’t just run out at the last minute and gather up stock photography. Stock shots can be great, but chances are you know someone who’s an excellent amateur (or professional) photographer. Ask, check Facebook pages, think about people you know. Anyone look like your characters? Think about places you have access to. Could any of them pass for your setting?
3. Carry an advance copy of your book around with you, if you have it. Find places that convey the mood of your story or explain the setting. Set up your book and take some artistic flat Stanley photos. These are not only great background for videos, they make excellent fodder for Facebook banners, Pinterest pins, postcards, etc. Yes, that’s an advance copy of The Story Keeper in the video — can you tell by the printed band up top? We could’ve altered it with Photoshop, but decided we liked it as it was.
4. If you don’t have an advance copy of your book yet, make one. Lacking an advance copy with a nice print of the cover on it? As soon your cover .jpeg is available to you, print it at photo quality on matte photo paper, glue it to someone else’s book, and make a mockup. These photos of The Prayer Box were taken with a mockup of the finished book.
5. Take video and photos while you’re traveling or doing setting research. If you have the ability to travel to your location, or anyplace that’s similar, take video and photos — lots of them. Shoot scenes you think you might want to use in your trailer, shoot still photos, take pictures of the scenery. You never know, as you narrow down your script, what you might want. You also never know (as happened with The Story Keeper video) when you’ll inadvertently end up with that one shot that “tells the story.”
6. Figure out the technical end. Depending on your tech level, there are a plethora of options out there for putting together beautiful videos. You can hire a professional service to do the video for you, or if that isn’t in your plan, Windows Moviemaker and iMovie for Mac are handy tools for people with some tech abilities. Adobe offers some good options, as well. If you’re not a techie type, check with your local high school drama teacher. He or she probably knows a few teenagers with pretty impressive movie-making skills. They’ll often work for pizza money. If you’re not techie but would rather have control of the process yourself and would like the benefit of pre-designed theme packages, take a look at package sites like Animoto. For a small subscription, you can use their themes and music, plug in your photos, and end up with something nicely professional. This video of the Outer Banks lighthouses was created on Animoto using shots we took while researching on the Outer Banks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88n4WLgoWKs
7. Find the right music. Nothing can evoke the mood of your story quite like beautiful music. Try Googling the words “Music” and “song” along with keywords that apply to your book. If you find something you like, don’t be shy; contact the owner, explain your goal, and ask about licensing the piece for your video. In the case of The Story Keeper, we found a perfect song with the grit and feel of old-time Appalachia. Licensing it from Patty Loveless and the production company was a fun experience, and everyone was very nice.
9. Find a focus group. When the video is done, test it on some people. If there are captions, make sure they’re able to read them. If there’s a narrator, make sure your audience can understand the sound track. Consider also that videos often play in small format on third-party sites. Play it in different formats for you audience. Tweak when necessary.
10. Upload and check again. Upload your video and set it to “private” mode first. Check it. Have other people check it. Have people check it who have never seen it. There’s nothing worse than going live, beginning to collect views on your project, then having to take it down to fix a problem.
That’s all, folks! To celebrate the new trailer for The Story Keeper, we’re having a contest this week.
TO ENTER: Share The Story Keeper book trailer on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, your blog, or anyplace else online. here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uaE8RmVjME
In the comments below, let me know where you shared it. You’ll be entered to win an advance copy of the book along with a ridiculously cute fish beach bag and a $50 sea glass shop gift certificate.
We’ll run the contest all week, and on Sunday, a winner will be chosen by random drawing, using Random.org. We’ll announce the winner here on BelleView on Sunday.
Thanks so much for helping me spread the word! The Story Keeper officially hits shelves on September 1, 2014, but for the next few days, the Kindle/Nook/ebook is on pre-order sale for $7.99
Have a great week!
The Prayer Box — Selected as One of Booklist’s Top Ten of 2013!