Book Trailers: Compiling & Arranging Elements for Effective Results
By Erik Sean McGiven
In book marketing, there are numerous promotional avenues. There’s Facebook, media interviews, book signings, book tours, news releases, and speaking engagements. These approaches are straight forward and rely on communication skills found in most writers. Book trailer is an animal of a different sort. It demands an assortment of skills and resources, mainly condensing the story to its most tantalizing elements and embellishing it with photos, videos, text, voice over, sound effects and music. It’s complicated, time consuming task, and if you hire someone, very expensive. Yet with some simple strategies, guidelines, and resources you can produce an effective video with little or no money. That is, if you have a video camera/smart phone and an editing program, things you likely have already and don’t know it.
First, let’s look at what you want to accomplish with at book trailer. In general, you want to promote book sales. However, being more specific you want to hook the viewer with unique and enticing information so they will watch the entire video. If you lose them before you’ve completed your pitch, there’s little chance of a book sale. As such, you require new and fascinating information throughout the video, information that not only holds their interest, but moves them toward buying your book.
Another goal is to make your trailer shareable, that it moves on from your initial viewers to their friends and followers. If your video resonates, it’s possible it will spread beyond your contacts. It could have an afterlife that spreads exponentially through social media. If you ask, you get. So, it makes sense to make this request, please share, toward the end of your video.
What types of things go into a book trailer. Normally, trailers answer potential readers” questions such as: what’s the book about, what’s the genre, is it any good, plus something about the author. Such things are usually found on the inner flaps of the book or on the back cover. If not, the following template used by producer Nat Mundel to create loglines that land movie and TV deals will help in that regard.
TITLE OF BOOK is a GENRE about NAME OF PROTAGONIST, AGE, ONE OR TWO VIVID WORDS DESCRIBING THE CHARACTER who wants HIS/HER IMMEDIATE GOAL. When THE INCITING INCIDENT happens and ONE MAJOR PLOT POINT, he/she goes on a journey to ACCOMPLISH GOAL and discover/realize/find THEME.
The above template is a great starting point to help you distill your book down to two sentences. It clarifies the genre, offers a mesmerizing shiny object that grabs their attention, and provides enough to leave the reader wanting more, all in a few brief sentences.
A logline is a one or two sentence description of your story that boils down its basic premise in a way that’s concise yet evokes emotion in your reader. It highlights what is most unique about your book. Specifically, the logline provides the author with a way to focus on the three main anchors of their writing.
Who is the protagonist?
What do they want?
What is at stake?
Once you have the logline sketched out, look for some escalation in the book that ups the stakes. It could be a confrontation or complication that takes the story in a different direction. The outcome should be unclear. It could also be the discovery of a new evidence, a red-herring, or a revelation that gives hope to reaching the goal. This section presents an emotional argument for buying the book and sets the hook before the prospect is reeled in. Most importantly, it sets up a question in the viewer’s mind about how this story continues.
The next section is more specific. It could be a brief discussion about the character traits of one of the main characters and how this reflects on the story. This might include character faults, misplace dreams, or foibles of the heart. It answers the question why. It could also be about the location or period of the story and what effect it has on the characters. Another consideration is the social or morale setting and how this affects the direction of the story. This section pulls the viewer deeper into the story, both emotionally and literally, asking the question, “Why did this happen?” It can also facilitate a love-hate polarity that further draws the viewer into your story.
The last section is closing the sale. By using adjectives commonly found in reviews it could imply the benefits of reading your book. It could present some additional arguments such as testimonials, reviews or awards. Being on any best seller list likewise deserves mention here. Acknowledgements for use of photos, videos and music are also shown in the section. You should also make a request to share this video. The most important part of this section is stating prominently where the book can be purchased. Various images of the book should be used in this section to imprint cover art and book’s title.
You will note that each section provides new and revealing information. It pulls the viewer in, creating an investment in different aspects of the book. Primarily, it creates that pressing question, “How does this story continue?” And that’s the bait that hooks your viewer and causes them to buy your book.
While there are other templates, the above format serves fiction books well. It answers the questions book readers ask and provides the information in a straight forward memorable fashion.
Writing your script will be a major task in that it demands a different style of writing, one that is denser and more compressed. Your script should contain both the narration and the card or graphics displayed on the screen. You should know that narration spoken over images is processed easier and quicker than the graphics competing with it. Thus, words on the screen tend to be brief, short phrases or individual words designed to be memorable, imperative and engaging.
Narration, on the other hand, relies on the human voice-to emote, phrase, emphasize and resonate- to develop deeper meanings. Its task is to tell a complicated story briefly and compellingly; or to highlight characters, situations and conflicts. Writing has to quickly and powerfully present the “saleable” qualities of your story, such as the characters and conflict(s) while hinting at likely outcomes. It might also convey the tone, style, and quality of your book.
Narration should use a recognizable vocabulary, figures of speech, and accepted language. Also, avoid long sentences and complex ideas, as the viewer’s attention is split between images, graphics and narration. If there is dialogue that explains a crucial story point, allow the narrator to take on that character and for greater impact, post the dialogue on a white screen.
Avoid wall to wall narration as this will soon dim the viewers’ interest. To take its place and vary the content, mix in moments of sound effects, graphics and/or music. Likewise, consider the use of live video with sound as this will too enliven your presentation. In the closing section, some narration can be used to punctuate key selling points even with same information shown on the screen.
How you end your trailer is indicative of its success. Final impressions like the initial ones are of greater importance and more memorable. So, with what impression do you want your prospect to leave? What indication of finality would work? It could be a musical ending over the image of your book cover and its tagline. It could also be a sound effect used earlier that congers up a certain feeling. Another choice is the sudden, startling glimpse of the killer’s silhouette, knife raised ready to strike accompanied by a woman’s scream. Whatever your choice, you want the viewer to go away literally and emotionally wanting more.
Now that you have scripted your book trailer, you need to come up with visuals and sounds that embellish them. Visually, these could be text, photos, videos and visual effects. Sound wise, they could be dialogue, voice over, sound effects or music. These embellishments should tease the viewer’s imagination to where the trailer plays out in the viewer’s head more so than on the screen.
Before you start searching for images, define what specific embellishment you want and approximately where they will be placed. Such a predetermination will reduce your search time and help maintain the focus of your video. In doing this process, compile some sort of record keeping so the inserts are labelled as to location within your script and where they can be found. Some embellishments may have alternates, ideas that might work provided the right image, sound or music can be found. I would designate these alternative with suffix a, b, c, etc.
In a normal 60-90 second book trailer, who might have the following number of embellishment inserts.
Voiceover: 60 seconds, 100 words max; 90 seconds, 150 words max
Text, titles, captions & listings: 85 words
Photos: 12 photos + various photos of book cover used 4 times
Videos: 2 Videos; 1 stock, 1 live action (About 5 seconds each)
Sound Effects: 3 sound effects + transitions as required
Music: 3 tracks (could be from same selection)
Visual Effects: 2 for moving text; 8 for photo & video transitions
Many of these media inserts can be found online. Sites like unsplash.com, librestock.com, and gratisography.com offer high resolution images that you can download for free. Another site for free music and sound effects is YouTube.com/audiolibrary/. You can find free public domain video clips at archive.org. For music go to freestockmusic.com. You will need to create a free account and can download various types of music for free with no royalty restrictions. Other media resources can be found on Google by searching for royalty free photos/videos/sounds. Do not use copyrighted materials.
If you feel uncomfortable about using your own voice, you can use a professional voiceover artist as found online. There are numerous voices from which to choose and demos are available on each artist. For voiceover narration on the 150-word example previously mentioned, costs would be about $25 on sites like fiverr.com music & studio/voiceover services. A special script should be compiled for the outside narrator, which indicates how you want the narration and dialogue to be read or expressed. These directions should be placed in parentheses prior to the words spoken.
There are some media inserts you may want to produce yourself. Your book cover, for instance, may be shot straight on, from the spine angle, and upright/slanted. Closer angles on the book cover’s artwork may also be relevant to your script. Background for these book photos should be on neutral or white poster board with some shots allowing room for text.
Other images that create the essence of the scene can also be produced with photos or video. Such inserts should be ambiguous allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks. Examples might be: a fearful eye wondering what’s behind her, a sound of footsteps approaching, two hands lovingly overlapping. Other inserts might be the scream from an open mouth, a hand clutching a knife, two lovers moving away through a park, a freeway clogged with traffic, a back lit image of the menace, a shadow of a hand holding a gun.
These images and sounds can prod the viewer to use his imagination and the results are more persuasive than using realistic images. Most video cameras have excellent sound recording ability, especially when using an external mic. Therefore, consider using your camera as a sound recorder and capturing just the sound by hooking up only the audio connections.
You might also want to consider a behind the scenes video section relating to research, character creation, establishing a story location, or target audience. Images with voiceover might be author at computer: medium side shot, fingers typing, author’s face looking at screen.
Now that you have compiled and downloaded or captured your trailer elements, how do you put them together. Before you start the editing process, let’s look at the setup of editing programs. The main feature will be the time lines. This is where video/audio clips are laid in and cut to the desire length. There are additional time lines below used for narration, sound effects and music. In the more expensive editing systems there are additional time lines to layer in and sync up additional media materials.
Source materials can be downloaded from the web or capture off your camera. These items are stored in a project file and would include video clips, photos, sound effects, narration, and music. These items are placed into the time line in their proper location where text and titles can be superimposed on the visual elements. Additional adjustments such balancing audio levels, transition effects, and color balance smooth out the cuts and give it a professional look. When combined together these elements make up your book trailer.
There are numerous video systems available with vary capabilities and range from free on up. PC users can edit using Movie Maker which comes installed with Windows while Mac users can edit with iMovie. If not installed, they can be download for free from Microsoft and Apple respectively. The Movavi 14 is also available free from movavi.com or the Movavi 14 plus version goes for $39.95. The Pinnacle 21 editing system is available from pinnaclesys.com for $49.95. More elaborate Pinnacle systems are available at higher prices. Corel� PaintShop� Pro 2018 and VideoStudio� combination which edits photos, designs graphics and makes movies is available through paintshoppro.com for $150.00.
These editing systems come with tutorials schooling you as to their capabilities and operation. While the free systems come with basic editing features, spending a bit extra can offer more creativity plus more imbedded effects and media resources. It all depends on the complexity of your trailer and the quality you want.
Now that you have all your script and media elements at hand, you can begin the editing process, pasting them into your time line. But where do you begin. I would start with the element that is the most consistent, be it narration, visuals or music. In the example I proposed, narration would be the element that is least likely to change much. So, you would lay that in first. Be aware that you may have to add pauses or even quicken the pace. This can be done by either adding room ambiance or cutting out pauses between sentences. When you record your narration, record a minute or so of room ambiance without talking and use this to extend pauses.
Next, start adding your visuals that support or embellish your narration. The length of these visuals will depend on their complexity and the time it takes to read superimposed text. If the text complements the narration, then the visual time can be reduced. Avoid overwhelming the viewer with too much information. For emphasis, space the narration to allow the viewer time to concentrate on a lengthy or important text.
A device often used in infomercials is duplicating narration and text on a plain background. This ups the comprehension and makes the information more memorable. This also varies the flow and increases the viewer’s concentration. This device works especially well when text rolls out on the screen one word at a time, an effect possible on more elaborate editing systems.
There will be a tendency to overplay the images and text. Too much information muddies the waters. Remember that you want the viewer to imagine a great deal of the story. By hinting what the book is about, you let the story develop in the viewer’s mind. Utilize the idea that book readers have imaginative minds and enjoy filling in the blanks. It’s a good idea to slow the pace to allow time for important images and ideas to form in the viewers mind.
Try to have a couple of video clips in your trailer. These are usually without sound, yet the screen motion stirs up thoughts and emotions not possible with still photographs. They likewise increase the attention span and make subsequent information more interesting.
Pace is an important factor in book trailers. Too slow, you lose your viewer. Too fast and your information get lost. There’s a happy medium and it depends on relating new and interesting materials that engage the viewer. That’s why sketching out your script is so important, as it forces you to see your trailer as an informative and entertaining book talk on video. Your script allows you to see the progression of your story building, pulling the viewer into an imaginary world.
Avoid cheesy effects which distract from your message. Simple transitions like fade-in, fade out or cross-fades keep the focus on the trailer’s purpose, to create an awareness of your book and a desire to buy it. Keeping the clarity of this goal in mind determines the success of your book trailer. Sometimes, people become enamored with a certain phase or image that if lost would make the video stronger. Be conscience of this fault and seek outside consultation to rectify.
Use the same font throughout, but vary the font size. Be aware that your text will be read on computer screens plus mobile devices. As such, font size must be readable and this may limit the length of text placed on the screen. Rather than minimize the font size, extend the text to the next screen using ellipsis (… ). The font size of the text should be indicative of its importance. For instance, in the last section, the acknowledgements for use of images or music would be smaller than places where the book could be purchased.
When superimposing text on an image, delay entry of the text ever so slightly so the viewer’s attention is on the image first, then on the text. Such a delay ups the comprehension as you control where the attention is focused.
Selection of music likewise requires some guidelines. Be aware that your perspective book buyers are already indoctrinate by seeing numerous TV and film productions with music. Your tastes and sensibilities in music may differ from your perspective audience. It’s therefore wise to select music reflective of the genre of your book. If it’s a scary murder mystery, that’s the type of music that would support that type of story. The music has many functions. It can create mood and atmosphere, portray emotions, reference a time or period, or create unreal situations. Music can serve several purposes that are either important on the emotional side of the movie or help/enhance the storytelling.
Using wall to wall music diminishes its impact. Fade out your music at various points and replace it with sound effects. Then at the appropriate moment bring back the music to elicit a new perspective or emotion. In this way, by isolating the music’s entrance, you make it more effective and allow it to support a new idea.
To help smooth out your cuts, allow the sound to slightly precede the visual. This allows the mind to process one element at a time and also creates suspense as to what the sound means. These micro overlaps create that, “What going to happen next?” mentality that subconsciously pulls the viewer in deeper.
Subtle use of sound effects can create the proper atmosphere or instill a menace is present. Wind blowing through the leaves or the footsteps of an approaching mugger help prod the imagination to where the story becomes a fixation. In addition, sound effects help break up the sameness of media elements and create higher expectations about the book and its contents.
As you continue with the assembly process, you will note that adjustments and corrections have to be made. You’ll also find that certain sequences don’t work, they don’t move the viewer toward your goals. This is a normal part of editing. It’s like writing a book, where much of the time is spent rewriting.
Before you make big changes, save your file. Then prior to making changes rename and save the file. In this way, you have a backup should your file become corrupted. In addition, should you find that you prefer your original better and it only needs minor corrections, then you still have that version.
The last section is where you close the sale. You offer in text and/or voice-over more arguments for buying the book and where to obtain it. As I mentioned before, these could be a complementary statement about the benefits of buying this book using adjectives commonly found in reviews along with a listing of testimonials, review quotes and/or awards. Also shown in this section are acknowledgements for use of photos, videos and music. The most important part of this section is stating prominently where the book can be purchased. Various images of the book/cover should also be featured in this section. It also helps to place somewhere in this section a sticker-like graphic reading, “Share this Video.”
Once you have your final version completed, let it sit for a few days then come back to it with fresh eyes. Look on it as a book buyer and judge if it meets your expectations, that it strongly encourages the purchase of your book. If not make corrections. If it does, then pass it on to people who will give you an honest evaluation. Don’t corrupt their judgment with additional information. Simply state you want their response to seeing your video book trailer, whether it’s positive, neutral or negative. Request specifically what they liked or disliked. With this consensus, make adjustments as you see fit.
Distribution of Book Trailer
When your book trailer is ready for distribution, you still need to prepare copy to go along with it. For YouTube you should have a description of your trailer that includes the title of your book, author’s name, and what’s it about. To make your video stand out, write a unique description with a catchy, enticing headline. Likewise, add tags. These allow users to find your video by linking common words associated with your video. If done properly, such copy greatly increases the likelihood of finding your video on a Google or YouTube search and having your link opened. This description and information can likewise be used on other video hosting services such as Facebook and Vimeo. Check Wikipedia.org for complete list of video hosting services.
To upload your video to YouTube, follow the instruction found at wikihow.com/Upload-a-Video-to-YouTube. Similar instruction for other hosting sites can be found online. Some editing systems have programs that simplify this uploading.
There are also video syndication services, however their fees are beyond most authors’ budgets and when term payments run out, your video is removed. While posting them yourself is time consuming, it negates this problem and they remain on the Internet forever.
There are numerous other ways of getting your video seen. Facebook and Twitter postings with links to video with a brief description is one way. Also use LinkedIn updates with reference to your trailer and its location. Another place is reader forums pertaining to your genre or audience market.
Your own website is another place to not only post your video, it should likewise serve as a depository displaying more information about the book and a bio of the author. Also consider email distributions to followers, friends, acquaintances, and of course family members.
If you have an author’s page on Amazon, this is another place you can post your video. However, there are numerous restrictions which are posted at https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?ie=UTF8&topicID=200649570. On your author page, you can also share video interviews, book signing videos, and other videos with readers. Your videos should focus on specific features of your books or your experience as an author.
Also consider news releases, either email or letter, to journalist, book critics and book bloggers. Another good source is free or low-priced newswire services. It just a matter of filling out the form with the proper entries. Such postings can up your web presence as well as improve your Google ranking.
Most authors expect the trailer to pull in a lot of interest when actually, it’s all the efforts promoting it that do the heavy lifting. If nobody knows about your trailer, you can’t expect much. However, if a whole lot of people see your trailer, a percentage of them will end up buying your book. It’s a numbers game. Likewise, if you strategically place your trailer in all online/offline places where your prospective book readers hangout, good things happen. The desired goal is to get the viewer interested, either in making the purchase or in finding out more.
While this article covers the basic considerations in creating a book trailer, there is a great deal more to be learned. One way of increasing your knowledge is to look at book trailers available on the internet. You will discover there are numerous ways to create video trailers, whether it be through emotional implications, character driven, or story plotting. You might also consider a more impressionistic approach that strongly communicates the aesthetic of the book while only hinting at elements of the plot. Likewise, in using photographic/video-graphic images, avoid showing people, or at least not showing their faces in a clear way. You want your viewer’s imagination to build the characters as they would when reading your book.
By looking at numerous trailers, you will find editing techniques that will make your video stronger, like the slow zoom-in or the use of title cards. In particular, watch how the juxtaposition of images and/or music provides a feeling or thought different from what they emit by themselves. Also, be aware how pace, the unveiling of new and unique information, affects the degree of engagement.
While book trailers get few lifetime views and have notorious low conversion rates, they are superior on sales landing pages increasing conversions up to 80 percent. That might be the place where a book trailer best contributes to your sales. In addition, book trailers can make a lasting impression, they’re easy to consume, easy to share, and they stay on the internet forever. A book trailer can be a valuable addition to your marketing campaign, especially if your target audience, your potential readers view it. Homing in on that fact could reap huge benefits and increase your ROI.
In closing, it is better that your book trailer to be super simple, ultra-clear, and thoughtfully aligned with the imagery. The intent of the trailer is to illicit a sale, to get the viewer interested, either in making the purchase or in finding out more about your book. To do that, you must allow the viewer to imagine and collaborate in the making of your book trailer.
Erik Sean McGiven has worked as a publicist in the film industry and has consulted on several book projects. Film and book trailers have a common goal, to entice the viewer to buy the product. They likewise use similar strategies in selling, creating a need for fulfillment, a need to resolve the pressing question, what happens next. McGivern’s experience as a screenwriter, producers and publicist have prepared him to write on these specific topics and share this knowledge. Additional articles on the entertainment industry, particularly Acting and The Biz, can be found on his website http://www.erikseanmcgiven.com/writings/.