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Gypsy Spy: The Cold War Files

In Cold War Europe, a young intelligence operative is making his presence known. Learn his dark secrets and hidden triumphs in this new spy thriller.

How to Build a Book Trailer Indie Style

Writers write. That is our wheelhouse. If you are a writer, you know the burden of story. An idea grows into a narrative that drives the imagination and begs to be written down. We sit before the blank slate and pour out words to frame the sequence we’ve dreamed—or so we hope. The angst of the writing process is proverbial.

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.” George Orwell[1]

“Writing is easy. You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” Walter Smith[2]

Wordsmiths to the bone, these men aptly described the labor pains of birthing a brain child. I was with my wife when she delivered all seven of our children. Orwell’s observation comes close to the experience.[3] Like new parents, writers become authors only to find that their work has just begun. This is especially true for indie authors who must directly tackle multiple aspects of the publishing industry.

Marketing—that dark art of separating people from their hard-earned cash—has to be mastered if we have any hope of the world appreciating our beautiful child. Enter the flood of ad copy designs, book blurbs, e-commerce considerations, social media manipulations, and SEO coding. It can be daunting, but take heart. The creative marketing tools may not be in the top tray of the writer’s toolbox, but they most certainly can be found in the deeper bottom well.  The familiar framing tools all reside there giving weight to the crafter’s panoply: vision, narrative, story arc, intrigue. All these are essential in producing your book trailer. You had all these when you wrote your story. Let’s think through how to bring people to it.

Decide what type of trailer you want to produce.

Trailers come in all flavors, from coming-soon announcements to vignettes. Think about what you want to present. Do you want to tell people how the idea came to you? Then do it. Check out indie author Aiden L. Bailey’s trailer “What Is the Benevolent Deception.” Aiden used a decent camera with a good microphone and tools housed on most PCs: MS PowerPoint and MS MovieMaker. I did my Coming Soon video using a GoPro camera and GoPro native software. Start with what you have.

Dream through your visuals.

Authors work in the world of the thousand words that build a picture’s worth. Have this picture in mind when you go mining for your graphics, still frames, and footage. There are a host of royalty free content sites offering stock sound effects, audio, pictures, and footage. Two of my favorites are 123rf and Pond5. Aside from selection and ease of use, their terms are straightforward. Subscriptions aren’t required. You can buy in bulk or by piece. Pond5 even allows you to dial in your price range in your searches as well as the length of music and footage.

Drop the elements into your work environment.

Outlining and storyboarding are very helpful at this point. Regardless of your production software, having a roadmap for your trailer on paper will save you loads of time in assembly. Whether you are working out your transitions in MS PowerPoint or Adobe Premier Pro, having most of the sequence worked out will lend to better production flow. Knowing where I was going kept me motivated when I ran in to my inevitable ignorance obstacles. YouTube is your friend here. For great cinematography tips and Premier Pro technique tutorials, I relied heavily on Peter McKinnon, Surfaced Studio, and chinfat. You can click on their names to check out their YouTube channels.

Audio plays a critical role at this point, particularly if you’ve decided to add voiceover. I recorded a rough track (and I do mean rough as I had a nasty cold when I did it) read through of the Prologue to Gypsy Spy as a timing guide for the needed length of visuals and the transition placements. Once the sequence was set (and my voice was better), I recorded the read through again using my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio USB audio interface. The interface with microphone and headphones came packaged with Cubase Elements 6 software, which is what I use for the primary sound editing. I used this set up because it is what I had. You can probably get what you need with a decent iPhone at half the hassle cost.

If you shoot the footage using a GoPro camera, GoPro Studio (the app is free and fun to use) offers some great video editing features and includes a selection of free music you can use. I built most of Gypsy Spy Trackdown using this app.

Edit, Export, and Upload

Editing is as important for your trailer as it is for your writing. But don’t get stuck in a perfectionist trap. In our world of Facebook Live, Periscope, Snapchat, Skype, and YouTube people are consuming amateur videos by the millions. A little effort and a slight polish can go a long way here. If you use titles, captions, or graphics make sure they are error free. Have several people watch it before you upload it to ensure that the sound is clear and the sequence works.

Once you are satisfied with your editing efforts, export the video into a format usable on YouTube. MP4 works well here. Watch the video several times once it has been exported before you upload it. Sometimes things get lost in translation and what might have looked great in your video editor previewer may appear less than good in its final MP4 version.

Though there are other video sharing sites, not uploading your trailer to YouTube would be like not listing your book on Amazon. Setting up a channel is fairly painless and worth the effort. Once your video is uploaded, you can share the link on your web site, blog, Facebook page, etc.

Enjoy the Payoff

Though I’ve encountered anecdotal evidence from other authors on how book trailers have helped them increase sales, I have no empirical data to share on this score. Regardless, I see no downside. Even if the trailers didn’t help me sell books (which they have), I would do them anyway because they stretch and exercise my creative muscles. And above my considerations and concerns about their marketing use and value, I build them as a gift of gratitude for those who have willingly invested their time to live in my fictional world for a while. A hearty thanks to all those who have traveled with the Gypsy Spy!

[1] http://orwell.ru/library/essays/wiw/english/e_wiw, accessed on July 30, 2017.
[2] Often incorrectly attributed to Ernest Hemingway, the phrase is best ascribed to sports writer Walter Smith. See http://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/09/14/writing-bleed/, accessed on July 30, 2017.
[3] I say “close” because neither my wife nor I ever considered the process horrible.

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This is the first book trailer video that I have produced. I used 123rf.com for the stock photos and Pond5.com for the music. Elements were created and assembled using the Adobe Creative Cloud (the learning curb has been steep!). Video production was done inside Adobe Premiere Pro. Some of the transitions didn’t translate into the mp4 format as well as I would have like (they looked better in my video previewer), but all in all I am very happy with the end result. I look forward to your feedback in the comments section.

Paperback and Kindle editions are available on Amazon.com.

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Ocean View Indie Author Event

My friend and fellow indie author, Rev. James Boyd, has organized a local author book sale and signing event at the Mary D. Pretlow Anchor Branch Library this Saturday, August 12, 2017, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The library is located in the Ocean View section of Norfolk.

What? Local Indie Author Book Signing Event

When? August 12, 2017, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where? Mary D. Pretlow Anchor Library, 111 W Ocean View Ave., Norfolk, VA

Rev. Boyd will be there with copies of his Special Forces Christians: The Rise of Militant Faith and Karla Perry will be present with plenty of copies of Back to the Future: Rebuilding America’s StabilityOf course, yours truly will be there with my favorite Gypsy, Carlos de Leon. Come on out and meet some great local authors and stock up for your late summer and fall reading.

Creative Stretching

Writers and artists both do sketches in preparation for the final work. In the writer’s case, they usually take the form of character sketches that begin to flesh out the mind-ghosts trying to turn into story-people. This is exactly how I built the cast of Gypsy Spy. The main players began with thin histories and light descriptions. As ink was added to paper, the lines sharpened and the histories deepened giving flesh, bone, and blood to Carlos, Diego, Drake, and the host of others.

But a glimpse of one particular beauty in my imagination demanded my attention. Bringing Ocha to center stage became a must for Gypsy Spy. She was too strong a character to be denied. I am quite comfortable with sketching out characters with words. My drawing skills leave much to be desired, however.

Creative stretching requires one to push outside one’s artistic comfort zones. Working in different artistic disciplines can bring new energy to a writing project. Below is an example of one such effort. It is my first attempt at a Photoshop sketch effect (thank you Photoshop Training Channel). The stock image is one I chose to represent Ocha in the Prologue Book Trailer. The one below it is what it might have looked like had Carlos paid a Paris street artist to sketch his beloved.

47266002 - image of a beautiful woman on grey

Ocha Sketch

 

“Stanki nashti chi arakenpe manushen shai.”

Mountains do not meet, but people do.

This proverb is spoken twice in the novel. The saying is hopeful and poignant in its own right. Take heart, we shall meet again.

Covering Tracks

Skills, though hard-won, can still surprise in the full light of day. An idealized scene of father-son bonding time on a lake shore skipping stones seemed a bit schmaltzy for a spy novel. But sooner or later, don’t all fathers and sons enjoy a bit rock throwing together? This vignette comes from Chapter 5 of Gypsy Spy, “Lost in the Storm”. Covering one’s tracks in an urban jungle should be in every operative’s tool bag.

For the next thirty minutes, they rode in silence. The events of the day washed over Carlos’s mind in a whirlwind too fast for comprehension. Why had his father been there? What would they do with him once he was caught? Did Jane really love him as a son? His father made an abrupt turn into a dead end alley and parked the car. He told Carlos to get his duffel bag and step out of the vehicle. Once outside, Shane produced a boxed-end wrench from his pants pocket and removed the license plates from the car.

“Gather some stones, Carlos,” he said over his shoulder while he performed his task. Carlos did as he was told. Shane stood up and stepped away from the car. Once he felt Carlos had plenty of ammunition, he gave his instructions. “I want you to perform the tornado on the car,” he said.

“Why?” the boy asked.

“Do not question, perform,” Shane said sternly.

The tornado was the same as the cyclone with one differentiation. The cyclone was designed as a defensive and retaliatory maneuver. The tornado, on the other hand, was a totally offensive exercise. Carlos concentrated for a moment and then spun into action. The first things to go were the windows. Next, the lights and turn signal lenses shattered into countless shards. Then the side view mirrors were knocked off their moorings. Finally, the body of the car began to show damage. Within a few seconds, the car had the look of long abandonment and subsequent vandalism.

“I present to you two lessons, Carlos. First, remove your trail. Second, take a good look at the car. If you can inflict such damage on metal, then realize what your talent can do to flesh. If your wish is only to stun and not to maim or kill, then guide your missiles with a speed appropriate to your wishes. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” said Carlos, his eyes viewing the wreckage of the car, his mind seeing the blood on the school ground. “In control lies mastery,” he whispered, remembering the mantra.

“Exactly. Now, let’s go,” Shane said and started walking out of the alley.

“Where to?” his son asked behind him.

“We’ve a train to catch.”

I am well into the research phase of Book II of the Gypsy Spy saga. Serious writing will begin on it as soon as my current project, Wind, Water, and Fire, is published. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying a bit of fun in Photoshop. Stay creative, people!

Gypsy Spy: The Cold War Files is now a Kindle Unlimited title. Click here to check it out!

Tasty treats and fresh baked bread aren’t the only temptations Carlos faces in the bakery.

Training takes flight early in the story. This scene leaps off page 48 of Gypsy Spy: The Cold War Files available on Amazon.

Talking with Authors Interview

I recently had the pleasure of being on Curtis Anderson’s independent press podcast show Talking with Authors. It was great fun and a tremendous pleasure. Curtis is a fantastic host and has the Voice. Give a listen and you will hear what I mean.

Check out Curtis’s other podcasts on his Talking with Authors site.

http://www.talkingwithauthors.com/

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