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.

Featured post

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.

Featured post

Meme Monday – Story Stacking

Toothpick Meme

Far from perfect but loaded with fun, this image had to be built because I couldn’t find its central component on any stock image site. Inspired from a scene in the novel, which you can read here, it required stacking up round toothpicks. The tower fell numerous times during assembly.

Building the final image in Photoshop was also challenging. Consisting of ten different layers and various effects, it took me several hours to put together. Photoshop wizards could probably have done it in a fraction of the time, but they still would have had to build the tower. Have you ever tried stacking round toothpicks without using glue to keep them in place? No easy feat!

Gypsy Spy: The Cold War Files is available at Amazon.

Meme Monday – Movie Time!

Cinematic reading

This MPAA spoof trailer header only shows for four seconds on the YouTube novel trailer, which you can view here. A still frame gives the opportunity to actually read through it.

I have heard that sleep cycles (and interpersonal relationships) have been interrupted because of this novel. Read at your own risk!

Meme Monday – License to Edit

Gypsy 007

Let’s face it, all work needs editing even visual work. I used this concept a while back in the post “A Meme with no President.” Adobe Creative Cloud still challenges me, but I am getting more comfortable in it. The original meme was built using MS Publisher. This one I did in Photoshop. I think it’s better. Compare the two and let me know what you think.

Meme Monday – Cloak and Dagger

Cloak and Dagger Meme

Ever the catchphrase of espionage, cloak and dagger signify the two traditional functions of spies: subterfuge and sabotage. Assassination could be considered the ultimate sabotage. Carlos de Leon knows how to cloak, but he is a uniquely honed dagger. The novel is available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle editions.

Below is a picture of the prized Office of Technical Services (OTS) “Spyman” statuette awarded to CIA officers for honorable services while assigned to OTS.

CIA Spyman

The Plot Thickens

One of the most encouraging comments I have received from Gypsy Spy readers has been, “What happens next?” I am thrilled to be working on the answer. After months of research, reading, and dreaming, I am finally plotting out the story arc of Valley of Wolves.  The story picks up not long after where we left off. With the original time line of Gypsy Spy spread out in front of me along with my stack of research notes and my idea journal, I spent the better part of the day outlining the path into the Valley of Wolves. It promises to be wild ride.

 

 

Hishoro

The idea of a diminutive old woman intimidating a world class assassin intrigued me. Gypsy Spy is populated with a host of minor characters with deep histories. We get glimpses of Hishoro throughout the narrative. She will receive a fuller treatment in Valley of Wolves, the next Gypsy Spy novel. Partially inspired by Frank Herbert’s character Shadout Mapes from Dune, she is a major vertebra in the deep spine of the story. This vignette comes to you from Chapter 36.

“You are dangerous,” a voice said behind him. Shane spun on his heel only to be confronted by Hishoro. She was a full head shorter than he. Yet, she always managed to make him feel intimidated. “You should leave us be,” she told him, brow knitted in anger.

“I cannot,” he said. “You are an addiction.”

“We are a convenience. The Rroma desire to live in peace. The lure of money has clouded Alfonso’s judgment. If not for you, he would not be involved in illegal activities.”

“Illegal activities?” Shane said, surprised by the shallowness of her argument. He knew Hishoro to be anything but shallow. “Illegal to whom, Hishoro? By the world’s standards, your people are the epitome of lawlessness. I’ve brought no ill will to your people. Why do you dislike me so? Are you simply a bigoted, sour woman?” She sparked a shadow of a smile at his onslaught. Was she simply fishing for a reaction? he wondered.

“No, I am not a bigot. I suffer the Gazhe better than most.”

“Then what is the problem?”

“You walk with death, Taliga. It hangs on you. And death is of Beng, the evil one. Walk with death and soon it will walk on you and all that are yours,” she warned him sternly and left without giving him the chance of rebuttal. A strange one there, he thought. But if I ever get her on my side, he added, she would be a powerful ally.

Hang tight, Gypsy Spy fans! Valley of Wolves should be in your hands in 2019!

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