Research on book trailers is inconclusive. Do they help sales or are they a waste of time and money?
I don’t even have a book for sale but I do have a book trailer. Why? For the simple reason it was fun. I did a workshop on making book trailers and had an absolute blast making this one myself. It must have satisfied some inner, more visual creative craving that isn’t writing related!
NB: sometimes the video file plays smoothly for me and sometimes it doesn’t. If you have a similar problem, I suggest you press play, then pause, and wait for the whole file to buffer before attempting to watch it. Apologies.
So if you can make your own book trailer cheaply and easily, cost ceases to be so much of an issue – even if, maybe, the book trailer has no significant effect on sales.
So how does one go about making a book trailer? Here are some guidelines and resources you can use. I am assuming familiarity with the software I refer to, but if you have a technical question, please do ask in the comments.
- Write an effective script. Start with a back cover blurb (or write a new one) to build your script from. It needs to be specific. In reality, this is going to end up looking a bit like a three line elevator pitch. I know, I know. Tough call. We all hate doing it. Do it anyway. And I stress it must be specific.
- The blurb needs to be broken down into 20-25 specific phrases. Specific. You want the reader to have a clear idea what your book is about at the end of this. Check out my script in the trailer above. Use sentence-correct capitalisation and punctuation. Don’t start each phrase with a capital. You’ll want the last screen to be information about your book and where it can be purchased. This last screen should stay up a bit longer at the end.
- Start a Microsoft PowerPoint slideshow and put each phrase on one slide. Don’t use fancy entrance and exit options for text, they’re distracting. Your slide transition should be set to ‘fade smoothly’. You need the slides to transition in the time it takes to read the phrase aloud. You’ll need to test this and adjust the options. Sorry – this is different for every version of Powerpoint so I can’t tell you where to find this but it should be reasonably easy to locate. One version has a nifty feature where you can play the slide show to set the timings. You click when the slide should transition and it saves the timing.
- Find yourself a nice font. It should be easy to read but not a boring, standard font. If you have a published book, you might aim to match the font on your cover. I get my fonts here but there are other sites you can use. Make sure you choose a TrueType font.
- Find pictures to match your phrases. You don’t need one picture per phrase. You’ll notice I have some pictures that appear for multiple phrases. I get my pictures from Dreamstime which has the advantage of allowing you to download watermarked images. You can use these in a ‘test’ before settling on final images and paying for them. If you use Dreamstime, you should use the ‘Small’ size when purchasing pictures.I suggest waiting until you have chosen all the pictures you want to use, then buy a subscription package. You’ll get more pictures for your dollar. I have dozens of spare ones left over that I can now use for other things.
- Add each picture to the appropriate slide. You may need to reposition the text, change font colours, sizes and background colours. Keep in mind the overall theme or mood of your novel. If you couldn’t guess, mine is a little dark, yes?
- Find royalty-free music to match the mood of your trailer. I got mine here and it was free, but you can buy music as well. the site I use allows you to search music by theme and mood. I cannot emphasise mood enough. Listen to the music in my trailer. Think about how much it adds to the trailer. We are writers, we move people with words, but don’t forget that music speaks to us in a very visceral fashion. This is why they use it in movies – it’s a very powerful tool.
- If the music is too long, you’ll need to edit it. I used a programme called Cakewalk for this. I had no idea how to use it when I purchased it but I figured it out. It’s relatively intuitive. There is a small cost to purchase. You can get it here if you’re interested. I had to shorten mine and to be honest the music may need to be shortened a fraction more just to end at precisely the right place but I simply haven’t had time to attend to this detail yet. We don’t add the music to PowerPoint, we add it when we convert the PowerPoint presentation to a video file.
- Once you’ve completely assembled your slideshow, the next step is to convert it to a video file! You can get software here to do this (if you don’t already have some). There are three versions here: a free edition, a free trial edition (which puts a banner on your trailer) and a version you can purchase for $45.00. I used the free version and it worked just fine but you might choose to invest in the complete version.
- Once you’ve downloaded the program, open it and click ‘Add’ then select your PowerPoint file. Then click ‘customise’, go to the ‘Music’ tab and click on the green music note with the plus sign. Select your music file.
- On ‘Profile’ select the format you want. MPEG 4 or WMV are the most common. Select ‘High’ for both video and audio quality. Output is the file destination on your computer.
- Click ‘Start’!
And that’s it! Once your PowerPoint has finished converting into a video file you can watch it, upload it, put it on your website, blog, Facebook page and share it with all your friends!
If you are interested in learning more about how to write a script for a book trailer and choosing pictures and music that suit the trailer, as well as more resources for pictures and music and technical guidance on how to use various programmes, I highly recommend this ‘Create Your Own Book Trailer’ workshop.
Happy book trailering!
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