Monday, December 17, 2012

#GuestPost - How to Make a Book Trailer in 7 Steps by Helen J. Beal #pubtip

Have you ever wanted a cool Book Trailer, but were daunted by the technical skills and artistic talent you'd need to make one? Helen J. Beal, multipublished literary fiction author is here to make it easy! Take a look at this video she made for her New Release, Thirty Seconds Before Midnight, a quirky, lovable story told from the eyes of a land tortoise.

Take it away, Helen!

Technology has unarguably opened up a huge opportunity for every writer to place their work into the market – but it’s also introduced a massive amount of competition, with very little quality control. Readers are the gatekeepers now, and writers’ biggest challenge today isn’t writing a book or even the publishing process – it’s the marketing. It’s getting in front of the readers, grabbing their interest first, enticing them to press the download button.

I think the jury’s still out on the marketing value of book trailers – I’ve created one, it cost me around $100 to make and I’ve no way of quantifying how many sales viewings convert to. I’d need to sell around a hundred books for it to pay for itself. Of course, you don’t need to spend much, if any money, at all on book trailers, just like you don’t with editing your work, or creating your cover, but it we’re going to talk about quality control and creating a top-quality product to take to market, you want everything to shine, don’t you?

So how do you make a book trailer? Here it is in 7 easy steps:

Hey, you’ve already written the book and probably a synopsis too either as part of your planning process or perhaps for querying agents or entering competitions. Now all you need to do is decide on how that story translates to the screens of a book trailer. Remember not to tell the whole story – you need to find a balance between giving the potential reader a sense of what they story’s about and making them want to find out more.

If you want to keep the costs down, use your own or take these yourself, but there’s lots of stock out there in easy to search sites. I’ve purchased media from Shutterstock, Pond5 and iStockPhoto. Photos and clips can be of places, characters, objects, themes within your book but overall should give the viewer strong visual clues to the book’s content. Video’s generally more expensive that pictures – I think a combination of the two works really well.

Again, the auditory experience of the trailer viewer should somehow reflect what their experience will be reading the book: scary book = scary music for example. I use Jamendo for this bit. They’re big into creative commons and though you’ll need to purchase a license for commercial use for the music you choose for your trailer, I’ve found them very flexible when I’ve explained what I’m trying to do. I’ve seen some trailers with voice-over too. I haven’t tried this yet myself but I worry that it could come across as pretty amateur with out a trained and experienced voiceover artist doing the work.

I’m a mac user so I get iMovie for free which is awesome for this kind of work. You create your project, drag in your clips and images, lay over the text, adjust the timings and fades and layover the music - easy. And fun. If you have a PC you might want to use something like Windows Movie Maker which does the same job. Personally, and it’s worth noting here that I don’t have a huge attention span, I think you should keep the length of the trailer to around sixty seconds. Three minutes is definitely too long.

You’ll need to tell the viewer where they can go now to buy your book. I use Artboard to create these graphics (around $25 from the iTunes AppStore) as I use it a lot to create banners and images for my websites but you could use Powerpoint as effectively.

Once you’re done you can upload straight from iMovie into youtube, Facebook etc

Only you can tell people it’s there. If they tell other people that’s awesome and if you’ve created something totally stupendous it might even go viral. Testdrive it with your friends on Facebook, upload it to your Amazon author page, feature it on your own websites, tweet about it, drive traffic to it.

Did you view my video for Thirty Seconds Before Midnight? What did you think? What would you have done differently?

Here are some other book trailers to inspire you – which is your favourite?

-          ‘The Snow Child’ by Eowyn Ivey – okay so this is from one of the big publishers and is probably a little out of most independent publisher’s budget as is an animation. That said, even for an animation it’s quite straightforward. I recently downloaded Animation Desk for my iPad and, inspired by this, will see what can be done!
-          Mrs Darcy and the Aliens by Jonathan Pinnock – very easy to do this one, take some video footage and overlay subtitles and voiceover in French. Warning – to pull this off you need an exceptional sense of humour and good speaking French.
-          The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – this one’s also from big publisher but not to difficult to replicate as it’s mainly photos with a soundtrack / voiceover. Very professionally done though, obvs.
-          Click! An Online Love Story by Lisa Becker – I loved this trailer so much I bought the book and I loved that too. I particularly enjoy the cheery little tune. It’s funny too. Very clever way of telling the story of the story through an email conversation. And a great call to action at the end.

Helen J. Beal Author Bio:

I was born in York in the north of England in 1974. My very excellent mother taught me to read when I was three thereby spawning a voracious bibliophile. My childhood was mostly uneventful, mainly an extended search for caterpillars in hedgerows and a lot of rounders, and then I studied English Literature and Language at London University. I graduated in 1995 and began a career in the commercial side of information technology. This was not an obvious choice for an aspiring writer but I wanted to pay the bills and needed to live a little. It also had the advantage of giving me the opportunity to meet a huge variety of people in a vast amount of places doing a wide range of different jobs over the years and demanded I hone my listening skills.
I found I had a specialist instinct for building businesses and whilst this satisfied some of my creative impulses, my desire to write continued to grow, culminating in a move out of London to Chichester to regain control over my free time and be near the sea. I discovered not long after that it was both possible and financially viable to work a three day week and write for four. Happy days.

Books by Helen J. Beal:


  1. Thanks for the great tips. Haven't checked into doing this yet, but this post certainly helps!

  2. i wish i could have linked to your post with mine. i like the Etch-a-sketch trailer. that is unique. your post is short and to the point. mine seemed to drag on but my background is writing articles so i'm stuck with it plus i wanted to get the authors views in there.