4 ways to do a book trailer and a comprehensive review of each

By Emlyn Chand/ Book trailers – they’re a hot new trend that’s sweeping the publishing industry. Only time will tell if this latest promotional device is a seasonal flavor or a new staple promo dish for authors.

I believe they’re here for the long haul. It just makes sense. Surely by now you know that eReaders aren’t going anywhere. Gone are the days when bibliophiles were relegated to dusty corners of dimly lit libraries, hunched over their latest literary infatuation like Gollum and his “precious.” Now we may rise from the shadows, take to the streets, become one with larger society once again – we can even read our Kindles in direct sunlight, how about that?

And digitized books require digitized promotional efforts—your social media marketing, your blog tours, your book trailers. Another element all of these book marketing tactics have in common is their immediacy. You don’t have to mail in a fan letter and count the days until you receive a response from the author; you can send a tweet and get instantaneous feedback. You can decide you want to read a book and download it to your Kindle within seconds.

Sure, reading takes time. That’s part of the fun. But why should deciding what to read?

A book trailer is a short, entertaining video that represents a novel and gets readers excited. The art of the trailer is only limited by the author’s budget and creative vision. A myriad of forms have emerged. I’d like to identify and discuss the four most common.

Here goes…

The book trailer as a movie trailer

It’s only natural to consider the movie trailer first. After all, the terms book trailer and movie trailer sound an awfully lot alike. But are they really that similar? Let’s think.

A movie trailer highlights the “best” scenes from an upcoming film. It’s designed to entice the audience to purchase theater tickets. You’ll see explosions, chase scenes, passionate love declarations, short and snappy catchphrase dialogue, dramatic landscapes of foreign lands. No matter what the genre, these trailers tend to be high concept, high adventure.

Imagine cutting your book down to a handful of scenes that are the most exciting, filming these scenes, doing a schmancy video edit, and setting it to music. What happens? First of all, you spend A LOT of money. This is by far the most expensive option when it comes to book trailers. Second, you may misrepresent your book.

By conveying only the most exciting scenes, you set readers up to assume your entire book is packed with action and drama when the reality could be quite different. This begs the question:  Which do you prefer high book sales or reasonable book sales with high reader satisfaction?

If you’d like a movie trailer-esque book trailer be sure to represent your book’s content and pacing accurately – there is a way to do it. If this seems too risky, time-consuming or expensive, then consider a different style.

 

The book trailer as an author narration

We see this done all the time, right? Saturday Night Live even did a sketch making fun of it, but, hey, this does work! This style may not be as entertaining as some of the others, but it has some substantial benefits. For one, it doesn’t require that much time or money.

You just need to sit in front of a camera and talk about your book, perhaps respond to interview questions. If you want to get really fancy, you can sit in front of a green screen and then put in some funky, cool background. You don’t need to waste hours plotting how to best convey your book on camera. At most, you’ll need to write a speech.

Directly discussing your book and addressing potential readers can also help create a connection with your audience, which is really quite priceless.

Consider this option for your trailer either as an alternative or complement to other methods. If you are a charismatic and likeable person, go for it. If you’re a horribly timid public speaker, don’t kid yourself. You need to be confident while discussing your literary masterpiece, not collapse into a bumbling fool. Do this the wrong way and people can lose faith in the merit of your work. Seriously.

 

The book trailer as a slide show presentation

Guess what? This is by far the most common method for creating book trailers. Why? It’s quick, cheap, and easy. This method doesn’t require a great deal of technical skill or expensive filming equipment.

But guess what else? I consider it to be the least effective. It’s overdone, boring! You may be quite proud of the slide show trailer you produced, so don’t consider that in this discussion. Think about other authors’ trailers. Now ask yourself – do you watch these trailers through to the end? Do they keep your interest? Do you walk away with a keen understanding of the story’s content, pacing and style?

I’m not saying this method is unconditionally awful, rather I’d like to emphasize the need to make your trailer standout from the others.

You must also be aware of laws surrounding copyright infringement. Many people aren’t and assume it’s okay to take whichever photos you want from online or to use whatever music suits your fancy. Some account for the photo copyrights but overlook the need to do the same for the musical elements. Sooner or later, the music industry is going to figure out what we writers are doing and come at us with teeth bared.

Remember the whole Napster fiasco ten years back? Remember the obsession with downloading via Kazaa? Copyright infringement is real and charges can be pressed. I know, because in my naïve college days, Time Warner slapped me with a suit after I downloaded one of their movies via Kazaa. They dropped the charges, and I learned my lesson. BE CAREFUL!

 

The book trailer as a mini skit

This has been my favorite method. Replicate a scene from your novel or write an entirely new scene to represent the book as a whole, cast your characters, scout a location, and shoot! This method is especially effective for conveying your book’s tone and pacing, and I’d highly recommend it for character-driven novels.

Another way you can utilize the mini skit book trailer is to cast a single actor to represent one of your book’s characters. Write her a monologue and film on location. Let this character tell potential readers about the story from her perspective. She may talk about the plot, other characters, maybe even the author!

You don’t have to choose your main character as a representative either. In the trailer that we are currently producing at Novel Publicity (for “The Trust” by Sean Keefer), we’ve actually cast a character that dies before the book even starts. This adds a fresh twist and provides a good opportunity for creativity.

The beauty of the skit trailer is that you can make it as simple or as grand as your budget allows. A single character shoot won’t cost you much more than the author narration method, although it’s almost sure to be more effective.  If you have more money, cast more characters, scout more locations, go big!

In choosing a single scene to represent your book (whether it was in the book or has been created anew), you don’t risk using up all of the best parts as you would with the movie trailer method, but you can still produce a cinematic and entertaining promo. Another plus, this method can easily be transformed into the movie trailer style with some creative editing.

 

The book trailer as done by Novel Publicity

Novel Publicity started its book trailer service as a way to escape the go-to slideshow format. We believe book trailers CAN be riveting, cinematic, and entertaining, and we’d like to help lead the new industry in this direction.

When approached by an author who’d like a book trailer, we first read the author’s novel, then create a concept based upon the book. Once the author okays the concept, we develop a script and descriptions of the setting and characters, recruit actors, and film. We also select and record original musical compositions to accompany the video and add pop to the piece with creative editing. The author may be as involved or removed from the process as he likes. We really have fun with trailers around here!

To learn more about our custom-scripted book trailer service, see our pricing, or request a consultation, visit:  www.novelpublicity.com/custom-scripted-book-trailer

 

Emlyn Chand, President of Novel Publicity

Emlyn Chand was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity’s mascot is a Sun Conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company’s founder and president. Although her first novel Farsighted won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category, she now writes most of her fiction under her “real” name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her (or her Sun Conure, Ducky!) on either of her author websites:  www.emlynchand.com or www.melstorm.com. You can also friend her on Facebook, tweet with her @novelpublicity, or send her an email via [email protected].


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