Saturday, September 4, 2010

Book Trailer How-Tos and Resources

I had the recent benefit of taking an online course offered through the RWA PRO section and taught by wonderful author Jeannie Lin.  Her trailer for her upcoming release Butterfly Swords is truly a model.  And, while I'm sitting on the trailer I made so I can use it as a major promo opportunity for my upcoming release of Forever Freed, I am so proud of how it turned out that I'm already on to making my second, for my also soon-to-be-released novella, Hearts in Darkness, as well as beginning to work on a more general one marketing my writing/"brand."  This medium really resonated with me and made my story come to life in a way I hadn't imagined.  And I'm excited to share what I learned with you.

First, Some Book Trailer "How-tos":
1) You shouldn't try to tell the whole story, mention all the intricacies of the plot, include all the characters or subplots or even all the major issues related to your main characters and their relationship.  If you watched Jeannie Lin's trailer above, it includes just 19 (yes, that's NINETEEN) words related to the plot of her story.  And it works in spades--because, don't forget, the music and the images are helping you tell the story.  My trailer includes 44 plot-related words, not include a 12-word log line at the end.  But no single slide has more than 6 words, and most have 2-3!  And figuring out how to evoke the feel and draw people in in just a few words is challenging.  But my feeling, and I'm just one person of course, is that the fewer words and the shorter the trailer (2 minutes should be the absolutely max, in the 90-second neighborhood is preferable), the more effective / interesting / compelling.
2) You don't have to pay a lot to find the images/music for your trailer.  See my resource list, below, but there are plenty of stock image / stock music / stock video sites out there and while you get more choice with the paid images, they all offer free ones as well.  Be prepared: finding the files you need for your trailer is likely to be the biggest time sink of the whole project, because you simply have to go through page after page after page.  And, some of the sites purposely make the free images less convenient by not allowing them to be searchable by keywords, so you do just have to scroll through everything.  I used a combination of free and paid images--16 images in all, and paid a total of $13.00 for my whole trailer.  Compare that to the minimum $75 to average $200 to upwards of $1,000 you can pay for professional trailer-making services.
  • Hint: As you spend your time scrolling through these free images, also save images unrelated to your current trailer project but that you could potentially imagine being relevant for one of your other stories--that'll help streamline your future trailer image research.  Most of these sites give you what's called a "lightbox" that stores the images you like before you download and/or buy them.  But, beware, some images have an expiration date and will disappear after a period--so don't assume you can let things sit in your lightbox indefinitely and they'll still be there when you need them.
  • Hint: If your cover designer used models as part of your cover image, ask where they got their stock images.  If you can find other images of your model, it will give the trailer a more professional look because it'll give you the benefit of a professionally produced trailer: getting to have the same people's faces doing what you want them to do throughout.  Most stock images include an "Other Images Using This Model" link, and you might be able to find other images of your model you can use outside of the cover image.  I did this, and ended up with quite a few other images of Lucien in my trailer (on the left is my cover image--"Sinister Man" Lucien; then next two I used in the trailer; then the next two I bought, because I wasn't sure if I'd need them and because, well, look at them--I didn't end up using them though):

3) You don't have to pay a lot to make the trailer.  Both PCs and MACs come preloaded with movie-making software.  On the PC, which is what I have, the program is called Windows Movie Maker (WMM).  Open the program and click on View-->Timeline, and that will create a page layout with three lines at the bottom where all the creating is done: Video / Audio/Music / Title Overlay.  Once you import the files you want to work into your trailer into your project (image files, video files, and music files, you simply drag these files into the appropriate line at the bottom.
  • Hint: start with the music.  The music is KEY.  You must find royalty-free music that 1) evokes the feel of your story, 2) builds in intensity/tension, and 3) preferably has noticeable stanzas that will mark off good places for your images/titles to change in coordination with.  Don't worry about the length of the music you find--WMM allows you to both CLIP off the music AND make it fade out so that the ending isn't abrupt.  Similarly, if you find a 5-minute song and you want to start at minute mark 2:30, it allows you to do that too.
  • Once the music is in the Audio/Music line, the line very helpfully shows you a physical representation of where the music gets louder/softer, which helps you coordinate when your images/titles should change.  And you can use the zoom in button to make this even easier.
  • Next step:  Starting at the beginning of the trailer, drag the images you want into the Video line.  Don't worry about the text/titles just yet.  Get the images in the order you want them and spend time coordinating their changes to the music.  It takes a little playing around to figure out how to make this work and look best.  For example, if you just set the images next to each other, they change abruptly like a PowerPoint slide presentation.  However, you can overlap the images by dragging the view time of the one before out and the start time of the next one back a little, and that makes the images seem to fade into each other.  Improve this special effect even further by clicking on the image and then selecting Effect--the Ease In / Ease Out effects (the only ones I used--use the PowerPointy effects sparingly) not only make transitions between images a little softer, but also zoom in or out on the image to give it a moving picture quality.  If you watch Jeannie's trailer again, you'll see she uses this throughout.
  • Hint: One of the hardest things to nail are the transitions between images, particularly if you try to time them to changes in the music, which you should.  It takes some playing and you'll find yourself tinkering with the precise beginning time of an image ten times before you get it right.  So the detail work in the trailer is another point of time sink, fyi.  Use the zoom in button to help you see precisely where the arrows that show where an image starts and stops should fall on the video timeline.
  • Next step: Once you have the images and any videos, if you have them (I didn't use any, but Jeannnie did--the sword coming out of the hilt, the butterfly, etc.), then it's time to add text titles.  Start with an introductory slide of some sort that announces your name and the title--could be your book cover or something that sets the scene--I used an image of Detroit, where my story is set.  You can place text titles ON an image or BEFORE an image.  Frankly, I prefer ON an image because otherwise you're making the viewer stare at an otherwise blank slide with a few words.  And, if you follow my advice and only have a few words, that's simply wasted time in the video.  Getting the exact placement on the image and font size takes a little finessing, but it gives you all the options you'd expect in terms of font, size, justification, bold/italics/underline.  The titles appear in the bottom-most line after you "Add" them, and they can be moved back and forth just like the images so that they don't appear too abruptly; they can overlap just like the images, and it'll take a little finessing to time the appearance of the words with the appearance of the images.  Remember, again, though, less is more.
  • When you're all done, you hit Publish Movie-->It defaults to "This Computer," which is what you want-->then the next screen wants you to name the movie--if you're planning to post publicly, I'd suggest FirstLastname_BookTitle-->then the next screen defaults to "Best Quality," again what you want.  Then Publish!  It takes a few minutes to save.
  • So, total time sink breakdown on my first time when I didn't really know what I was doing:  6 hours of image looking / music listening + 6 hours of playing around with WMM and actually making the trailer.  First time out of the box, my trailer took me 12 hours.  Now, I think I could do it in 2-3, maximum.
Next, Some Book Trailer Resources:
Two key phrases to remember:  "free" and "royalty free".  The first one helps keep your expenses down.  The second one ensures that you're not violating anyone's copyright.  It's not kosher to just go to the internet and save a bunch of images that you don't have the rights to, nor can you get away with using your favorite Kings of Leon song in your trailer (I'm sure the Followhill boys are nice and all, but I doubt they're going to approve you using their music to sell your book...).  Instead, you will be downloading image/video/music files that grant you to the license to use the files for commercial purposes.  Pay attention to the licensing details: the regular royalty-free licenses are fine for your trailer purposes, but if you think you want to get t-shirts or coffee mugs or 20,000 flyers made with the images, some of the sites require you to purchase an additional/bigger license.  Mostly, you won't have to worry about that.

These lists should not be understood to include all possibilities out there.  Nor do I have personal familiarity with all of them.  What I can say is this:
  • Generally, expect the finding of the right images/videos/music for your trailer to take a lot of time.
  • Also, expect that, if you do end up having to pay for some part of this, it's probably going to be for 1) video (which is why you should use it sparingly), 2) music, 3) images.  And their expense is also going to go in that order.  You can generally download, by the way, at the lowest resolutions, which often gets you the freebie and/or reduces your costs  .
  • Next, expect to have to register for each of these in order to really get anywhere.  
  • Finally, sometimes you have to root around a bit on the sites to find the "free" stuff.  Once you've played around a bit with some of these, you'll find your favorite go-to sites and probably stick with 'em.

Stock Images:

Stock Videos:

Stock Music: (and sound effects)

If I've missed any obvious resources, please comment and let me know and I'll add to the list.  By all means, please feel free to tweet/facebook/forward/or otherwise share this post, but I would appreciate the shout out if you do.

Stay tuned for the Forever Freed trailer.  And let me know how your movie-making business goes!  I'd be happy to post trailers! ;)

Thanks for reading,

Folks--be sure to read Lex Valentine's comments via the comment link below--she has a great resource for music editing AND some info on using popular music on YouTube via an agreement YouTube has with some recording artists!


dkchristi said...

Thank you for posting information that is in lay terms I can understand. If I am capable of producing a trailer, it will be this blog that took me there!, author of Ghost Orchid, a mystery of love, lies & redemption wrapped in the mystical aura of the rare and endangered ghost orchid.

Lex Valentine said...

Nice post with lots of info for people new to making trailers. Here's some more info for you. First, there's free music editing software out there that you can use to do a more professional job of clipping your music. The program is called Audacity. It's totally free and not hard to use. But there are tutorials on You Tube that will teach too.

Second, if you are using You Tube as your vehicle for publishing / distributing your video, you should know that You Tube has an agreement with many of the music labels (not Warner Music Group though so be careful!) What that means to you is that you can choose an MP3 of a song you like by a popular band and use it in your video. If the band or it's label doesn't have an agreement with You Tube, You Tube will strip the music from your video. If they DO have one, all you get is a little buy link popup that can be closed at the bottom of your video.

It's a win-win situation for bands. They get more advertising and you get to use their music. I can't tell you how many people have emailed me to tell me they have a new favorite band because of one of my book trailers.

Hope this bit of info helps further your post here. :)

If you're interested you can see my trailers (and a video about how to make one) on my You Tube channel.

Lisa said...

Great post, Laura! Lots of really good info. I can't wait to see what you've done :)

Laura Kaye said...

Thanks everybody! And Lex--incredible information! See, I'm so new at this I didn't even know--I can't wait to check these ideas out.

Krista said...

Thanks for putting this in a tidy little package! I don't feel quite as intimidated now (we'll see how I feel during the attempt, ha).
Wonderful info.

Liz Fichera said...

Supremely helpful post! Look forward to seeing your trailer!

Lex Valentine said...

Lots of people don't know this, Laura. But it's public info. When Warner pulled out last year there were lots of blog posts everywhere about it but not within this industry. I'm happy to pass on the info.

If you happen to get a song stripped out of a video, just delete the video from your channel. Try another song then upload again.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

What an amazing resource this post is, Laura! I'm so glad I found your blog. Thanks for stopping by mine, too. It's so good to meet you.


Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Great info here and easy to follow. Thanks for the post/

Clarissa Draper said...

Thank you for your links, I'm going to be making reference to your site on my post today.


Lisa Fox said...

What a great post! Thank you for all the helpful information.

naelany said...

That is very interesting information, indeed! Thanks for sharing, Laura :-)

Fragrant Liar said...

Wow, what a great post - so much helpful info in there. I will save this post and come back to it when I get to the point of making my own trailers. Excellent!

Maeve said...

Very helpful post! Thank you so much for compiling all those resources. :-)

Jenna Wallace said...

This is one of the best posts I've seen on trailers! Thanks for the great info.

Marsha A. Moore said...

Very helpful! This gives me a few new resources to use for my next trailer. Thanks lots!


Nancy J. Cohen said...

Fabulous article! I am going to print it out as a handy resource. Thanks for sharing.

Laura Kaye said...

You're welcome everybody! And remember to share those trailers! :)

Conda V. Douglas said...

This article is very useful! Thank you!

Wendy Marcus said...

Thanks Laura!
It's great to have all this info in one place. (And to know where to legally snag pictures of hot guys!)

Lynda Young said...

Popping over from Clarissa's blog. Wow, what a great, inofrmative post this is. Thanks so much for all the time it must have taken to put this together :)

W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

Al said...

Great tips and resources. Thank you!

Shirley Wells said...

What a great post. Thanks so much for all the info! Making book trailers is on my To Do list and I think you just brought that a little closer.

Jen said...

I loved this post!!! I learned so much and it was all easy to understand!!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Terrific info. I think I'll refer to this again and again. But I really don't have the remotest clue!

Laura Kaye said...

I'd be happy to help you, Taryn. If you're interested just let me know! It really isn't as intimidating as it seems, I promise!

Regina Richards said...

Wow, great information formatted ina an easy to understand style. I'm definitely bookmarking this page and I'll be back to this blob. Thanks, Laura.

And thanks as well to Wendy Marcus over at Must have Romance for steering me over here!

Angela Ackerman said...

This is exactly what I need! Thank you so much!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Laura Kaye said...

So glad you all found it useful. And thanks to Wendy for the shout out!