Seems like everyone puts out a book trailer for their novels these days, so I decided I’d add a trailer to my promotion plan.  First step — gather all of my Hollywood insiders to put together an incredible team of producers, directors, videographers, all the way to a caterer using only locally sourced, organically grown produce.  Okay.  I don’t have a network of Hollywood insiders, so I settled from my laptap and my time.  For those who have never created a book trailer the process looks daunting.  What software do I use? Do I use video and if so, do I shoot it? Do I use stills or graphics and if I do, where do I find something not resulting in a copyright lawsuit down the road when my books have made me fabulously rich and famous? And once I’ve created this trailer, how do I get it out to the world?

My first stop concerned the software. I use a Mac and mine came with iMovie, which happened to have some template trailers.  Sweet!  So I played around with the software for, well, hours.  I located a action movie style trailer which I figured if I did this right would fit the lightly tongue and cheek nature of Toxic Relationship.  I found clips of video from vacations to slip into the places between the templated graphics.  Then I learned how to change the graphics to match my storyline.  A job well-done.  Except now I had an action movie trailer featuring me rolling down a hill, some kids blowing out birthday candles and a Mustang P-51 doing a roll at an airshow.  So I put the project to the side in order to focus on writing.

As publishing day approached the trailer haunted me.  Maybe I could ressurect it, use stills, put something out there visual to promote the novel.  I put together a simple storyboard, mapping out what kind of images I wanted after each graphic element.  Then I pulled the trailer up on my laptop and began my search for still shots.  I knew I needed to find photographs I owned or that were public domain or creative commons.  I’m definitely not a copyright attorney, so don’t base any of your decisions on what I am about to say.  But from my understanding, public domain pics are just that — copyright free photographs you can use at will.  Creative commons photographs allow the photographer to define the copyright use of the photograph.  I used Fotolia, but there are a number of sites like Flickr allowing the download of creative commons photos for a fee.

With pics in hand, I build the trailer.  I placed each photo, decided if I wanted any visual effects such as black and white, raster (so it looks like a television broadcast) and many more.  Then I defined the “Ken Burns” effect which gives a still shot movement.  Finally I set the length of time the still would be visible in the trailer.  The most difficult part, probably due to my lack of understanding about how to use all of iMovie’s features, was adjusting the timing of clips and graphics to match the music and make the graphics readable.  After much tweaking and fiddling, I learned how to change the timing for the graphic elements.

iMovie makes it easy to share a video with a button for YouTube which automates the upload process.  Since I already had a google account, all I had to do was add a YouTube account and I was good to go.  I first chose to keep the video private, in order to share with my publisher to be sure I wasn’t doing anything they thought would be a copyright issue and with a few friends for feedback.  Then I posted the video as a public YouTube.  I immediately got some feedback from several colleagues that my graphics moved to quickly for them to read.  So I went back to my crack Hollywood team, yeah, me, and did my best to fix the issue. Then I reposted on YouTube.

You probably will notice the thumbnail for the trailer is two flaming hands.  Ideally, I wanted the title of the book and assumed having the title as the thumbnail would be a simple matter.  Turns out, YouTube grabs three screenshots at various timeframes in a video and you get to choose from those three. If your desired image doesn’t show up at the prescribed time for a screenshot, then you won’t have the image as a choice.  Having spent probably too much time getting the images and the music aligned, the idea of moving things around just for the thumbnail image didn’t strike me as something I wanted to get into. At least not now.  DIRTY WATER, the sequel to TOXIC RELATIONSHIP comes out in June, 2013.  So I have a few months to play with the software for the next trailer.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s how the final product turned out…


So how do I feel about the time put into this project in relation to the payoff?  I’ll have to give this some time to see how much traffic actually views the trailer.  To be honest, if I pick up ten or twenty readers with this, I’ll be happy.  After I posted my first version, I had three hits at the end of the day.  On the news that night I heard about some kids who posted a video on YouTube rapping about Hot Cheetos and Takis with 1.3 million hits.  Hmmm.  I think my next novel should be about junk food.

So what’s your experience with book trailers, whether you’re an author, a reader or both?  Do trailers lead you purchase an author’s book?  If you’re an author, have you seen much success with your trailers?

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