Making a book trailer is something I’ve never done. Frankly it seems daunting. I’m a writer, not a movie maker! That’s why I’m pleased today to feature Angela Quarles who has some great “how to” info on making one. Her step-by-step instructions make it sound easy! And by the way…her romantic comedy “novelette” Beer and Groping and Las Vegas releases today! And yes, she made book trailer for it, and you’ll get to see it. Take it away…Angela!
Making a Book Trailer on Your Own Dime
By Angela Quarles
Thank you for having me on your site, Cara!
You’ve seen book trailers–when done right, they make you more intrigued about the book. But you’ve also seen the ones that look amateurish. I was afraid to do one for my upcoming release, because I didn’t want it to fall into the latter camp. I was also afraid it would look too earnest, and that’s not the tone of my novelette. I put it off, resolved that I wouldn’t do one at all. Then a couple weekends ago, I thought, why not? I can try it and if it doesn’t work, no one has to know. So here’s what I did….
Determine the tone – Jot down words that convey the tone the book trailer should have. It needs to match the tone of your book, of course. Brainstorm ways that you can visually achieve this. Look at other book trailers to see what they do and write down techniques and other aspects that you liked.
I think for me, what helped me see that I could get across what I wanted was seeing this book trailer by Maggie Stiefvater for a book about kraken love:
It showed me that I could not only do something myself, but also I really liked the conversational style of the trailer, and that it was having fun with the viewer. I wanted to do that too. Snippets of one-liners started popping into my head and I made sure to then incorporate those into my rough storyboard.
Storyboard – Armed with your brainstorming notes and a pen and paper, draw rectangles and jot inside some images you could see using in each spot, along with any captions. I just did a quick and dirty one, it won’t win any art prizes, but it helped me see this as a series of ‘scenes’. I crossed things out, drew rectangles on the sides with arrows where they should be inserted, etc.
Not all of the ‘scenes’ I ended up using, but it helped me visualize it. You don’t want any more than about 18-20 of these because you want to keep it under 2 minutes, but the shorter the better.
For your captions, think short and simple here. Like a log line, or your query letter. Just try and think what you want to convey, and how, and come up with the wording. Viewers will lose patience if they have to read a lot of words in a trailer. In fact, the same principles used for creating an effective logline apply here. It needs to convey genre, tone, who, where, what they want, what/who opposes them, etc. And just like your query, start with your hook!
Software – I used Windows Live Movie Maker, which in other tutorials online said that it comes with Windows, but it didn’t come with mine. But it’s a free program, so you can download it here if your computer doesn’t have it either. If you’re not on Windows, I’m sure the Mac comes with a good program too. This won’t be a tutorial about the specifics involved with this software, but rather the principles involved with making one. So if you have to download, go ahead and get that ball rolling while you then browse for images…
Images – Next you want to look for images that will work with your scenes. Be very careful here, as you don’t want to use copyrighted images. I opted to spend some money and purchase high quality photos where usage would not be a problem. I spent less than $50 total for all the photos I used by going to www.istockphoto.com. But before I purchased them, I browsed for ones I thought would work and put them in my lightbox for the project. I then downloaded samples and used those samples in my trailer until I knew for sure those were the images I wanted.
And pick images that are sharp and get across what you want in a nice, tight shot. Don’t get something so ‘busy’ that it’s ambiguous.
You can even purchase short video clips if you want to get really fancy. There are many on istockphoto.com as well, like this one that shows a little sensual snippet that might work for a romance trailer.
Creating a Rough Draft of Your Trailer – Now go ahead and open your software and set up your project file. Make sure to choose your aspect ratio, and I recommend using “Widescreen 16:9” as that will look the most professional. 16:9 refers to the aspect ratio, meaning the width will be 16 units across for every 9 units down.
Start making each ‘scene’ by inserting your captions and images. I didn’t do music until near the end, so that I wouldn’t keep hearing it over and over while editing (though I guess I could’ve hit mute). But the idea here is to lay down your scenes, just like you would in a rough draft of your story. You want to get them down to see what you’ve got.
If you’re using still images like me, don’t let them just appear and stay there for a bit until they get replaced. Try to create interest and movement by utilizing the in-built transitions and movements that come with your software. I made sure that every time a photo appeared, I used a transition, in my case the bottom right corner turning like a page. But be careful here, there are some pretty cheesy transitions available to use, so try to keep it simple and fitting for the tone you’re aiming for. You don’t want it to look like someone who just got to start playing with all the cool transition tools in their new video creation software (*wink*). My advice would be to find one transition that works, and stick to that one for the whole trailer.
For movement, I used some of the inbuilt panning so that the photo moved around a little. Again, don’t go crazy.
Same with your captions, try to choose one of the inbuilt fade in/out movements that come with it.
For images, they aren’t going to be sized at the same aspect ratio as your movie (16:9), so you can do one of several things:
- Insert them as is and live with whatever background color shows on either side (if it’s a vertical) or above and below (if it’s a horizontal).
- Recommended: Open up your image editing software (like PhotoShop) and if you want the whole thing visible, create a file with the right aspect ratio and background color you want and place your photo centered. Or if you’re okay with parts of the photo missing, cut off part of it so it matches the aspect ratio
But how do I figure out the aspect ratio?—I’m so confused! you’re probably screaming right about now. Fear not, luckily someone else has made a calculator available online. In the space that has 4 and 3 prefilled in the width and height, change that to 16 and 9. Then use the area near the bottom of the calculator to input one of the photos dimensions in pixels, hit calculate, and it tells you what the other should be. For instance, one of my photos was 849 pixels by 565 pixels. I knew I wanted to keep the width of the photo, so I input 849 in the width box at the bottom, hit calculate, and boom, it told me I needed to make the height 478. So I trimmed my photo, lopping off top and bottom, so that it had this height and RESAVED it under a new file name (that way the original photo stays intact). Now I didn’t go through all this trouble on my rough draft with the sample photos, but you can, if you want to see at this stage if the photo will work for your purposes before you buy it.
Look at your script again. Do you have repeat words? Are you saying the same thing several different ways? Trim, trim, trim! Use the same word-craft skills you apply to your WIP for here as well.
Font – Stick to one font, two at the most. Like the transitions, don’t go crazy here. Make sure that the font is a professional-looking, clean, readable font and if possible, matches the tone you’re going for. Often the wrong font can cross the trailer over into Amateur Land. I found one on my computer, but again, you can browse font sites like dafont.com or 1001fonts.com and download one. Like music and images, be careful that you choose one that grants you commercial license to use it; some are only for personal use.
Add Credits – Don’t forget to credit those you need to at the end, like the photos and music.
Find Music – Again, don’t put copyrighted music in your trailer. So that fave tune of yours by the artist you love? Ah, no. There were some sites I found that had royalty free music you could buy, like the images, (Google ‘royalty free music’) but I was on a tight budget, so I searched for free music. I typed in “free download” “royalty free” contemporary sensual music and came across joshwoodward.com and the first tune I clicked on, I knew that was it. But it had vocals and with a little searching I found that there was an instrumental version. However you find your music, be sure to follow their instructions on usage and how they should be credited. You do not want to get in trouble later. I know Kevin MacLeod is another that has free instrumental music you can use.
Whatever it is, again it needs to match the tone of your story/trailer.
Beta round – Just like with your WIP, get some folks you trust to look at your rough trailer. I copied my script down and sent it to one friend who made some great suggestions. Another watched the rough and over the phone gave me some great suggestions. I also posted it to my facebook profile (but kept the visibility restricted to Friends Only) and got feedback.
And like Beta readers with your book, they will find inconsistencies, typos, and suggestions for improvement.
Finalize – Now purchase your images and get them sized and imported. Don’t opt for the smallest size. Get one that is at least 640×480. You don’t want it looking grainy if it’s blown up to someone’s full screen. If you use istockphoto.com like I did, you can save a little money by buying blocks of credits to use instead of buying each one individually.
Tighten – Again, like your WIP, do that final tighten and polish. I cut down precious seconds by just making sure the delays between scenes were exactly paced the way I wanted. I also combined some of the credits so that my rough draft that was 2:09 minutes was cut down to 1:29. Big difference for a trailer!
Final Permissions – If your book is being published by a publisher, make sure you follow their rules and get whatever approvals you need before you make this live. YouTube allows you to upload videos and keep them private so you can send links to those you want to see it.
Release – Release your baby into the wild! I uploaded mine to YouTube, but I also arranged to have it premiere on a fellow blogger’s website.
And here’s my trailer. My novelette is light-hearted, quirky and humorous (I think) and so I wanted the trailer to convey that:
- How to Make Your Own Book Trailer
- Make Your Own Book Trailer: How To Get It Done On a Mac
- Are Book Trailers Dead?
- Book Trailer Basics
- Create Your Own Book Trailer Free
- Workshop: Create Your Own Book Video Preview
Beer and Groping in Las Vegas:
Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Secret Cravings Publishing
Release Date: December 19, 2012
Length: Novelette (13,500 words)
Content advisory: Adult language, explicit sex
Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?
Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.
Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.
Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.
Angela works at an independent bookstore and lives in an historic house in the beautiful and quirky town of Mobile, AL, with her two matched gray cats, Darcy and Bingley. When she’s not writing, she enjoys the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls and creating the occasional knitted scarf. She’s had a varied career, including website programming and directing a small local history museum.
She’s an admitted geek and is proud to be among the few but mighty Browncoats who watched Firefly the first night it aired. She was introduced to the wonderful world of science fiction by her father, by way of watching reruns of the original Star Trek in her tweens and later giving her a copy of Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz as a teenager. She hasn’t looked back since.
She has a B.A. in Anthropology and International Studies with a minor in German from Emory University, and a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University. She was an exchange student to Finland in high school and studied abroad in Vienna one summer in college. She recently found representation with Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon, Assoc.