melissa walker

How to Make a Book Trailer (On a Budget)

[youtube] One day, I will be a fabulous, wildly successful author and not only will my publisher fly me all around the country (and world) to do a book tour, but I will have lots of publisher dollars to pour into a book trailer, but that day is not today.

Today, I am a debut author with a new imprint, and like many things in the publishing process (ahem, author photo), I have gone the DIY route. And that's okay. In fact, it's fun.

Full disclosure, I have never made a movie before. I am not a pro photographer, nor am I a director, nor have I done anything video-related besides a really nerdy Renaissance art project in high school, where my friend and I literally pressed play and record on two VCRs hooked up to each other and called it editing. I realize I just dated myself there.

But I digress.

The point is, you don't have to be a pro to make a book trailer. Or have endless resources. You just have to be a little scrappy and willing to learn. Here's how I did it:

I thought about trying to actually record footage, but I realized that by the time I got actors involved, it would already be way bigger than I was ready for, so I decided to go the stills route. If you are an author or a fan looking to make a book trailer, I highly recommend stills. There are plenty of fun things to do with them in iMovie, and if you get the right ones, they look a lot more professional than most amateur footage. How did I find them?

I have a Pinterest board that I have used for inspiration since I began writing my young adult novel, The After Girls. The very first (and most inspiring) photo on the board is from Lauren Maccabee, a young woman in the UK who has a cool blog and Flickr stream, Look Left and Look Right. Check her out. Her photos were eerie, wistful, ethereal and moody. They expressed the feeling of The After Girls perfectly. After a little Internet hunting, I tracked Lauren down. And when I saw the rest of her photography, I just knew she was perfect.

While it took me awhile to hear back from her, I decided not to reach out to anyone else--and I'm glad I didn't--when I did hear back, she had researched my book and said she understood why I'd be interested in her photography. It was a truly great fit. We worked out a modest price (please, PAY any artists you work with, it's good karma) for me to use 10 of her photos (non-exclusively, which makes it a lot more affordable), and she sent me the scans.

Seriously, I cannot recommend working with an independent photographer enough. There are tons of brilliant photogs out there who would love the exposure and the paycheck, even if it is small. And it's way more fun that just going with traditional stock.

Next I wrote a quick script. I toyed with the idea of using a quote, but I found there wasn't one quick quote that said all I wanted to say in the book trailer. So I hit on the high points, the mystery. I looked at the photos I had from Lauren and riffed off them. I got back into my character space (the one I hadn't been to since revisions) and imagined Ella, one of my main characters speaking again. By this point, I knew her well enough to do this rather quickly. I didn't mess with it. I didn't edit it. I just let her walk us through this quick glimpse into the world of The After Girls.

Then I headed into iMovie. I won't go into a detailed how-to here, as I'm sure there are loads of articles around the Internet, but I will say this--have fun. The program was designed for people like you and me who don't know what they're doing. Just drag your photos in and start playing around. Add transitions. Add text. See what fonts you like. Don't doubt yourself. You are the author, for goodness sake. You should know how to create the tone and mood of your book better than anyone else.

Once you have the main body of the video, you'll need a final slide. I recommend putting a blurb, your contact info, and of course, where you can buy the book. I also highly recommend designing this in something other than iMovie. You simply can't get the fonts small enough to fit in all the information you need on one slide. InDesign and Photoshop are great, if you have access to them (just set your canvas to 1600x900px), but Picasa is a great free editing service that can do many of the same things. And one more note about last slides--keep it at least 10 seconds to give readers a chance to pick up all the info.

Oh, and speaking of time, maybe it's just me but I think 1 minute is the sweet spot, but definitely don't go shorter than 30 seconds or longer than 2 minutes.

And finally, the music. I don't have much in the way of advice here, because my boyfriend is a brilliant composer, and I literally gave him a cut of my trailer and he composed the score, which is so perfect. It gave me chills the first time I heard it. So I guess my advice would be to date a composer?

Seriously though, there are talented people everywhere. There are indie bands looking for exposure. Go to shows, ask your friends, troll MySpace--you'll find someone whose track you can use.

Your book trailer may not be directed by Scorcese, but in the end, you can still have something amazing, even on a major budget. Which is good because the jury's still out on whether book trailers actually do anything for sales :)

P.S. My book trailer was featured today on I Love Book Trailers and YA author, Melissa Walker's awesome blog. Check em out!