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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Video Trailer for Your Book

February 2011

Sessha Batto

When Lorraine first told me I'd have a page here to fill each month I have to admit, I was worried. What on earth would I have to say that anyone would be interested in? Thankfully for all of us my panic receded and I started to have some ideas. Starting next month I'll be running a series of interviews with small press publishers that I hope will give you some insight into what they are looking for and what a small press can offer an author that a larger press can not. But that's for next month, you must be wondering what today's topic is!
In my previous career, I spent over twenty years as a video editor and motion graphics artist. So, to start us off, I though I'd talk about designing a book trailer. It's one of the fun ways to promote your book, and it doesn't need to be intimidating. This week I'll talk about the basic elements that go into a trailer; music, pictures and text. Next week I'll cover how to combine those elements.
First (and most importantly) you need to pick the correct piece of music. The music will set the tone for your trailer, and therefore, the impression people will come away with for the book itself, so it's very important to take the time to find the right piece. The video below is a good example of using music to set the tone for the piece.

The most important consideration in choosing a piece of music is making sure you have the rights to use it. That means no picking your favorite popular hit – unless you can negotiate the rights it will be a copyright violation. Thankfully, there are plenty of sources for free or inexpensive production music. Do an internet search for production music and you'll turn up dozens of sites where you can find music you can buy the rights to. If your budget is tight, has some very nice FREE music you can use just for giving them credit. Another option is to approach a local band or music school and see if they would like to supply something for the exposure.
In general minute and a half to two and a half minutes is more than long enough for a trailer. The only exception would be in the case of something like an anthology, where you might want to have some short storyline for each piece. You'll know if the music is too long or if you don't think you can continue the momentum of the sell. The next trailer is an example of using a longer piece of music with lyrics, notice there is no text in the body of the video. This is because the message would only get muddy - the lyrics and the images are all the brain can

Now that you have your music the tone of the piece is set, next is to set up the visual metaphors, images that convey situations and themes in your book.
You'll want to listen to the music a dozen times or so before you're ready to choose your images. Again, you want to make sure you have the rights to use any photos or video you select. Remember, it does not have to be literal. You can have pictures that work with, or contrast, the words and music. Close ups are your friend – simpler images will allow you to read text easier, so the frames which will have text on them need to have areas where the background image won't distract from the words on top. If you can't find the right images, make them. You can take pictures yourself, if you're so inclined. If you would like original artwork you can try to find a local artist to partner with, perhaps through a local art school. Remember, they need portfolio pieces, and a few dollars goes a long way on a student budget. This next video uses very few visuals, simply elements from the cover that repeat in different ways.

Now that you have some pictures and music a rough layout will start to suggest itself. Before you commit to it, you need to decide on the last piece of the puzzle, the text. As writers, our natural instinct is to explain everything. While that's great in a book, it's death to a trailer. Like the back cover copy, trailer text should be a tease, suggesting what's inside without revealing too much. Think in terms of phrases, keywords and themes, not sentences. The human eye has a hard time resolving text on screen, so less is more. Pare down what you have, then pare it down again. Read it against the music, remembering you need to be able to read text aloud three times to equal the length of time it needs to be displayed.
And that's it . . . well, that's it for this week. Next week we'll talk about putting the three elements, music, pictures, and words, together to come up with a compelling finished product.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating stuff, packed with real information. People should be reading this.