Kath here.  In our quest to keep you informed of the latest tips and trends in publishing, we’ve invited guest poster Pam Veley to blog about one of the hottest trends in book promotion: book trailers.  If you are considering using a book trailer to promote your novel, read on!

Pam has worked in book publishing for many years before joining a Connecticut video company, where she has worked for over twenty years.  She holds a Ph.D. in English from Penn State University.  You can visit her at at booktrailermagic.com.  She has created trailers for WU’s valued contributor Anna Elliott, and she has an offer for the WU community: mention Writer Unboxed, and you will receive a 10% discount on the price of a trailer!  

Enjoy!

You see book trailers more and more frequently nowadays: on Youtube, Facebook, authors’ websites, Vimeo, and Amazon, to name but a few places.   Book trailers do for a book what a movie trailer does for a movie.  In a short musical video format, a book trailer will intrigue/amuse/surprise/inform potential readers about a book and (most importantly) lead them to an online or actual bookstore to purchase that book.  

You’ll find that book trailers are as varied as the books they represent.  Some trailers are just author interviews (on Youtube, look at Al Roker’s trailer for his book The Morning Show Murders); the ones I made for Anna Elliott’s books, Twilight of Avalon and Dark Moon of Avalon used public domain artwork; some combine artwork and animation (for example, the trailer for Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton); some employ  live actors (if you haven’t seen the trailer for Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for goodness sake, hurry on over to Youtube immediately!) *Kath interruptus again, I’m a big fan of Pride and Prejudice: Dawn of the Dreadfuls* and some trailers combine all those elements (such as the trailer for C.W. Gortner’s The Last Queen).  

Most trailers use music to enhance the visuals and most tend to run between one and five minutes in length.   As an author you can choose what you like and what makes the most sense for your own book.  But a good trailer should pique a reader’s interest without revealing too much—no spoilers allowed! 

The big question for authors, though, is:  why do I want one?  Perhaps the main reason is that a trailer gives you the opportunity to interact with thousands of potential readers.  Put a trailer on your website, and it will increase the amount of time readers spend there (a key, I’m told, to a successful site).  A trailer can intrigue those readers who enjoy surfing Youtube; you can put one on your Facebook page so your friends and business associates will be able to see it; upload it to your iPhone; put it on a DVD and let it run during your book signings—the list goes on!  

For authors who are not yet published, a book trailer can be part of what Christina Katz in her book Getting Known Before the Book Deal (featured in WU on Dec. 5, 2008) calls the author’s “platform.”  Quoting from her interview, “A platform is a promise, which says you will not only create something to sell (a book), but also promote it to the specific readers who will want to purchase it.”  A book trailer for your as-yet-unpublished book tells potential publishers that you understand how important it is for an author to take an active part in promoting a book, and that you’re already working on publicity. 

For me, producing a trailer begins with what I call “conceptualizing” the book—getting at the essence of the book in a few words.  In some ways, the concept is like jacket copy (and I often include a portion of jacket copy), except that my emphasis is on ideas that can be made visual.   After I define the concept, I search for music.  I use only royalty free music so the resulting trailer abides by all music copyright laws and the author owns the finished trailer outright.  After I’ve found just the right music, the search for images begins.  Again, I’m very careful to use either images that are in the public domain or stock images that I purchase for the purpose.   This all sounds pretty easy, but the process can take several days to a week.  It can take hours of listening to find just the right music, and I’ve often combed through hundreds of pages of images before choosing the best ones for a production. 

Then the fun begins—setting the images and text to the music.   My personal preference is to include a certain number of camera moves and effects in a trailer, just to create visual interest.  But I never want to use so many that attention is drawn away from the book and to the video.   I like to include some visual surprises, sometimes a little humor, if appropriate, and I make sure each piece has a beginning, middle and end.   My goal is always a trailer that will make the viewer think, “Wow—that sounds like a really great read!  Gotta get it!” 

Some authors have asked me whether you can produce your own book trailer, and I’d give that a cautious and qualified “Yes.”   If you have the expertise to produce a trailer that looks professional, sure, go for it!  But just remember that a trailer that doesn’t look professional can send a message to readers that you may not want to send.  I recently saw a trailer by a businessman who had written a very serious book about the consulting business.  His trailer, which consisted mostly of him talking to the viewer, was obviously home-made and I found it difficult to look past the bad camera work, bad editing, and ill-considered humor to the serious message of his book.   It was harder still to imagine viewers who would make the transition from watching that trailer to actually buying his book. 

What about the cost of a trailer?  Video production is not inexpensive, though obviously, a trailer with period costumes and live actors is going to cost significantly more than a trailer comprised of photos and music.   Be sure you take your own budget into account.  But know that a good trailer is an investment in your professional image and your “platform.”   And remember that the investment will yield a promotional piece that can be used on web sites across the internet.  Your target audience can enjoy it now on a huge variety of internet venues—and you can keep it on your website for years to help showcase books you’ve written in the past.

Before hiring someone to make a trailer for your book you should take a look at other trailers they have made.  And then talk to them, ask a lot of questions.  Much of what goes into producing a book trailer involves being able to conceptualize the book, so make sure whomever you hire understands your book and your audience.  

And when you finally decide on who will produce your trailer—what then?  My best advice is:  stand back and let them have at it.  You do what you do best (write!), so let your producer handle the music/video end of things.  And don’t worry–most book trailer producers trailers allow for a couple of rounds of revisions, if necessary. 

Why a book trailer?  Because a book trailer is fun—fun to watch, fun to talk about, fun to recommend to friends.  And just as we often make decisions about movies based on their trailers, we’re now starting to do the same with books.   Personally, I love watching them and love producing them.  Finally—and this, for me, is the real magic of book trailers—I find them constantly arresting my attention and leading me in new and unexpected literary directions.   For reader and author alike—what a wonderful way to meet!