Sunday, 10 June 2012

Making a Book Trailer by Maxi Shelton - Appeared in the South African Writers' Circle magazine.

(Appeared in the South African Writers' Circle magazine)

MAY 2012

Making a Book Trailer 
by Maxi Shelton

When my marketing guy advised me to get, or make, a 60-90 second trailer for my new book, I have to admit I felt like a deer caught in a car’s headlights. How on earth was I going to make a movie? And surely I can’t sell my book in 60 to 90 seconds?

The first thing I did was spend days watching book trailer after book trailer. And wow, there are some amazing book trailers out there. But I’m a new author, and self- published too, so I didn’t have the same financial backing as most of these authors. The golden rule of 60 – 90 seconds was about right though; anything longer and I’d lost interest.

And no, I don’t think it was down to a short attention span! The longer trailers just never quite got to the punch line, never made me want to buy the book. But the shorter trailers left me hanging on the edge in suspense, wanting to know more.

I asked my friends for advice but most of them hadn’t seen a book trailer before or didn’t have a clue where to start. Until someone said, “Why not just tell a small part of the story with a picture of the book?” He had the right idea, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I had done a voice over for a software training video before, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of my voice on the trailer.

There had to be a way for making a trailer without making a movie! Suddenly, PowerPoint came to mind. Now PowerPoint is something I’ve had sitting on my computer for years but I’ve never looked at it, or used the thing. My kids very kindly informed me it was easy. Hmm, only time will tell!

I remember opening the programme and looking at all the different tabs and thinking, oh dear, I think I’m over my headhere. But I was determined to have a go and after playing with different tabs, after a while it reminded me ofWord. I could useWord - I could use this!

Would you believe me if I told you I spent 2 days just looking at all the different page designs before I found the one I wanted? Eventually, I used the Inkwell design. I could have jumped for joy when I stumbled across the lace overlay for my page. There is a whole treasure trove of overlays and pages in the online templates tab.

Once I had duplicated my page design a few times, I sat back and looked at my computer at a complete loss. What do I put on these blank pages? Of course, it made sense to start with the title and my own name.

If you’ve never played with PowerPoint then I highly recommend you do, (just for the fun of it!) there are many different animations; one on entering the page, another while on the page and then one to leave the page. I had fun playing with these, but there came a point when I realised the moving, flashing, even dancing text was too distracting. What I needed was something plain and simple. I had 60 – 90 seconds to sell my book, not show off the different animations PowerPoint could do.

On the title page I used a flip animation for Sold into Marriage, while my name is a float-in animation. I didn’t feel I needed any more than that, I wanted people to watch the trailer and remember my name and book title if nothing else. I used the brown text because black was too harsh and to me the brown made it look old fashioned.

Then came the hard part! I’d already decided to have the book image on one side of the page; it was the words, what to say? To start with I had long paragraphs from my book that I felt were important or no-one would be interested. But, after watching the trailer, even I was finding it hard to read the entire paragraph and I’d written the book. The first run through was over 3 minutes long. Reducing the paragraphs felt like it took forever, and that I was taking away important information to sell my book. So I did the only thing any good author and designer would do. I walked away from it. I left it sitting there on its own and did something completely different.

What I needed was punch lines, key notes, almost like action points. I needed was something like Gordon Ramsay! If you’ve ever watched one of his shows you’d know he says things like, “Meat! Fry! Done!” or “Stir! Done!” Straight up. No messing around. To the point.

Then, of course, I had to work out how to apply that theory to my trailer, but once I started basically chopping away at my long paragraphs, it was easy. Eventually, I found my key words, the important notes.

I also had to be careful not to distract the viewer from the words with dancing text. My final choice of animations was ‘fade-in’ and ‘grow’. It made sense to bring the words to the reader. These animations can be timed in and out; it was just a case of playing until it worked!

To keep the reader’s eye moving across the whole page I used the checkerboard transition, simple to flip the picture and text over.

I already knew what piece of music I wanted to add to the trailer: Liszt's La Campanella. Isabel, my female lead character, who gets ‘Sold into Marriage’ is a very talented pianist. She plays La Campanella at an important turning point in the book, and it’s my favourite!

This part was simple: all you do is buy your chosen piece of music from iTunes (if you don’t already have it), then go to the first slide and insert your selected music. Oh, don’t forget to set the transparency on the speaker icon that will appear on the slide. To do this you go to ‘format audio’ and slide the transparency bar across.

Then press play. Well done, you have a trailer! Hooray! Now it needs to be transformed into a format YouTube will recognise. PowerPoint has an option in the file menu to ‘Export’ the presentation as a QuickTime movie file, which YouTube will accept.

To add videos to YouTube you need to create an account first, then when your trailer has been uploaded into YouTube, you can embed your YouTube trailer into your website. This way when someone watches your trailer from YouTube or your website, it adds to the viewing counter.

It’s worth noting that PowerPoint for Mac does a bad job of exporting to QuickTime. If you use a Mac like me, use Apple’s KeyNote software, as it is much better at doing this.

I only found this out after creating it in PowerPoint! I can’t vouch for the quality of exporting from PowerPoint on the PC as I haven’t tried that.

Maxi Shelton lives in Surrey, England with her husband, two children and dog. She is a full-time author and housewife, with an FdA in Interior Design. Writing novels has been a secret dream of hers for as far back as she can remember.

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