Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Video Your Book

Promotional book videos -- aka trailers for books -- are still a popular form of online marketing. The expense involved with having them done professionally, however, often puts them out of reach of most authors' budgets.

When Samhain author Kinsey W. Holley wanted to do a trailer for her upcoming June release, Kiss and Kin, she decided to have some fun and make it herself.

The result was an attractive, funny video (you can watch it here.) I thought it was quite fetching, and unlike most of the high-priced trailers I've watched, definitely interested me in purchasing the novel. Which means it works.

But how does an author make a promotional book video that doesn't require a degree in movie production or empty out the savings account? Kinsey was kind enough to share the nuts and bolts of what she did with me via e-mail (posted with permission):

"I made it in Photo Story 3, free from Microsoft and I got the images from Dreamstime, a royalty free stock photo sight. that's the only bit that cost money - you buy credits in pre-packaged amounts, and spend the credits to download the photos. I spent about 50 bucks by the time it was done.

Music was harder - the royalty free music sites are expensive - ten bucks for a few seconds of music, 60 bucks or more for a few minutes. I spent ten bucks to get a short sample of something before I realized I couldn't record and loop it - I could make it play over and over again, but I couldn't eliminate the start and stop in the middle.

Then I went into PhotoStory and realized there's an option to "create" your own music. It's limited, of course, but you pick the style and instrument and you can preview it - the music starts playing when your video starts, and it stops itself at the end. I messed around with a few styles till I got one that seems to fit - it even slows down at two very appropriate spots in the video.

Basically, if I can do this, anyone can do this."

Kinsey also had more advice for authors interested in creating their own trailers and where to put them online:

"The main thing to remember when making a book video is to keep it short - don't go over a minute if you can help it (I'm long winded so mine goes to 11:11). Anyone who's doing a book trailer should put it up both places - their website and Youtube. One last thought. The Romance Studio has very reasonable ad rates - you can advertise your book trailer for one week for ten dollars, for instance, and they offer other formats as well."

Now we'll all agree I am the most technically-challenged writer in NetPubLand, because, well, I am. I've never made a video before and I know nothing about video-making beyond popping a tape into on our handheld movie camera, aiming it at birthday cake, Christmas tree or whatever holiday we're celebrating, and pushing the red button. I think that qualifies me as an excellent test subject, so this week I'm going to follow Kinsey's methods and see if I can make one of my own.

What do you guys think of trailers for books? Any likes, dislikes, advice for the novice trailer-maker? Any great, author-created trailers out there we should see? Let us know what you think, and links if you have them, in comments.


  1. I love book trailers, would love to see a whole movie of some of my fave books, if they would stick with the story and not cut out any of the good parts.

  2. I like the style of Circle of Seven productions on a lot of trailers, but after I've read the book, if I go back and review the trailer, it's not entirely true to the story. I'm not saying there's a major difference, just maybe a two second embrace in the woods that doesn't actually happen in the book. Maybe it's my OCD speaking, but things like that tend to piss me off.

    Frankly, I think a good book trailer doesn't need to have actors and drama to be catching. It just needs to give a 1 minute synopsis of the juicy plot bits that will make readers want to check the book out the next time they visit the bookstore.

    Also, although I've never seen them, I've heard book trailers run as TV commercials sometimes in the bigger cities. Not only do I not live in a city, but I also don't watch much TV. I'm not big on the cross-advertising between media. I don't like to hear TV commercials on the radio, either. (Although I will admit to occasionally being interested in a book commercial on the radio - I guess it my just be my preference of books to radio.)

  3. Just wanted to say that I agree with you--it made me want to buy the book as well! I like how it's very much like a query ought to be: you want to read more.

    As for trailers, I think they're a fabulous idea, only when the writer has the ability to downsize their book into a short space--in writing first before going digital.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I think that's a great idea to get the word out there and get people interested in the novel. And I don't believe you have to pay royalties on Creative Commons stuff, so sites like Newgrounds sometimes have some interesting music to use, and there's tons of sites that have Creative Common's pictures, and most PC's come with Microsoft Movie Maker, which is VERY easy to figure out how to use. I think it's fantastic way to get people to want to read your book. Good luck with your trailer!

  5. I'd love to try this - mmmm, have to wait until August 2010 for my next book. You make it sound do-able. :)

  6. Hmm. That book does look interesting, and I love the title.

    I thought I'd mention another free software you can use for book vids: Animoto. You have a little less control over the slide transitions, but the program does some really cool stuff on its own. The thing I like most about it, though, is that it has a database of music you can choose from. Artists who want to get their name out there send in their songs, Animoto evaluates them, then puts the best on their site for Animoto users. So you get real music without violating copyright.

    I did a real quick book vid for an old WIP to test it out and it worked great. I should mention it costs a reasonable $3 to do a vid over 30 sec. Under 30 sec. is free.

  7. Anonymous3:28 AM

    I love book trailers! I think fitting, atmospheric music is key and images and sounds that are pared down to the essentials so they have more impact.

    If I were making one, I would probably look for ideas in movie trailers with one caveat, my pet peeve-- don't ever use narrators for a book trailer. It just kills it.

    Some trailers I've liked from Livia Dare's In the Flesh, Allison van Diepen's Raven and Anya Bast's Witch Blood (NSFW).

    If you ever make a trailer, Lynn, please do post it! Would love to see! :)

  8. I liked Kinsey Holley's trailer a lot. It's better than most of them I've seen. Best thing: the pacing is quick and the video is short. It's like a perfect little taste that makes you want to read the book.

  9. I like book trailers as an art form--probably because I was a commercial copywriter in a past life--but I've never bought a book because of the trailer. That being said, I do have a book trailer for one of my YA's--Saving Grace--posted on You Tube www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sre-HeGfK8

    It was made by my friend Janet Koch and I think it captures the feeling of the book.

  10. In general, I don't like book trailers. They tend to be cheesy or use bad graphic. But I did like this one. Being short was a plus, but it was also funny. I liked it better than a movie style trailer.

  11. I usually don't like book trailers either. But I did like Toni McGee Causey's book trailer because you really felt like you were IN the book, or watching it as a movie. Most of the time these videos are just kinda stilted and not so much fun to watch. I realize that's a budget issue, though.

    But in general, I rarely even watch the trailers unless it's an author I really liked. They don't do anything for me that a great plot synopsis doesn't do better.

  12. "And I don't believe you have to pay royalties on Creative Commons stuff,"

    I don't know if this is true or not, but Creative Commons has several levels of use. Some can be used any way you like, some for non-commercial use only, some with credit. I suggest examining any notation with the work to see what it requires.

    Now, as for the trailer, I had a double reaction to it. (Note, I love really good romance novels, just like I love really good books in general, but the paranormal stuff doesn't appeal to me.) While I kinda winced at some of the cheezy production values, the author's voice was attractive.

    There's a key. Make me laugh and I'll read your book.

    So, if you as a writer is worried about the production values, you can control the script. Make it tight, tight, tight and make it sing, and that should overcome a lot of shortcomings in other areas.

  13. I've done some on animoto-they turn out pretty cool sometimes. But in order to use them for promo purposes, you have to buy the pro version.

    I'm going to 'attempt' to do one on my pc for an october release. i think.

    Some trailers work for me, others don't. Those that try to make it into a 'mini movie' or more like a commercial don't work as well for me.

  14. Have to admit, not a huge fan of trailers but that one might have converted me! LOVED IT!!!

  15. I made on e for Primal Male after it was released, more because I wanted to see if I could. It was fun, and frustrating, and I'm not sure if I'd do it again. LOL I used One True Media to do it, and I paid for a membership to do it. Although I don't think you need to, I just did it cuz I wanted some of the bonus' they offered. At the time I thought I might make more, and who knows, I still might some day.

    I don't even think it's on my website anymore, but it's still on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZMuYp3KIW4

  16. Mitch, sometimes those little changes in the trailer happen because the author asked for it, and sometimes because we work from the manuscript and the book gets changed later. Occasionally there will be something we can't show because the cost to do so is prohibitive, so we work with the author to come up with an alternative.

    Here is a little video that is a personal favorite of mine. It only uses the book cover, but the concept is cute-

    Also, you can find several book videos on www.readersentertainment.tv

    I've seen some really great author-made videos. I recommend using www.tubemogul.com for distribution. You can get a free account there.

    Love the video you highlighted! Great discussion!