Making a book trailer - Part Deux

If you want a steep learning curve, try making a book trailer. If you like a story of persistence and life hours spent you can read how I did it (eventually) for INCEPTIO, the first Roma Nova thriller in February.

But as a keen movie fan and a glutton for punishment, I decided to do one for PERFIDITAS. I took a deep breath, ready to commit days to it, then plunged in.

As with INCEPTIO, I wrote a specification
How long? Max 1.20 mins.
Type? People wanted to know about the book, so again a mini-story but without giving the end away.
Tone and pace? Snappy – it’s about a thriller.
Funding? 60 pounds/dollars/euros – an increase of 10.
Resources? My time, my picture editing skills(!), well-selected still photos and the iMovie programme on my Mac.
What did I want to achieve?
 Visibility for the book, anticipation and to stimulate a wish to buy PERFIDITAS to see what happened next by the viewers.

The practicalities

Although my heroine’s story is written in first person in the book, I decided to put the script into the third person  to reinforce the message on the back cover of the paperback; this should set the story, outline the threat and pose the question ‘What happens next?’ all without giving the plot away, and within a minute and a half. Not that easy…

This time, for PERFIDITAS, I decided to let the backing track stir up the emotion, rather than a voice do it. Using the same music had three benefits: people would (perhaps!) associate it with the INCEPTIO trailer, I wouldn’t have the brain-ache of trawling through another 148 sound samples and I would save money!

Next, the script dictated the visuals. For this video, I was getting personal: main characters, as well as Roman scenes.  The biggest danger was that I could set the characters’ appearances in the readers’ minds or distort the ones they already had, so I took ‘generic’ as my theme. Carina soldierly, then criminal, Apollodorus dark, mysterious and definitely dangerous, Conrad a good-looker, but enigmatic.  Then it was scouring my own photos and trawling the free and paying photo libraries. I used iStockphoto and SXC in the end.

iMovie screenshot

The iMac working screen

iMovie’s tutorials were very good; I printed out the pages I needed in the end as it was annoying to keep flicking back in and out the Help section in the middle of doing some delicate tweak.

Loading the material into a new project and creating a rough outline was definitely easier this time. Then I typed in the subtitled wording in a plain, teleprinter-like font to give a flavour of military/intelligence communications. As most scenes had a dark background, I chose a white font to give the best contrast. The biggest challenge was amending the text to fit the scenes, and vice versa. You have to keep in mind that people read at different speeds.

Tweaking the timings, transitions, Ken Burns effects (smart name for zooming in and out in a directed way) was more intuitive – I was surprised things I’d learnt in February had stayed with me.  Lastly, I did a still for the end frame showing the book, publication date and buying links.

YouTube menu

Loading on to YouTube was painless – like most people in the digiverse, I already had a Google account (Google own YouTube). The bigger decision was choosing the size and which image to use for the thumbnail. I chose 720 HD for size (as selected in the graphic above) and for thumbnail, the first image with Carina holding a great big gun; she is after all, a strong female character!

What did I learn?

- that past experience of doing the INCEPTIO trailer was a blessing; I did the PERFIDITAS one in a day.
– with a bit of thought, $85.00 (slightly over budget!) and several hours of fiddling, I could produce a reasonable trailer.
– that my respect for professional film-makers had increased further.

Plus, this time round, it was much more fun!

I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker not to have a trailer. But if you enjoy fiddling around on the computer, are prepared to make a small investment, happy to go bug-eyed researching pictures and negotiating the movie programme, then it’s another attractive and pleasing piece of the infamous marketing toolbox.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out in June 2014.

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