Being an author is hard. One must not only write books, but also take on different roles. They have to be editors, marketers, bloggers, advisers, and the list goes on. In the publishing journey, a writer learns that very few things are for free, or at least affordable.
Book trailers are a great tool in promoting your own work. You can not only tie them to your Youtube channel, but also link them to author interviews or even press releases. They can really come in handy, anyway.
I have been publishing books since 2010, and in 2012, I received my first book contract. That book, titled Upon Your Return, a Victorian romance and book one of the Heiresses in Love Series, was released in February of 2013 through Summer Solstice Publishing. It wasn’t until the following September that I attempted this crazy thing called ‘a book trailer’.
But, what do we need book trailers for, huh? There seems to be a lot of people for them, and a lot against them. Some people don’t see the merit it in them, while others swear by them. The good trailers I have seen, though, have sold me on the books. Of course, the blurbs and covers don’t hurt either, right? LOL. Still, a good book trailer can go a long way towards helping you to market your books effectively. I’ve been designing them since 2013, and I haven’t had any complaints yet.
However, during my first foray into creating a book trailer, I crashed. Hard. As a starving artist, I desperately wanted to have a book trailer, but really didn’t know how to go about it. I was told someone had to design it for you. So, I looked around. I couldn't find anything less than $150-200 to create a book trailer. I thought that was normal. And I'm sure it is if you want something that is smashing. I did find a place that charged $5.00, but the low price made me wary. What? You might fork over that small bit of cash and see nothing from it.
So, after numerous months of mourning the fact that I didn't have my own book trailer, I decided to research it. I had read somewhere that you could create your own if you had the right software. I read up on it more.
My first attempt was all right, if not a bit long. It ended up being between two to three minutes. People complained that it lagged, and I soon agreed. There were also copyright issues, as I didn’t realize that I couldn’t use just any old picture I found or an MP3 of my favorite song.
I learned my lesson, though. Now I know better.
We have to think carefully about these things. Have you thought about designing your own book trailer? You probably saw them on Youtube, or saw links to them on Facebook or Twitter. Didn’t you ever wonder where the images or music came from? They most likely came from reputable sources, were purchased legally.
So, to be fair, I’m including my first attempt here. You won’t hear any music, but you can sort of see what it was before if it plays correctly.
Well, after several attempts, I managed to get something I’m proud to show you.
If you're an author or business person, you may be wondering how in the world was this accomplished? I will tell you. There's no reason to keep secrets like this to oneself. I don't know how many times I've been clueless about something and felt so grateful when someone bothered to post an article about it online. So I will give you step by step instructions here.
You want to find some great pictures for your video. As we all know, there are sites out there that let you purchase pictures for said price. Here are some great sites that give you the ability to pay affordably for images. I know there are many more.
There are some decent sites out there that offer free pictures as well. Some sites I have used are freedigitalphotos.net, Stock Xchng (http://www.sxc.hu/), stockfreeimages.com, pixabay.com, Fotolia, Photobucket , freeimages.com and morgueFile.com.
On any of these sites, you have to be pretty unique with your search terms or you won’t find what you’re looking for. The best one I have found so far, and it does require a small investment ($20 for 20 credits, or less, depending on your budget), is 123RF. I also used Fotolia for a book cover recently, and that was a very positive experience. If you want a sneak peek of the kind of images you can find on free sites, though, please visit my website at http://marielavender.com/about/my-books/. I have used free, yet legal images for all of my self-published books thus far. Of course, I gave credit to the photographers. All the ones listed under Erica Sutherhome, Kathryn Layne and Heather Crouse were not only self-published, but royalty-free images were used. Purchased images were used for the ones under this name, Marie Lavender.
You should be able to find some decent pictures on any of the aforementioned sites. Have I missed any? Probably. But, you'll be searching for a long time if you just go on Google and say "free images". You will get the ones I found, but also clip art and things that are definitely not free. You could get yourself in a lot of trouble. Try looking for "royalty-free". You can, of course, do whatever you like. I still advise you to keep copyrights in mind. For myself, it’s safer to pay a small amount for something than to assume it’s free and regret it later. Sound good?
2) Adding Music
Let’s say you want to add music or sounds to your video. Some people do voice-overs. There are royalty-free music sites out there as well. Here is a list. Some charge a little, while others don't.
Here is the best one I've found, and I’ve used it for a few years now. http://freeplaymusic.com/
Carefully select your music. I usually spend a lot of time trying to decide what theme or feeling I want the music to convey. I narrow mine down to about five or six songs, then narrow it down further. Be patient. This takes time. Sometimes I wait until after I have the design before I look for music and then see what might work for the trailer. Purchase your music or bookmark it for future reference.
3) Figure out your design or layout.
What all do you want to say in your video or book trailer? What message do you want to convey? Think of this as you would if you were making your own book cover, only it’s in video format. What idea are you trying to show in the short time you’ll have to explain things? For mine, I opened a Word document and typed up everything I wanted to say. Don’t give away too much about your book, but you do want to give a good tease as you would in a blurb. The great thing about this is that you can edit it as you go along.
At that point, I started looking for pictures to go with each section. You’ll see more about what I mean shortly.
So, what's next? What do you do after you figure out what you want to say?
Make a Powerpoint presentation using the layout and pictures you found. Adjust sizes of the images and font, and make sure you have even spaces on both sides of the slide. An image that is slightly off on the pages is like a crooked picture. Even an untrained eye will catch it. Oh, and please, please, please give credit to photographers, composers and book cover artists in the 'Credits' page.
You should have a pretty good presentation going for you. If you like, you can save the presentation for future reference. In fact, I encourage it. Do something else for me now. Also save the presentation as a jpg.
“What? Why in the world would you do that, Marie?”
Just trust me. Powerpoint will ask you if you want to save all the slides as jpegs. Say ‘yes’. You can close out of your presentation. And what's next, you may ask.
5) Forget Authorstream. When you do a search online for how to convert Powerpoint presentations to video, it will probably be mentioned. It's just a useless tool, in my opinion. So let's forget it please.
6) Open Windows Movie Maker. You should have it somewhere in your programs. If you aren't aware of it, you have most likely overlooked it in your day to day operations. I know I did. And if you don't have it, it's free to download from Microsoft.
From that point, you will see a white space on Movie Maker that looks like a whiteboard. Locate your jpgs from your presentation. Powerpoint would have saved them in a folder for you on your computer. Open the folder and then select all of the jpgs. That's CTRL +A for a shortcut. You can drag them in or you can import them in as files.
Movie Maker will place them in the white area. Then, you need to drag each slide (in chronological order, of course) into the storyboard below. You can also click the button 'show timeline' after you've finished. This shows your whole movie as it's progressing.
Now, do you want to add music to your video? I found it was damn near impossible with Powerpoint, but easy with this software. Let's say you have your own MP3, or at least one song you want to use. You will click "import audio file" or just "import" and select the file from wherever you saved it. That should add the file to your timeline as well.
You will see two lines: the first shows your slides and the second is your music. There is also a play button on the right side of the screen where you can monitor your progress of the video by playing it back.
So, from here you want to decide how long to make each slide and how you want to match it up to the music. This, my friends, could take awhile because you'll most likely have to listen to the clip over and over again. However, if you like the song you selected, it's not really that bad. To lengthen the slides, just click on one and drag it to the right. Above all of that, you will see a minute and second counter that tells you how long each slide will last in your video.
Once you have your video the way you want it, you can add end credits or titles. That would be in the 'tools' section. And to finish your video, you have to select where you want it to end on the timeline (minutes and seconds or at the end of slides) and then go to the tab at the top that says "clip". You will find this thing that says "set end trim point". This will effectively end your video wherever you put the line so make sure you know where you're ending it first.
But, really how long should your trailer be? The ideal length of most effective trailers are between 45 seconds and one minute, 10 seconds.
“Wow, so short!”
It’s true. So, my basic rule? I try to keep them to about a minute. If it goes a bit over, fine. But then, I go back and look at the whole video critically. Does it seem to be lagging anywhere? Did I express all that I needed to say without giving too much away? Does the music match to each section, or flow well? Think about emotions that might come from the music too. That will determine a lot of it. Still, you don't want to exceed about a minute and a half. Any longer, and you'll just lose your audience.
If you feel you're done building your video (or book trailer), you will want to save it. Click "save movie file" under "File". It will ask if you want to save it to your computer or elsewhere. Just save it to your computer, name it and let it do it's thing. Movie Maker will also create a folder for your video so you will have to locate it that way. What's next?
Well, what do you want to do with your video? Let's say you want to publish it to Youtube or just add as a video on your website or Facebook. You can do that.
7) Find your movie file.
It should have a .wmv extension. For the purposes of this article, let's say you want to upload it to Youtube.
8) Make sure you have an account on Youtube (this is usually a Google or Gmail-related account).
There should be an option to upload on your account. It will be at the top of the page.
Add the file and name it. Add a description and tags (keywords related to the trailer or video). It should save itself, but give it time to load your video entirely.
Youtube will also give you a URL for your video. Notate that somewhere.
Within a few minutes, you should be in business.
So, you’re probably wondering if I even know what I’m talking about. Well, why wouldn’t you? I’m not an expert by any means, but I get by well enough by creating my own trailers. Below, I am including all of the book trailers I have designed. They are also on my Youtube channel and the 'videos' page of my author website. The trailer for my new release should be added soon.
Upon Your Return (book one of the Heiresses in Love Series)
genre: Historical Romance, Victorian
Magick & Moonlight (book one of the Magick Series)
genre: Lighthearted Romantic Fantasy
Upon Your Honor (book one of the Heiresses in Love Series)
genre: Historical Romance, Victorian
Second Nature (book one of the Blood at First Sight Series)
genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
A Little Magick (book two of the Magick Series)
genre: Children's Fantasy
Second Chance Heart
genre: Contemporary Romance
Blue Vision (book one of the Code of Endhivar Series)
genre: Science Fiction Romance
Upon Your Love (book three of the Heiresses in Love Series)
genre: Historical Romance/Family Saga, Victorian
Directions of the Heart
genre: Contemporary Romance, Drama
Well, that’s how you can create your own trailer or video for promotional purposes. I hope I have helped you figure it all out.
9) Other Options.
But, let’s say you’ve decided, “Nah, this isn’t for me. I’m going to let someone else design it.”
Well, there is certainly no shame in that. So, where would you go to find someone who designs a good book trailer?
First, you must decide on your budget. What are you willing to spend for a decent trailer that will help you market your book effectively? What is out of your price range? And what is a fair amount? That will narrow down your choices considerably. There are some good options out there. As with any purchase, make an informed decision. Research the services you find. Are there reviews? What do other people say about that designer?
Obviously, some of the options can get rather expensive. Doing it myself, I save tons of money and usually only spend no more than $20 total on the whole project.
Here are a few companies that offer book trailer production.
I’m not saying there are only expensive options out there, just that a lot of them exist.
“So, where can I still find an affordable trailer?”
Here are a few.
Beyond that, all I can say is…just start looking. Check online on Google, even look on social media. I know a lot of them have Facebook pages. You never know. You may find a really great place that does it professionally and affordably! ;)
Whatever you decide, whether you want to risk attempting this book trailer thing on your own or you want to pay someone to do it for you, I’m sure you have it all in hand. With the right tools, why, we are capable of anything as human beings, aren’t we?
Happy creating! And, as always, happy reading! :)