Back when I decided to embark on this journey (and embarking on this journey seemed like a good idea – oh, those were the days!), or Journey Type Thingy Through Self-Publication, to give it its proper title, I knew only three things for sure:
- Getting people to buy the book would involve telling them about it
- No matter what the ending of LOST turns out to be, I’m going to be confused (and I’ll miss Jack – sob!)
- I have no money.
With the ending of prime-time ABC dramas beyond my control, I focused on the other two. What could I do to let people know about this book that wouldn’t cost me anything, or that would only cost me things that due my Grown Child Still Living with Parents status, my parents were already paying for, like our broadband connection. What was I good at, besides coffee-drinking, procrastinating, sitting in one place for long periods, expanding and sleeping?
I’m good at making videos. My friends and I go somewhere or do something, and afterwards I have almost as much fun using the photos and video clips to make a little movie of it as I did while I was there. (You can browse a collection of my video fun here.) Since Mousetrapped was about the story of me being in Orlando, I already had a vast collection of video clips and no fewer than 2,000 photographs to pick and choose from. I just needed to put them together to make a kind of trailer.
I say ‘kind of trailer’ because (warning: rant approaching) I don’t think books should have trailers in the same way movies do. Films are visual experiences and seeing scenes from them put to dramatic music works a treat. But books are for reading; I don’t want scenes from it acted out, putting faces on characters for me or showing a setting or a location that I would much rather form from your words in my head. I don’t think novels should have live action trailers, is what I’m getting at. Instead, I think book trailers should really be more like promotional videos, something that advertises your book rather than previews it.
(I realize that, since my book is non-fiction, I had an easier time than most figuring out what to put in the video. I get that and I acknowledge it – there’s no need to tell me. Okay? Thanks.)
Do you need a book trailer? No. Does it hurt to have one? No. As you’ll see in tomorrow’s Book Trailers Part II post, there are plenty of places you can upload them to, and I know that I’d be far more inclined to watch a short video than read a long description of your book. (And how else do you promote a book on Youtube?!) Furthermore, a clever book trailer might make me want to buy your book. I have at least two books on my Amazon wish list* that would have been highly unlikely choices for me to ever pick up if it hadn’t been for their fantastic book trailers.
Here are mine. The first (‘Mousetrapped: The Trailer‘) was 3 minutes and 23 seconds long and although I really like it, I think it might be a bit much, length-wise, for some people, especially those flicking through their Twitter stream at high speed. The second one tried to solve this problem; despite being called Mousetrapped in 60 Seconds, it comes in at a super short 56.
My Book Trailer/Video Promo Tips
- Storyboard your video first. Decide what you want and then find a way to get your video software to do it.
- You don’t necessarily need to use video. Still photographs with an effect layered onto them (like slowly zooming in) can work just as well and they’re much easier to manipulate.
- Use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie (I prefer iMovie, needless to say). Both of these programs have Wizards that will help you make a great video with transitions, titles and effects even if you are only a basic user.
- A word on music. Officially – i.e. legally – you can’t use any music you don’t own or have the rights to use. Unofficially, using little known instrumental tracks from indie film soundtracks and putting them at very low volume behind narration will probably get you past the copyright police, or Youtube’s screeners. So will using classical music. At least, that’s what I, ahem, hear. Both Youtube and Facebook will remove your video if they smell the stink of copyright infringement and they could prevent you from uploading any more videos in the future. That, after all your hard work, would be a disaster.
- Don’t forget to put your website or Twitter ID – somewhere viewers can go to learn more – at the end of your video, and to leave it there long enough for people to read it.
- If you don’t want to go down the video route at all, try Xtranormal. It’s a text-to-movie service that enables you to direct your own animated short simply by typing out your script and selecting what actions you’d like your characters to take.
- Don’t even try to tell me you can’t make a video. You managed to write a book, didn’t you?
*If you’re wondering why they’re on my wish list and not on my shelf, see No. 3 above.