Monday, March 19, 2012

The Trailer-Makin' Post

Last week the nice people at Project Mayhem posted the CHAINED trailer release, and I wanted to write a longer post today about how I made the trailer, for those who are interested, and there's also a version of the trailer here that's a bit longer. Like a director's cut.
Here's the trailer on YouTube if you haven't seen it yet, or if you want to see those adorable frolicking elephants again:

I love book trailers and knew all along I'd want one for CHAINED, but since the book is about an elephant keeper in India, a live-action trailer wasn't really feasible. You can hire someone to do your trailer for you, but after finding out what that costs I slinked back to stock photo sites. (And I don't mean that the professionals are overcharging; it just was out of my price range).

So here's how I made my book trailer, and how you can make your own. It was a bit time-consuming but not as difficult as I thought it'd be, and certainly cost-effective.

Images and video gathering:
Even before I knew what I was doing or what the trailer would look like, I saved some photos and videos on sites like istockphoto, Bigstock, and Dreamstime. There are many stock photo sites, where you pay a small fee for the rights to use the image or video, so if you don't find what you want on one, search on another. A Google search for "stock photos" plus your topic will bring up a lot of options. If you're not ready to buy images yet but want to save them for later, you can save them into a personal "lightbox" on the site so they'll be there when you go back. Many sites allow you to download a comp so you can try it out before deciding you want to purchase the image for real. (Or just take a screenshot of the photo you want to use; it'll have the website's logo on it, but it's a good way to try it out to see if it works with your trailer). You'll notice different sizes of photos when you're ready to purchase; select 400x600 pixels or larger so it'll look clear on the screen.

You can also find photos on Flickr and Google Images, but to make sure they're okay to use, select "Advanced Search," then "Creative Commons" on Flickr, and "Free to use or share" on Google.

Video clips cost more than still photos, of course, but they add a nice touch to a trailer and make them more movie-ish, so it was worth it for me. The clips of the elephants playing and of the elephant trying to pull away from its chain seemed perfect for my trailer, so I bought those and used a few seconds of each one.

Photo editing
I left most of the photos as-is, but for the very first image, I needed the child to pass for a girl, and the clothes looked too boyish.

If you have Photoshop skills you can modify an image after buying it, but if you have no such skills, ask a smarter friend to help, or send out a plea on Twitter and hope someone answers. In my case it was Jeff Sampson to the rescue, strategically throwing a blanket over the boy clothes:

There, that's better

The music
Much like searching for images and video clips, you can browse through stock music sites and click on samples of royalty-free music. I found mine on Shockwave Sound, but there are many other similar sites, and it's worth the time to look around till you find the right song. Before purchasing, download a trial clip to make sure you the music is a good fit for your trailer.

The script
Here's the part I had the most trouble with. I could picture in my head how I wanted the trailer to look, but what in the world do I say? The elephants are so adorable, maybe I could get by with just stringing together some clips of baby elephants playing in the water, but I figured I should probably make it follow the book a little more and then add some text. To get some help, I signed up for this great online course about making book trailers. Working from our book blurbs, we came up with 20-25 phrases to use as a script.

In writing your own script, mention something about your book's setting, including the time period if it's historical fiction. Trailers are short, so make sure every phrase is strong enough to let viewers know who your characters are, what they want, and what's standing in their way. The last frame should have the information about your book and direct people to your website or blog.

Once I had the script written, I looked through the photos I'd saved and found a good image or video clip to go with each one. It helped to write down on paper a frame-by-frame plan for how the text and images would come together.

Putting it all together
After I had the music, the pictures and video clips, and wrote the script, I was ready to make the trailer. You'll need some kind of software for this part, but there are a few options that are free or inexpensive. I used iMovie, which comes on Mac computers and is similar to Windows MovieMaker. After opening the new project, I just dragged the saved photos and videos into the window, then added a text box to each frame to type in the text from the script. Lastly, I dragged the music file to the window. After previewing the trailer, I decided I wanted the music to start a few seconds into the song instead of at the beginning, so I used iMovie's Clip Trimmer to adjust.

Another option is to create your trailer as a PowerPoint presentation, then download Powerpoint to video conversion software to turn it into a trailer. An online user-friendly program for creating videos is One True Media; sign up for free to try it out, then upgrade to a premium membership for about $40 if you like it.

The final product, sort of
Since most of us have the attention span of a crackhouse gnat, it's best if book trailers are about one minute long or less. So the new challenge was making the trailer short enough while leaving the text up long enough to be read. After many tweaks and previews, getting some feedback and tweaking a little more, here's how the trailer looked:

The painful cutting and the final product for real
So I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Before releasing it, I wanted to show my agent and editor, so I sent it to them for feedback. Joanna and Kathleen from Nancy Coffey killed the crying elephant helped me find places to cut the video to get the length closer to a minute. Other than cutting out a couple of the pictures, there were a few frames where I could display two phrases on the screen at the same time, instead of delaying them by a couple of seconds, so it wasn't necessary to keep the pictures up as long. After making those edits, I ended up with the trailer you see at the top of the post.

Sharing with the world
When the trailer was ready to share, I uploaded the saved file from my computer onto YouTube, then passed along the link to the trailer release on Twitter, Facebook, listservs, and wherever else I'm running around the Internet so the friends who live in my computer could share the trailer with others. I've also uploaded it to TeacherTube, since YouTube is blocked in many schools.

Another resource I found to be super-helpful is Darcy Pattison's The Book Trailer Manual, which goes much more into depth than is feasible to go into in a blog post.

Have you made your own book trailer, or is it something you'd like to do? Share your helpful hints or questions in the comments!


  1. That was a really awesome trailer. And now I know how to make one. Thanks so much!

  2. Thanks for all of the information. I will be navigating these waters soon....

  3. Wow, Lynne, that was very helpful. I feel better about trying this now. Thanks!

  4. Super helpful! And we share a book birthday! I've been saving my own photos (since mine is set in Vermont) so I super appreciate the istock tip!

    1. How cool! I was just in Vermont last week, so I know your pictures will be gorgeous!

  5. Very nice. The book seems wonderful, and this is what a trailer should do.

  6. Excellent blog and trailer. I'm so glad you pointed out the need to use royalty free music and pay for the stock photos, so many folks don't and then end up with problems. Extremely well done!

  7. I am so impressed with your ability to make this trailer! It's such a powerful one too and gave me chills. I have to read the book now! Great links and helpful ideas.

    1. Thanks, Christina! Turned out not to be hard to do at all.

  8. thank you so much for sharing this with us, Lynne! This is going to save a lot of us SO much time and frustration! LOL Fantastic job :-)

  9. really it is a great one.. keep it up.. Buy Trailers

  10. Just found this post, Lynne. Thank you so much. I'm going to attempt to make a trailer for The Girl Who Remembered Horses. I love yours - it's chilling and heartwrenching. (Which is what you want, right?) Good job, and thanks for the tips!

    1. Thanks so much, Linda, and I look forward to seeing your trailer!

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  12. Lynne - Thanks so much for taking the time to share this "how-to." By breaking the process down, you've made the task seem much less formidable. I might have to give trailers and try.

    1. Thank you, Jean! Glad it helped. And yes, try it out for your own books!