The making of a book trailer

First off, thanks to everyone who’s already entered the Spill Your Secrets Giveaway and shared your stories!

Second, as promised, I’m going to talk a little today about the making of the GIVE UP THE GHOST book trailer, in case it’s helpful to anyone planning at some point to make a trailer of their own.

I can’t say that any of this is the best way to make a book trailer, of course, it’s just what happened to work for me. 🙂

1. Concept and script.

Before I started doing anything on the computer, I sat down and figured out how I wanted the trailer to “pitch” the book. What elements did I want to focus on? How could they best be presented? I decided to structure it by first setting up my main character’s unique situation (she prefers ghosts over the living), and then to introduce the main conflict (guy needs her help).

Then I wrote out a script for the trailer. It went through a few edits as I trimmed it down (I think it’s best to have as little text as possible in a trailer–stick to the most important stuff–so you don’t risk confusing or overloading the viewer with details) and adjusting wording. This is what it looked like in the end:

Cass prefers the company of the dead
over that of the living.
for good reasons…
1. Unlike her classmates, the dead don’t judge her.
2. Unlike her mom, they’re always there for her.
3. Unlike her best friend, they’d never betray her.
4. Using the secrets they share, she’ll never be that vulnerable again.
But when golden boy Tim
asks her to contact his recently deceased mother
there’s one very good reason to let him in…
She’s the only one who can help him.
And Tim needs help more desperately than anyone suspects.
To set things right, Cass will have to face the one thing she’s still scared of…

The first line and the bits about Tim come more or less directly from the jacket flap copy. I set up Cass’s “reasons” as a list because that’s something she does here and there in the novel, and I hoped to show a bit of her voice.

2. Imagery

Once I had my script, I figured out what image(s) I wanted to show to go with each line. Then I headed over to StockXpert, my favorite royalty-free stock photography site, to find them.

The hardest part was the characters. After much searching, I was lucky to find a few pictures of one girl who was a great fit for Cass, so that she could stay consistent throughout the trailer. The two images of Tim are actually different people, but since he’s covering his face in the second one I felt I could get away with it–I just tried to match the hair as closely as possible.

I also had to do a little photo manipulation to get a couple of images I couldn’t just find. The opening picture with Cass and a ghostly friend and the picture of a ghost whispering in her ear I created myself using two photos merged together, adding various effects to make the one figure appear ghostly.

3. Video

I created the trailer itself in Adobe Flash, mostly because I’d used it before and so had a little familiarity, and because my husband makes Flash games so I knew he’d be able to help me out if I needed it.

First I just put in all my images and text in the correct order, and tested it until I’d figured out what seemed like an appropriate about of time for each to remain on the screen. My aim was for the trailer to be not much more than a minute long. (I find trailers that are much longer start to lose my interest.) Then I added effects to make the images more active. I had them zoom in and out, fade in and out, and pan in various directions.

As I went, I noticed places where I felt the trailer dragged. Originally certain bits had no image, just a simple black background. That seemed boring, so I found a video clip of smoke that I liked which provided a little atmosphere without distracting from the text. I also broke up one “scene” into two, adding an extra photo.

4. Music

I knew, based on my script, that I wanted the music I picked to do certain things. I wanted it to swell in the second half of the trailer, and to have an abrupt stop to go with the last bit of text. I also had in mind a certain mood and feel, and wanted a steady, somewhat fast tempo.

First I listened to a bunch of songs I couldn’t have used anyway, from my CD collection, to focus my ideas of what I was looking for so it’d be easier to recognize when I found it. Then I went searching on royalty free music sites. It look a lot of testing songs out, but I finally found a piece that was both the perfect length and everything else I needed at Shockwave-Sound, which I checked out thanks to a recommendation from fellow Deb Pam Bachorz. (Pam has her own awesome post on making book trailers which is well worth checking out!)

Once I had my song, I had to edit the video to fit. Some parts got a little longer, some a little shorter, matching up the appearance of text and the image transitions to the beat and changes in the music.

5. All done!

Once the trailer was “finished”, I shared it with some friends and with my publisher, and made a few tweaks based on their suggestions. And then, of course, it was uploading time!

If you’re considering making a trailer of your own, and you have any questions, feel free to ask. 🙂


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