Failure to Freedom

DSC_0486Last year I flew with my co-writer and friend, Dena Dyer, to Indiana for a television interview. The Harvest Show interviewed us about our newly released book Wounded Women of the Bible. This was my first television interview and I had no idea what to expect. The night before, Dena and I walked through thoughts and questions, so I felt ready and prepared.

Our host helped us feel comfortable in every way. Once I stepped onto the platform, beneath the lights and cameras, I sank like a marshmallow in the heat of the sun. Someone should have blindfolded me or thrown a towel over the monitors.  I didn’t like my appearance on camera and fidgeted too much. I had too many pillows behind my back and stuck out like a sore thumb. Dena sat proper and polished while I sat like a huge lump on the couch. I smacked my lips and swallowed hard. I even needed a trip to the bathroom.

Dena’s eyes and beautiful smile said, “Stop fidgeting.” Confession: My thoughts not hers. I looked around for a brown paper bag, feeling I might hyperventilate, but then came the questions. I knew these stories. I spent twelve months writing about these particular wounded women in the Bible. I could share in-depth thoughts and notes on each one. I was ready.

The host said, “Tell me about Ichabod.”  Ichabod who? I completely froze. Blank. Nothing. Empty. I grasped at something to say. I couldn’t gather my thoughts or remember that Eli was Ichabod’s father-in-law. As if an eternity, a long pause of silence fell. I had no idea what came out of my mouth after that moment. Before long it was over and I drooped off the stage. Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased with my first television interview, but so grateful to have had the experience.

After Dena left the hotel to fly home, something hit me – I felt despair, inadequacy, and insufficiency. I would be lying if I said tears weren’t involved in that moment of self-pity. While packing, I turned the television on and flipped through the channels to find something to cheer my mood. I stopped on a well-known female pastor. The first words out of her mouth were, “Listen! God uses people all the time who have no idea what they’re doing!”

My heart leaped and the words slapped me in the face – starting with “Listen!” Leave it to God to reach through our self-pity and grab hold of our collars. I was reminded that life is full of experiences and God uses “the least of these.” If I hadn’t heard those words that day, I may have carried my feelings of despair (among others) home, placed them on a shelf, and allowed them to identify my character and abilities. God recognized my “stinkin’ thinkin’” (as my friend says) and burst forward with one bold statement: “He uses people all the time who have no idea what they’re doing.”

Sometimes we have those frozen cloud crowding moments when our mind appears broken. God understands and desires to free us of anything the enemy may hold over our heads. All we have to do is be willing to step into Him and God will teach, grow, and strengthen us, even when we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. God takes our offerings and uses them for His glory.

One other word of affirmation from God came when my husband, who is one of two men on Sheila Walsh’s launch team for her new book, shared a story she wrote. In her book, Sheila shares a story of one particular television interview. My mouth dropped as it mirrored mine! (But you’ll have to wait and read the story when her book comes out). As if what God shared through the television wasn’t enough, He said, “You see, Tina, even the big girls start out in similar places.”

Let me encourage you to never give up, push through those feelings of failure, and move forward with God at your side. God turns our failures into faith walks when we trust He can use every part of what we offer Him. May this year be the beginning of great things, especially allowing God to free you, and you freeing yourself, from any past failures.

A new dawn awaits.

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WordServe News: December 2013

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

InMyDefenseLeigh Ann Bryant’s first book, In My Defense, has just released through Authentic Publishers (WordServe’s first release with this imprint).

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SolomonsSongRoberta Kells Dorr’s next biblical fiction release, Solomon’s Song, has debuted with Moody Publishers.

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VoicesofPacificAdam Makos has the trade paper edition of Voices of the Pacific releasing from Berkley Caliber.

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TheRavelSaintThe Raven Saint from Marylu Tyndall came out in mass market size paperback from Barbour Publishers.

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New WordServe Clients

Bryan Bishop, a researcher who has discovered hidden movements of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists experiencing and following Christ outside the boundaries of Western Christianity, signed with Alice Crider.

Tim Lucas, pastor of Liquid Church in New Jersey, signed with Alice Crider.

New Contracts

Jim Burns and Doug Fields have signed a two-book contract with David C. Cook for Preparing for Marriage and an untitled marriage book.

Julie Cantrell signed a movie option agreement with Emily Morrow Chenevert, a Louisiana-based production company, for her New York Times Bestseller, Into the Free.

Rebecca Kells Dorr’s estate signed an option agreement for a TV series based on her novel Queen of Sheba with Sphere Media Plus, a Quebec Canada-based production company.

Bill Donahue signed with Baker Publishing for his new book, Irresistible Community.

Gillian Marchenko signed a contract with IVP for her book on motherhood and depression. Way to go, Gillian!

What We’re Celebrating!!

2013 was another great year for WordServe clients. We released more than 70 new books and signed contracts for more than 60 new projects.

Risky Moves, But Not Like Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears

Miley CyrusSome risks are worth taking, some are not so smart. Authors aren’t typically in the same celebrity category as Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears. But just as these young artists turned off many product purchasing fans with crazy antics, so can an author’s choices affect book sales. Taking a risk is one thing, taking an in-your-face attitude is not wise.

But unless you fall off the cliff of common sense, some risks can bring happy results.

First Hired Last Fired BookAuthors take risks when they try a new style. I did this with my nonfiction book, First Hired, Last Fired — How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market. I patterned short stories in each chapter, using strong fictional elements to demonstrate my hypothesis. It wasn’t something I’d seen done in exactly that way before, but I decided to take the risk. So far, it’s working well.

Into the Free

Many WordServe authors have taken their own style risks suited to particular genres. Reading their books infused me with courage when I battled fear.

It’s a risk when authors write about difficult subjects. Our own Julie Perkins Cantrell did this in her amazing novel, Into the FreeWhy is it an award-winning best seller? Because it hits the heart with readers. Even if they don’t relate to the circumstances in the story line, they can relate to the gut-wrenching feelings Millie experiences. I expect much of the same in the sequel, When Mountains Move

Authors risk when they get out of bed at 4:00 a.m., versus sleeping until 7:00. Who wouldn’t prefer a few extra Zz’s, but trusting the rewards will outweigh the sacrifice keeps dreams alive.

Investing time and energy in the elements that make up your writing business is a risk. After all, you can’t recycle either one. But every web page, blog post, article, social media blast, and book proposal are like laying pieces down in a jigsaw puzzle. Not until you’ve placed a string together, does the picture of your writing career finally start to look appealing. The key is not to give up before the last piece is in place.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some risky moves that don’t typically work for authors. 

  • Avoiding education and research, in hopes you’ll get lucky, and success will come with little effort on your part.
  • Assuming you know how your writing comes across without getting feedback from unbiased sources.
  • Joining negative media frenzies on social media when they involve putting others down for political views, personal choices, or religious beliefs.
  • Reacting to professional guidance with an unteachable spirit.
  • Giving up on writing, and spending the rest of your life wondering, what if . . .

There are many risky writing moves, but envisioning worst case and best case scenarios can help you decide which ones are worth taking. Most are reasonable, and even if you don’t get the outcome you hope for, be willing to brush yourself off and dream again.

After all, if you risk and fail, are you any worse off than you are now?  

WordServe News: June 2013

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

TheBrotherhoodTerry Brennan’s second novel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, has come out with Kregel.

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Too BlessedDebora Coty had her 2014 Planner based on Too Blessed to Be Stressed released through Barbour.

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QueenofShebaRoberta Kells Dorr (deceased many years ago) had another of her out of print biblical novels released. This one, Queen of Sheba (Moody).

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AHeartDeceivedMichelle Griep has her first novel released through David C. Cook, A Heart Deceived.

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New WordServe Clients

Victor Watts just signed with Sarah Freese. Victor is a great writer, and we look forward to what he will contribute to the WordServe team!

Bill Donahue, leadership and community expert writing nonfiction.

New Contracts

Arnie Cole and Michael Ross signed with Authentic Publishers to write The Worry-Free Family.

Cris Krusen signed with Baker Books to write Buried Treasure: History Makers of the Faith. A look at 12-15 little known people of faith who made an impact in the world, even though they were not known as full time ministers.

Ema McKinley signed a one-book contract with Zondervan for her miracle healing story, Jesus in My Room. Cheryl Ricker is her collaborator.

Lisa Velthouse signed on with Lauren Scruggs to collaborate with her on Believing You’re Beautiful: Choosing to Be Who God Says You Are. Tyndale will publish in 2014.

Bob Welch signed with Thomas Nelson for two books: 52 Life Lessons from Les Miserables, and 52 Life Lessons From A Christmas Carol.

What We’re Celebrating!!

IntotheFreeVery happy, proud, and honored . . . for Julie Cantrell who was awarded two Christy Awards (the Christian awards for the previous year’s novels) at last week’s ICRS convention. She not only won in the “Debut Novel” category, but the Christy’s also added a new category this year: Novel of the Year. And Into the Free, Julie’s first novel, was awarded the best novel in all of Christian publishing for 2012. Wow. A starred review in Pubisher’s Weekly, a New York Time’s bestseller…and now this. Way to go, Julie! It couldn’t happen to a nicer lady.

Jan Drexler’s The Prodigal Son Returns continues to do well. She recently received news that she is a double finalist in the TARA contest. Way to go, Jan!

Jordyn Redwood’s debut novel, Proof, became a finalist in the Carol Awards in the “Debut Novel” category. Awards will be given at this September’s ACFW in Indianapolis. As we all like to say around here, “Strong work!”

What can we help you celebrate?

WordServe News: April 2013

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

TestedArnie Cole and Michael Ross Tempted, Tested, True (Bethany House)

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ConfessoinsAmanda Jenkins Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist (Tyndale House)

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StressTestRichard Mabry Stress Test (Thomas Nelson)

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DiscipleshiftJim Putman with Marcus Brotherton Discipleshift (Zondervan)

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New WordServe Clients

Jennie Atkins signed with Sarah Freese. Excited to have her join our other wonderful WordServe authors!

New Contracts

Judy Morrow signed with Regal Publishing for her devotional titled Listenings.

Keith Robinson signed with Regal Publishing for his non-fiction book titled Is Anybody Out There? 

Rachel Moore signed an ebook contract with Cook Communications for her novel titled Language of Sparrows.

Barb Stoefen signed with Zondervan for her memoir titled A Very Fine House: A Mother’s Story of Love, Faith and Crystal Meth

Mike Yorkey signed with B&H Publishing to write the story of Tampa Bay Devil Ray infielder Ben Zobrist, along with his wife Julianne, who is a budding Christian singer.

Dr. Kara Powell from the Fuller Youth Institute signed with Zondervan to write The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Unique Family.

Michelle Griep signed an ebook contract with Cook Communications for her novel, A Heart Deceived.
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What We’re Celebrating!!

Julie Cantrell is a finalist in the “new author” category for this year’s Christy Awards for her debut novel Into the Free.

Jordyn Redwood for her debut novel Proof, which was a ForeWord Reviews finalist for religious adult fiction.

And Julie and Jordyn both made the Inspy Award Short List for their debut novels.

Maureen Lang’s book Bees in the Butterfly Garden hit the ECPA fiction list again, this time at #6.

A Higher Call by Adam Makos continues to stay on the New York Times hard cover nonfiction list, having made it in the top-15 every Sunday in April.

Thank you to Writer’s Digest magazine for naming the WordServe Water Cooler one of their 101 best websites for writers for 2013. We are honored!

What can we help you celebrate?

WordServe News: December 2012

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

As the year comes to a close, we’re so very grateful that WordServe Authors released 83 books in 2012, and signed 80 book contracts for nearly 119 books to release off in the future.

IntotheFreeJulie Cantrell had the agency’s first New York Times Bestseller in many years with her book Into the Free. It also garnered a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. A rarity.

We had several books climb over the 100,000 copy mark:

* The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister, written by Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (Tyndale)

* The Devil in Pew Seven by Rebecca Alonzo, with James Pence (Tyndale)

* My Flight to Heaven by Dale Black (Bethany)

* Edge of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall (Zondervan)

* Linspired (adult and YA book together) by Mike Yorkey (Zondervan)

And we’ve had several authors show up on national shows:

* Rebecca Alonzo on Dr. Phil (twice)

* Lauren Scruggs appeared on several shows in November at the launch of her book, Still Lolo.

These WordServe authors signed their FIRST BOOK CONTRACT in 2012:

* Anita Agers-Brooks (Leafwood)
* Leigh Ann Bryant (Authentic)
* Deb DeArmond (Leafwood)
* Rebecca DiMarino (Revell)
* Jan Drexler (Love Inspired)
* Michael Hidalgo (IVP)
* Heather James (Kregel)
* Amanda Jenkins (Tyndale)
* Caesar Kalinowski (Zondervan)
* Heather Larson, with David and Claudia Arp (Bethany)
* Tracie Miles (Leafwood)
* Jerry and Caroly Parr (Tyndale)
* Christina Powell (IVP)
* Rachel Randolph, with Becky Johnson (Zondervan)
* Tina Samples (Kregel)
* Lauren Scruggs (Tyndale)
* Amy Sorrels (David C. Cook)
* Mandy Stewarad (David C. Cook)
* Janalyn Voigt (Harbourlight)
* Jeremy & Jennifer Williams (Thomas Nelson)
* Tricia Williford (WaterBrook)

These WordServe authors had their FIRST BOOKS published through a traditional publishing house:

* Julie Cantrell, Into the Free (David C. Cook)
* Arnie Cole, Unstuck (Bethany)
* Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter (WaterBrook)
* Adam Makos, A Higher Call (Berkley Caliber)
* Jay Pathak/Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring (Baker)
* Zeke Pipher, Man on the Run (Howard)
* Lauren Scrubbs, Still Lolo (Tyndale)
* Helen Shores and Barbara Shores Lee, The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill (Zondervan)
* Jordyn Redwood, Proof (Kregel)

So all in all, we had lots to celebrate!

New January Releases

WhatJesusSteve Addison, What Jesus Started.

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UnholyHungerHeather James, Unholy Hunger, her debut novel!

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RadicalDr. Rita Hancock, Radical Well Being

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AHigherCallAdam Makos, A Higher Call

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JustWhatDoctorRick Marschall, Just What the Doctor Disordered

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TheRiverGilbert Morris, The River Palace

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DilemmaOlivia Newport, The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow

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GreatStoriesJoe Wheeler, Great Stories Remembered #1, audio (eChristian)

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StinkyJoe Wheeler, Stinky: The Skunk Who Wouldn’t Leave (Pacific Press)

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New WordServe Clients

Several new clients have joined the WordServe stable with Alice Crider as their point person, but we’ll report more on that next month.

New Contracts

Christina Powell signed with Intervarsity Press (IVP) for her first book. The book is tentatively titled Question your Doubts. It explores the many roots of doubt experienced by both believers and nonbelievers, providing a corresponding response of faith from the rare perspective of a Harvard-trained research scientist who is also an ordained minister. (SF)

What can we help you celebrate?

How to Write a Bestseller – Even If You Never Took a Writing Class

Recently, I was invited to share what I’ve learned in the trenches as I wrote, pitched, and published my debut novel, Into the Free…a book that spent three weeks on both the New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller lists and earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly (even though I never took a writing class).

Through the WriteNow writer’s workshop, I answered many questions, including:

  1. How did the idea for this book develop?
  2. Did you sell your first draft or were there many edits involved?
  3. What tools were most helpful for you as you learned to craft a novel?
  4. How did your debut novel get noticed on shelves?

We also discussed logistical details such as finding an agent, signing with a large publisher vs small publisher, dealing with editors, and carving time to write.

And we touched on hot topics in the publishing world including the convergence of the Christian and secular markets, self-published e-books, and why indie stores matter.

PLUS…listeners had time to ask questions at the end of this 45 minute workshop.

And the best part of all…the entire audio recording is still available FREE of charge online.

As a debut novelist, I’ve learned a lot by trial and error. Now, I’m ready to share my advice with you.

Why am I offering a free workshop? Because nice people helped me achieve my dream of becoming a novelist, and I want to do the same for you.

What’s in it for me? Well, selfishly, I’m an avid reader…and if I can help you publish a good book, then I’ll have a fabulous new story to read.

What do you have to lose? Absolutely nothing but time.

How can you participate in this free workshop? Visit WriteNowCoach.com where you can find an extensive archive of free workshops. While there, register to receive email updates so you won’t miss upcoming cost-free teleconferences.

Celebrate with a Launch Party

Photo Credit: Jeff McVay

When my debut novel hit shelves, I wanted to do something special. Too many people in my community had played a part in the journey, and I wanted everyone involved to be publicly acknowledged for their contributions to the book.

The night before the official release date, we held a Launch Party at our local bookstore, Square Books. I didn’t have a big budget, so we served Champagne and Chocolate to keep the event nice but affordable. (We also provided non-alcoholic bubbly so everyone could participate in the toast.) The night was lovely. Beyond lovely. And it will always be a favorite memory of mine.

If you’re thinking of having a launch party, and I strongly encourage you to do so, keep these simple tips in mind when planning your big event.

1. Consider your crowd. Ours is a laid back group from all walks of life, so I wanted everyone to feel comfortable. We kept it very low key and emphasized the “come as you are, bring the kids” aspect of the evening. The public was invited.
2. Consider your space. Our bookstore hosts many author events each month and is prepared for such crowds. It’s always great to support a local bookseller, but if you don’t have access to such a store/gift shop, think of themes that correspond with your book (knitting, outdoors, swimming, cooking, etc.) and tie the launch party into a suitable location.
3. Consider your time. A typical schedule is to have a “soft start.” Allow folks to trickle in and mingle, enjoying the free refreshments while you chat and sign a few copies to get the evening going. Then the bookseller (host) introduces you, and you speak for approximately 20 minutes. Then, you sign again.
4. Consider your speech. It’s best to mix up your presentation with a little reading, telling how the book came to be, thanking folks involved, and…if appropriate…inserting some sort of entertainment. I had two singers perform one song each to give voice to two of my favorite characters. Both gave emotional performances that moved many to tears, and I think it was the best part of the night.
5. Consider your signature. I admit I have AWFUL penmanship, but I do plan ahead and bring a stash of good pens. Always a good idea.

You’ll probably be too busy to think about taking pictures, so ask a friend to capture the night on film. Believe me, it’ll all be a blur. And don’t forget the minor details: wine glasses, champagne flutes, bottle openers, cake knife, napkins, plates, utensils, tablecloth, camera, extra books, bookmarks, etc.

Finally, if you plan to sell books at the launch, I strongly recommend you let someone else handle the sales. The last thing you want to worry about is money. It’s a once in a lifetime moment. Live it up!

What Disney Knew That Your Teacher Didn’t: You CAN Do It!

Find me one published author who never received a single “not the right fit” letter, and I’ll show you a fish with feathery wings. Whether at the educational stage, the agent stage, or the publishing stage, most have been told their work is not worthy.

I was lucky when it came to agents and publishers, but my rejection came earlier in life, when a high school teacher read my papers aloud ridiculing me in front of my peers. She teased me relentlessly (today it would be called bullying), and on the last day of my senior year in high school, she said to me, “I hope you don’t waste your scholarship to study writing. You may be able to write a greeting card, but that’s about as far as you’ll ever go.”

I made a mistake that day. I believed her. I put down my pen for nearly a decade and let way too many stories go untold.

That’s why, twenty years later, as Publishers Weekly gives me a starred review for my debut novel, I feel such tremendous excitement. Whether Into the Free sells two copies or two-hundred thousand doesn’t matter one bit to me. I now know one important thing: she was wrong.

Here’s what she didn’t teach us: God gives us each special talents, gifts, and dreams. Who are we, if we are not of God? What are our abilities, if not God-given?

I am a teacher, and I spend every bit of my energy trying to teach my children one lesson: You can do it!

I am tired of teachers telling us who we are and what we will or will not achieve. I am weary of labels and bell curves and standardized tests. I weep for this generation of children who are told you need x, y, z medications to fit into our box. And I mourn the countless souls who believed the people who said, “You’ll never…” or “You can’t…” or “You aren’t good enough…”

I say to you, today. You can. You are good enough. You were born for a purpose, and only YOU know what that is. Don’t let anyone discourage you from living YOUR life to its fullest potential. And if you fail, you’re only one step closer to succeeding.

Watch this little video clip I found on YouTube, and you’ll see…all great minds have a few things in common: failure, rejection, and a willingness to risk it all anyway.

Has anyone ever told you “you can’t”? What one piece of criticism has made you a better, stronger writer? 

DIY: Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Book Trailer

What is a Book Trailer?

A book trailer is a brief video used to market a book. Like a trailer for a motion picture, book trailers can make your title stand out among the masses.

Many professionals will produce trailers for a hefty fee, but why not do it yourself?

Four Simple Tools

  1. Computer: The first thing you need is a PC or MAC with decent operating speed. We used a PC with Windows 7.  Older versions of Windows may be slow to process video data.
  2. Camera: Recording in high definition (HD) is not necessary for posting on websites like Youtube.  We used a digital SLR camera (Canon EOS Rebel T2i), but we did not film in HD.  Instead, we used 640 x 480 pixels which created a much more manageable file size. (TIP: Make sure your software will open your video file type before you shoot the trailer.)
  3. Tripod: This is a must. Use a tripod. Always.
  4. Microphones: If you plan to include external sounds/voices, use microphones.

Five Steps and You’re Done!

  1. Setting: Choose locations based on your book’s theme. Obtain permission to film on anyone else’s property, and do not show anyone in the film without their permission (this includes folks in the background).
  2. Shooting: Shoot short segments and paste them together using a video software package.  We used Windows Live Movie Maker which was easy to use and comes with Windows 7.
  3. Editing: Transfer all the video segments into a single folder on your computer.  Decide on the order of the videos in advance (ex: save as Trailer1, Trailer2, etc.). Begin inserting them into the software and trim as needed.  You can use the audio from the original film segments or block it out completely and use a separate audio file. 
  4. Adding Music: While some royalty-free music is available online (http://www.istockphoto.com/audio), my teen daughter composed the music for our trailer. She performed it on our piano, and we recorded it using Microsoft Sound Recorder on our laptop (which is equipped with a built-in microphone). This program is on all Windows computers.
  5. Polishing: Your publisher may be willing to add a little polish and a company logo.  If so, the best way to share video file access with another editor is to use Dropbox.

Share the Love

Finally, save the file to a common format (MPEG-4 or AVI) or upload directly to YouTube from your software. From YouTube, I embedded my trailer on my website, added it to my author profiles on sites like Barnes & Noble and Goodreads, and shared it with friends through my blogsite. To post on Amazon, SheWrites and others, you need a direct file (not the YouTube upload). Many authors include a link to the trailer in their press kit, and some even distribute DVDs to local booksellers.

Have fun, and come back to share your trailer with us here at the Cooler!