Creating a Book Trailer

A few years ago, there was a lot of talk in writing circles about creating a book trailer to help promote your book. Do you make it yourself or hire a professional? How much time and knowledge is required? Is it worth the marketing dollars spent? I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you what I did and why . . . and then try to explain if it has been worth it.

 
Once I decided to spend marketing dollars on a book trailer, I began studying what other authors had done. I spent hours viewing different book trailers and noted which ones I liked and why, as well as what I didn’t care for in others. I also made note of who created the trailer. Let me tell you, there are a lot of lovely trailers out there. And a few of them were created by individuals using iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. 
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I’d read enough online to know that it would take a great deal of time to make a trailer myself. However, I did have the option of hiring a friend who had been playing with home movies for several years and was interested in doing more. And yes, I’d been warned not to go the cheaper route, but after much thought and study, I decided to work with my friend and create a trailer together. Because neither of us had done anything like this before, there was a major learning curve involved, but it also proved to be a great opportunity for expanding our knowledge.
  
One of the first things you want to do is envision what you want for a trailer. There are a lot of trailers out there that simply scroll over the book cover while someone tells a brief blurb of the story. There are also those with still shots, those that have been filmed, or a combination of both. There are those that use scrolling words and those that have a speaker. 
  
Before you tackle this project, brainstorm your ideas. I knew I wanted my secondary character from my debut book, Snow Melts in Spring, to tell the story about his son and the veterinarian who was like a daughter to him. I also had an idea of the music–something heart stirring yet almost forlorn–that reminded me of a horse running across the prairie.
  
I also wanted a combination of scrolled words mixed in with the speaker’s words, fade-out pictures as well as film. And then came the actual writing of the script–which surprisingly, came to me very quickly.
 

We filmed part of the trailer ourselves, but there are places online to find free music and pictures. However, most of those places didn’t have exactly what we were looking for so we opted to pay a minimal fee to get just the right effect we were looking for.

 
Free music:
 
Music for a fee (and the place we went for our music):
 
Free photos:
 
Royalty free photos (where we went for pictures):
 
The making of the trailer proved to be more of a challenge, mostly because my friend and I were inexperienced. We had many trial runs, a couple where we had to start over from scratch. But the end effect turned out quite beautiful and I am very pleased with it. You may view it on my website or on Youtube.  
 
Now for the ultimate question–was the marketing dollars worth it in the end? I cannot in all honesty say that it has been that effective. Before my book came out, I had a few opportunities to show the trailer to two test audiences and that may have prompted a few people to order my book. Since then, most of the feedback I’ve received online has been from people who have read my book and then visited my website afterwards to view the trailer. And they have loved the trailer.
 
I think this is the answer you’ll hear from most authors. We simply have no way to track book trailers to sales. Am I satisfied? — Yes, I am. I have a beginning trailer for my book series for readers to watch and hopefully prompt them to read the series.
 
Will I make a trailer for all my books? No. I didn’t make one for Seeds of Summer, nor am I planning one for Blades of Autumn. However, I think I would consider creating a trailer for the first in any series I write. 
 
If you don’t have the desire to take on the challenge of creating a trailer yourself, here is a list of professionals who create book trailers:
 
 
Oh, and once you have a book trailer, do your research and take the time to upload your trailer onto your website and/or blog as well as the many different sites available to help promote it, such as: Amazon.com, Youtube.com, Tangle.com and Christianbookvideos.com.

Publicity Photos

I don’t know about you, but having my picture taken is not one of my favorite things to do. And yet, when you have a book contract, it’s one of the requirements asked of you by your publisher. There was a time, long ago, when I believed myself somewhat photogenic, but then came the extra pounds, the graying hair, the wrinkles and crows feet–need I go on?

So began my journey of trying to determine what I wanted for an author photo. Did I want a formal pose against a basic background, or did I want a more casual look? Inside or outside? Props such as a desk or books? Should I lose weight first? What should I wear? Is it really important to know which color looks good on me when I have all these other things to worry about?

I didn’t have the extra funds to hire an image consultant, but I knew what colors made me feel good–and that’s one of the best ways to determine which color season you are and what color palette works for you. Click here for more information on determining your seasonal color. Once I had this figured out, I searched through my closet for the perfect outfit and considered make-up and hairstyles that would give me a natural look, yet call out to people and say “Look at Me–This is who I am.”

Another step included studying my favorite author sites. What sort of pictures did they use and how many shots did they have taken? Did they hire a professional photographer or do it themselves?

If you own a quality camera or know someone who does that has the prowess to take great photos, you can save money doing it yourself. But a professional photographer will understand light and shadow and can also work magic on those little “imperfections” I mentioned earlier, so you might want to keep that in mind as well. No matter what, you’ll need to be sure the pictures are taken in high resolution, jpeg, or tiff images, with a 300 dpi or more. All of this jargon seemed foreign to my ears, but not to those in the publishing world.

Loaded with the answers needed, I managed to get an author photo I’m satisfied with. Because I wanted to carry forward my Country at Heart theme, I chose to have my picture taken outside, wearing a casual jean jacket that helped define who I am as an author.

Next time, I’ll move on to the next marketing challenge–creating a book trailer. Until then, enjoy the moments  . . .

An Author Needs A Web Presence

One of the first marketing tips a writer is given is to make sure she has a web presence–and do it before she’s  published.

Three years before my publishing contract, I created a blog and used it as my author site. For the most part, I was quite happy with it. I updated the site on a monthly basis, along with a newsletter reminder, and had formed a nice reader base, so it served me well. When I received my contract from Zondervan, however, I realized I wanted more. I had two choices–pay someone to build a website, or do it myself.

So began my journey. I began visiting author sites and kept track of those I liked best, paying attention to colors, layout schemes, page descriptions, and author photos. I also studied web designer sites and their client portfolios. For learning purposes, my favorite sites were:

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From there, I requested price quotes. And that’s when my enthusiasm began to waver. Some of the designers were charging over two-thousand dollars–and I’m sure worth every penny, as their client pages were gorgeous! To add to my dilemma, I’d heard it said that your website must look professional–an outward reflection of who you are as an author (or in other words, not cheap & dowdy). Well that’s great, if you have the money . . . but this gal from Kansas didn’t have that kind of money to spend.

With a sigh, I began searching for less expensive alternatives. I considered updating my blog. Blogs are free, and I already knew how to manage them. But I really wanted a new look. So I set my chin, determined to figure out a way to make it work.

That’s when I discovered a host program called Homestead. Several of my author friends used the program and were quite happy with it. I began studying the tutorial and realized I could create an author site with nearly all the functions I’d requested of the designers–and for a smidgen of the price.

Of course, I would have to design the pages myself–which would take time and creativity. Fortunately, Homestead’s design program has an easy learning curve, and it turned out to be quite fun. Plus, I had the added advantage of being able to update my site whenever I wanted–an option I might not have had if I’d paid a designer. The company also offers a free trial period, to make sure it fits your needs. After 2 weeks, I’d designed a Website that was a reflection of who I am as an author.

Check it out here.

I went into this venture desiring the best, settling for less, and being quite satisfied with the end result.

For those who enjoy the creative aspects of web design (and who are working with a limited budget) this may be a nice option for you, too. Next  time, I’ll visit with you about publicity photos. Until then, enjoy the moments  . . .

Getting Your Feet Wet

This past month, my family and I spent a week camping in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. We enjoyed the cool temperatures and the awesome beauty there and spent several days hiking the many trails that stretched just yonder before us. One such day led me to unknown waters–or rather, an unknown way to cross a certain mountain stream, without getting my feet wet. [BTW, I failed miserably. If interested, you can read about the disaster here.]

Sometimes, we just have to get our feet wet–if not our legs, arms, and ears. When it came to marketing and promoting my first book with Zondervan in 2009, I knew I needed to jump in with both feet.

Having read various marketing blogs and having studied the ideas of many ACFW authors, I had a good idea of what I wanted. I planned to schedule book signings, visit bookstores, create bookmarks, etc. But having this knowledge and knowing what to do with it (when you have a marketing budget) are two different things.

Once I received my advance, I had actual money to work with. Yay! So, I began with a budget. Oh, but wait! After reading through all my notes and research, there seemed to be a LOT of controversy on how much to allot toward marketing. Some authors put all of their advances toward marketing, while others spent hardly any, depending solely on their publishers. If my husband had his say in the matter, a very low percentage of mine would be given to marketing. LOL. After all, if God wanted my book to sell, He’d provide a way. Right?

After much deliberation, calculation, and prayer, my husband and I came up with a percentage of the advance we thought would work, budgeting out certain amounts for things I deemed necessary and leaving room for items that were a bit more extravagant. For learning purposes, my budget had the following items:

  • High Speed Internet and Updated Computer
  • Author Website
  • Publicity Photo
  • Book Trailer
  • Book Launch
  • Promotional Items (bookmarks, pens, etc.)
  • Book Signings (travel, meals, etc.)
  • Conferences/ICRS

Did I stay within my budget? I’m happy to report that I did. Next month, I’ll share my plans for creating an author website–what I wanted in the beginning, what I settled for, and how it all turned out. Until then, enjoy the moments AND don’t be afraid to get your feet wet.