Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Writer's Toolbox: Your Writer Questions Answered

Today's question: Do I need to make a trailer for my book? (And how do I do it?) is answered by poet, writer, workshop leader, and TWC board member Sandra Beasley, who is the perfect person to answer it, having just released a trailer for her forthcoming memoir, Don't Kill the Birthday Girl:

Poor authors. As if we weren't busy enough building a website, blogging, Facebooking, maintaining an email list, and oh our publishers are asking us to make book trailers. The good ones can be funny, heartbreaking, provocative, or visually stunning. The bad ones look like something slapped together for an tenth-grade presentation on Jane Eyre.

The million-dollar question: Will a trailer sell books? And my honest answer: No. But a trailer can generate conversation among fellow writers, garner secondary blog and media coverage, and create reading opportunities. All THAT can sell books. Teachers have mentioned the value of being able to show their students the videos for my poems, which has lead to scheduling classroom visits. Maybe you're a nonfiction author who would make a fabulous talk-show guest. A trailer can showcase that. And sometimes a novel whose hook relies on tone can capture that in a trailer far more effectively than in dry jacket copy.

Plus, you might really enjoy the creative exercise of making a trailer. It's a good way to burn off the time between turning in a manuscript to your publisher and seeing it in print.

You can make a trailer without breaking your budget. First, make a plan for 1-3 minute video. Storyboard it. Fiction writers, imagine your book has been made into a movie. How would you tease the reader's interest in the plot, without revealing the ending? Poets, approach this as if you're making a music video for a poem, ideally one that is representative of the tone of your collection. Nonfiction writers,don't try to prove the book's breadth of information or depth of research. Center on one compelling figure or theme. In my case I decided to play up the memoir element--my story--rather than the science of food allergies.

Now, move on to the technical production. Check your computer for free video editing programs. Most Windows systems come with some variation on Microsoft Live MovieMaker. Most Apple systems come with iMovie. You can also use online programs such as Animoto and xtranormal. Make sure any music used in a soundtrack is royalty free; Kevin MacLeod's website, Incompetech, is a great place to start. If you're recording a voiceover, minimize background noise. As for images, you can scan your own photos, get inexpensive commercial options from, or scour free sites such as the Library of Congress's archive. Try to mix in a few moving images--also for purchase on iStockphoto, or self-recorded with a digital camera. Whatever you choose, be sure to keep the resolution of your images consistently high. Nothing makes a trailer look cheap like fuzzy, pixelated graphics. And don't forget to include your book's cover--once at the beginning (in case someone stops watching midway through), and once more at the end.

I won't get into the nitty-gritty details of recording and editing. But you can find plenty of tips on the web, including my blog Chicks Dig Poetry (search for "animated poems"). Good luck!

1 comment:

Mary Malhotra said...

I enjoyed the trailer, and the "how-to" is really helpful -- especially the info on how to find stock photos and royalty-free music.