Kate Noble

I’ve been very gratified that not only has Follow My Lead been garnering good reviews, but so has the book trailer I made for it.  I’ve been asked many times how I came up with the idea, how I put the trailer together, etc.  Well, kids, I can’t tell you how anyone else would make a trailer, but I can certainly recount how I went about putting together mine.  Therefore, I give you:

How to Make a Book Trailer for $5 or Less.  (And I’m not kidding about the $5.)

Step One:  Doing My Research.
I never made a book trailer before.  I’d been a TV and film major in college, but I hadn’t attempted even the simplest video project since I graduated a decade ago.  I didn’t even know how to post a video to YouTube (turns out, not that hard).  So the first step of this project is the same as any other: research.

I needed to know two things:  what in book trailers appealed to me and didn’t, and how to go about doing it.  For the first part, quite simply, I watched a lot of book trailers.  I looked at those that were done with a lot of money and those that were obviously done with very little.  The most important thing that both did was Tell the Story.  Book trailers, basically, visually tease the plot, in the tone and style of the book’s genre.  As I write historical romance, I would not be served by the darker hues and music of most paranormal book trailers.  I needed to aim for a little lighter and fluffier, like the trailers for Sarah MacLean’s or Julia Quinn’s books.

As for that second thing, I needed to learn how to make a book trailer, from a technical stand point.  For this, I went to my friends for help.  Leanna Renee Hieber has an excellent blog post about how to put together a trailer, within financial constraints, and where to find royalty-free images and music.  (Why do you need royalty-free?  Because people’s works and images are copyrighted, and unless it’s designated royalty free and/or public domain, you are going to get mega-sued.)  Leanna Renee, danke, you became my guide.

Total cost of this step: $0 – since the internet is free at your local library.

Step Two: Concept is Key.
There are two tenets I learned in film school that I remember keenly to this day.  The first:

You can make a movie quickly, cheaply, and well.  Pick any two.

Since I did not have the budget that the aforementioned New York Times Bestsellers did, ‘cheaply’ was going to have to be one of my chosen two.  And since I didn’t want to make a crappy trailer (really, who does?), I was going to have to let go of the idea of doing this quickly.  And investment of time is the biggest thing I could give my project.  I was going to have to do the filming, I was going to have to be the one to do the editing.  And, since I wasn’t going to be able to do any nifty camera moves or flashy photoshopping, I was going to need a concept that would allow for such constraints.

Luckily the second tenet follows nicely on that realization:

KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Which of course is applicable to almost anything, but is key for storytelling in a shortened format.  I was going to have less than two minutes (most book trailers don’t go over that) to get your attention, tell you a story, and get you interested before you get bored.

A Charles Brock illustration of Jane Austen's Emma (published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.)

Really, my concept emerged out of what I liked and what I knew I could manage.  I’ve always loved the Charles E. Brock illustrations in the Edwardian pocket reprints of Jane Austen novels.  I knew that a very talented friend of mine, Kari Drake, who was a storyboard artist in another life, drew very well in that style.  I knew my brother-in-law would lend me his Flipcam.  I knew that editing software could speed up an image as fast as I wanted it to go.  I knew that if I moved all my floor lamps into my living room and kept the windows wide open I would have enough light to film it properly.

I wrote up a story treatment.  Rule of Thumb: in script writing, a page of script equals about a minute of screen time.  I didn’t want my trailer to go over 2 minutes, so if the treatment went over 2 pages, I knew I had to cut.  (It was about one and a half pages, which is just about as long as the trailer.  Huzzah!)

In my mind, Concept is the most important part of the process.  If you don’t have a good concept, all the money in the word is not going to make a good book trailer.  (This holds true for any movie or TV show too – Transformers 2, anyone?)

Total Cost: Also $0.  Unless your time is money.

Step Three:  Some Assembly Required.

Otherwise known as the ‘doing the thing’ stage.
1.    Borrowed the Flipcam from my brother-in-law.
2.    Strapped it to my old tripod with elastic hair-ties.
3.    Coerced my very talented friend, who has limited time of her own, into being the artist.  I promised her an awesome dinner.
4.    Spent a Sunday filming her hand while she draws what I wrote on the story treatment, careful to upload the video to my computer as I went because the Flipcam only has 30 minutes of available space since bro-in-law never uploads his family videos and therefore you can’t delete the really cute video of the nephew’s elementary school recital.

Total cost of this step: $0, plus the as yet unconsumed awesome dinner for my friend.

Step Three and a Half:  A side note on music.
One other component you must assemble is music.  Find music through a royalty-free music site that will fit your thematic aspirations, and purchase it.  Again, thank you Leanna Renee for pointing me towards some of the best royalty-free sites.  I happened to get incredibly lucky and find a royalty-free piece of music that I liked called Divertimento on a free/donation based site.  (And I gave the musician credit on the video.)  But if the music you find that works for you happens to cost $50 – buy it.  It’s worth it.

Total cost of this step: A guilt induced $5 donation to the royalty free music site. (Which is seriously all he asked for.)

Step Four:  Learning to edit. (In my case, again)
Thankfully editing software is cheap and easy to come by these days.  In fact, my boyfriend’s Mac has iMovie already installed on it, and for my purposes, it was all I really needed.  Of course, I had to steal his computer from him after work, which meant that I spent about a week cutting the thing together: 3 days learning the system and remembering how to edit by cutting together a crappy version of the video, and then another 2 days to do it properly.

Total cost of this step: $0, plus a lifetime of being asked by my boyfriend to make him a sandwich, because, “I let you use my computer for that video…”

Step Four and a Half: Beta Testing
Get some of your friends – who hopefully have ties to the book world or the video/editing world – to give the video a look-see and let them tell you what they think.  Chances are, if you’re making a book trailer, you’ve written a book, and therefore have some experience with critiques. With the trailer it’s no different.  Take the notes you think are good (whether its to trim a shot, or adjust the text) and know yourself enough to discard the notes that don’t work.

Total cost of this step: $0.  But someday, one of your friends may ask you for a favor… and you will not say no to this favor…

Step Five: Launching the video into the world.
Creating a YouTube Channel is free.  Posting a video there is free.  Getting people to see it… takes a little more effort.  Email it to your editor, your agent, your publicist (if you have them).  But more importantly, blast it on Twitter and Facebook.  Email it directly to those places you’ll be guest blogging in the near future.  Blog about it.  Blog about it again (like right now!)  You know all those novel-writing friends you asked to beta test?  Ask them to retweet you.  You have a million ways to get the word out, but only a limited amount of time to make an impact.

Total cost of this step: $0.  Other than the nerve-wracking pain of putting the first film work I’ve made since college online.

Total cost of the entire enterprise: $5.  Plus time.  And one as-of-yet-unpurchased dinner.  And numerous sandwiches for the boyfriend.  And payback for friend’s favors.  And a tiny, tiny piece of my soul.

The impact a good book trailer can have? Priceless.

This week is going to be all writing, all the time.  But never fear, I see the light at the end of the tunnel…

Until later, sweeties – Happy Book Trailer Viewing!