Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Good Book Trailers, Part 2

Part 2 of my week-long series on making good book trailers...

In Part 1 I talked about my background and asked a few questions about your opinions on book trailers. Today I'll be giving away my big secret formula for a winning book trailer--the 1-2-3 Rule of Good Book Trailers. Obviously a lot more goes into an ideal trailer than just three rules, but these are the top things I've found that keep trailers from Standing Out.

The 1-2-3 Rule of Good Book Trailers:

1. Keep it SHORT.

A very common problem with book trailers is they are toooo looong. Think about your typical TV ad or movie trailer. A "sneak" trailer may be 30 seconds; a typical ad runs 1 minute. Some go 90 seconds. Yet many book previews top out over 2 minutes--some more than 4. That's not a preview ad; that's a featurette! Someone clicking on a trailer "ad" expects a certain format and length. Go much beyond that and you risk losing your audience.

Writing analogy for Rule 1: If your preview trailer drags, your readers may get the idea your book does, too. Get in, grab 'em, and get out.

2. Do NOT "Synopsize." I Repeat...

I heard some jaws hit the keyboard. "But Lisa, how will readers know what my book is about if the trailer doesn't tell them?"

How indeed? Let's take a look. By the time you are marketing your title, you probably have the following:

1. The quick 1-page "pitch" you used to query the publisher
2. A several-page, in-depth synopsis the publisher requested when the query hooked them
3. A jacket-style blurb synopsizing the book in a few paragraphs
4. A two-or-three sentence blurb you use on web groups and in conversation when people ask "So what's your book about?"
5. Your quickie "tag line" that you use on your Email signature, promotional bookmarks and items, etc.

Why so many? Because each fits a different situation. #1 or 2 as your Email signature will not make you popular on groups. #5 will get you a form reject if the pub asked for #2. A whole lot of trailers use 1,3, or 4, but this isn't grabby advertising. Effective text title is quick, short, and adds dramatic impact. Use style #5, or a brief #4 split up over the course of the video, for a Stand Out trailer.

Writing analogy for Rule 2: Less is more. Hook trailer audiences with an "oomphy" hint, then leave 'em wanting--no, HAVING--to know more.

3. Don't Forget Movement.

With rules 1 and 2 in mind, you've got 30-90 seconds and few words to grab your audience. Beyond making those words count, how are you going to do it? Compelling, eye catching media. There's several levels to this I will discuss later, but the key factor is motion.

Lots of trailers are a series of still photos set to music with text titling in between. With clever editing this can be extremely effective. But with thousands out there just like this, to make yours Stand Out you'll want to use motion.

That doesn't mean grab a camera or hire a company to shoot scenes from your book. (Though it IS really cool and "next level.") This means either editing so still photos appear to be in motion (most movie editing software has pan and zoom effects for this), add animated gifs like our ticking clock here, or stock video elements. A video ad implies motion pictures. Give people what they expect.

You can definitely go overboard here. Don't do twirly-loops, zoom-fades, and zig-zags with every image or you'll give your viewers vertigo. Enhance, don't distract.

Writing analogy for Rule 3: Add layers to your video the same way you do your books, to allow the audience a fuller, more in-depth experience.

Tomorrow I will talk about finding the key point and concept for your trailer, and when it can be useful to go out and get your music first.


Courtney Mroch said...

Excellent points, Lisa! I REALLY liked your one about how we as writers have everything from single sentence tag lines to 3 page synopsis and a book trailer is just one more facet. GREAT analogy. Now on to read Part 3...