Ah, the book trailer. What’s it for, really? Who watches it, exactly? Can it sell a book? In today’s book publishing world, old marketing techniques can’t keep up. Social media and networking are the keys to success in the new world of eBooks. One way to stir up a lot of interest in your book is a multimedia book trailer. It’s a way to excite people prior to the book’s publication.
Book trailers can cost as much as $50,000 each, and involve a full suite of actors, computer-generated effects, costumes and sets with the high production values of a movie trailer. Book trailers help spur book sales, much like movie trailers help market Hollywood films.
I didn’t have a $50,000 budget, and I didn’t want a simple trailer made with still photographs and stock footage. I wanted something that looked as good as a professional produced movie trailer.
One problem. Actually two…My book’s heroine zips all over Europe and the Middle East on her mission while I live in Miami, and yeah, that pesky budget problem.
Oh, what to do!
I started by reading through my book, and picking the parts that would be most visually interesting. Then I scratched out all the parts that would require life insurance for the stunt guy and a sugar daddy with deep pockets. I made a list of local places that could double for locations in Europe.
My scribbles began to morph into a storyboard on paper. Yep, sometimes you still need paper. Notes keep you organized and keep your expenses under control.
I choose three scenes to film, the protest scene, the party where the murder takes place, and the butterfly scene. The butterfly scene would act as a motif, and I would cut it into pieces and build the tension from the other two scenes around it.
I had 3 dozen live butterflies overnighted from a wedding favor company. With my friend, photographer Robert Rios on hand, we experimented with black cardboard stock, baby powder, and a found lazy susan as a dolly. It took 12 hours to get that final shot of the butterfly flying away, the powder rising from its wings. Total cost of that shot? $137 for the butterflies.
Then, as luck would have it…I suddenly found myself spending a month in Europe. Only one small glitch…I had no production team with me, and very little free time.
I just had my trusty Nikon d3100 and my lonesome self. I couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste, so I went back to my shot list, thinking about what I could film that would move the story forward while making the best of my surroundings. Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it…my photography skills were limited to “auto-mode”. I went into guerilla filmmaking mode, setting my camera on whatever level surface I could find, praying no one would steal it and performing one or two takes in front of whatever interesting place I was in that day. Among the hordes of camera totting tourists, no one paid too much attention to me.
Back in Miami, I looked through my footage and I knew I had enough to go on. I gathered the best crew I could find, my cinematographer and editor Alan Hanna, steadicam operator John Hatchner, assistant director Marc Durso, and makeup artist Bryant Ponce. I already had a location in mind, a beautiful villa owned by my friend Barbie Castro. Then next step was picking a date when everyone was available…when you’re working on a shoestring budget, this can be the hardest part. Crew assembled, I sent out casting notices to local acting classes, talent agents, and posted on good ol’ Facebook.
Cast and crew assembled the night of the shoot, and it was time to get creative. First, we had to make it look like we had a party going on with only a handful of actors. That meant careful blocking and tight shots. We also had a very limited amount of time in which to shoot all the shots on the list. This is where the cohesiveness of your crew will make or break your shoot. With our goal in mind, everyone moved quickly and fluidly through our shot list. When we encountered obstacles (and you will, no matter what your budget is) we brainstormed and came up with alternate shots.
The last part was editing. We put the shots together roughly in order. We found our music. Some shots were great, but didn’t fit the pace. We cut shots that were beautiful, but didn’t move the story along. We polished out cuts until we had a product we were happy with.
Writers are always taught to write so the reader sees the book’s story as a movie in their imagination. That’s exactly what a book trailer is: a concise version of the movie in the readers mind. Let that image lead you to create you most engaging book trailer.
Here are the steps I take when making a book trailer:
o Read the book. Visualize the story.
o Think about the concepts that you are trying to get across. You want to entice the reader.
o Write a trailer script, scenes from the book that communicate your concept. What is the message you want to send? Sell the story don’t make a “commercial.”
o Write a shot list. How are you going to edit? What type of music will you add?
o Make a list of what you have available. Locations? Props? Crew?
o Keep the trailer as short as possible. Don’t lose your audience.