• Lori L. Tharps
  • Countdown to Publication: Lights, Camera Action: The Book Trailer
Countdown to Publication: Lights, Camera Action: The Book Trailer
Written by
Lori L. Tharps
July 2010
Written by
Lori L. Tharps
July 2010
Hi SheWriters, I believe I am a creative person. I’m a writer after all. I’ve written three books. I dabble in poetry. I have penned a couple of songs for my guitar. Heck, I even took a Zumba class this morning at the gym. But how in the name of holy heaven am I supposed to add filmmaker to my resume in order to create a trailer for my novel? Just two years ago when my memoir, Kinky Gazpacho came out, nobody told me I had to create a trailer for the book. And that would have been easy enough to do because the book is all about my life and my travels to Spain. I have plenty of pictures that I could turn into a slide show, add a voiceover, some music, and voila. Trailer done. But Substitute Me is a novel. It’s a story about everyday life. The drama is mostly interior as two women struggle with the concept of self-definition. What’s more, people are expecting something really professional and polished with book trailers these days so I don’t think my husband interviewing me about my writing process is going to cut it. I know my book trailer has to really draw people in and get them excited about Substitute Me. I know for the trailer to be effective it should be on YouTube before the book comes out and should attract at least 1 gazillion hits. So, yesterday I stopped torturing myself and called a friend, a friend with experience shooting video, design and marketing. And I asked, or rather, I begged for her help. Within 15 minutes we’d come up with not one but three great ideas for a trailer for Substitute Me and she promised to help me with the whole thing. (whew!) Moral of this story. Ask for help. So much of the stuff we have to do to get our books noticed can truly be overwhelming. Not only that, it is ridiculous to assume we possess all of the skills required to handle much of these publicity and marketing tasks. So don’t beat yourself up about not knowing how to do certain things, and by all means don’t waste too much time trying to teach yourself skills that someone else can do for you, far more efficiently. As it turns out, my friend who is helping me is going to barter her work with me in exchange for some writing I’m going to do for her. (Sigh of relief). Okay, I can check one more thing off my list. But I am curious, what have some of you done regarding book trailers? And what are some of your favorites?

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  • Kathy Jordan

    OMG! My book Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life, comes out on August 3, and I had no idea that I needed a book trailer! Our publisher never mentioned that! The business of marketing the book is causing me a lot of stress. I've been trying hard for the last 6 months to line up speaking engagements and book events, but have nailed down far fewer than I'd hoped. I've concluded that writing a book is much easier than selling a book (even with a mainstream publisher.) Like you, and most writers, I am passionate about my message: Life change--and life in general---is a fundamentally creative process. I believe we're all born creative, and we all need to express ourselves creatively every day, just like we need to breathe and eat. When we want to change, or circumstances force us to change, it's our creative skills that guide us to lead richer, more joyful lives.

    I always feel calmer when I talk about what's in the book. But the anxiety about finding ways to get the word out is mounting every day.

  • GloriaFeldt

    I feel very fortunate that my publisher, the wonderful Seal Press, is producing my trailer (though it makes me nervous not to be in complete control!!). However, I want to applaud the good advice you give in this post: "Ask for help!" So often we feel like we have to solve every problem on our own, but we don't. It's great that you reached out to your friend, who was probably delighted to share her skills. And you found a way to help her in return. Fantastic.

  • Lori L. Tharps

    Wow !Thanks everyone for sharing. I'm going to look at all of your posted trailers. This is all so helpful. I love it when community works! And while I'm sure I am intelligent enough to figure out the technology to do it myself, I completely lack the self-confidence when it comes to anything involving technology and I'd rather get someone else to do it for me. I know, so bad. But I will learn, just not in these last few weeks. But please keep the suggestions coming. Also, what's the rule about music? How much can you use before getting sued?

  • Ilie Ruby

    Just a few weeks ago, I was immersed in the process of creating my book trailer for The Language of Trees, but you're right, the idea of teaching myself how to make a mini-documentary in the last few weeks before pub date was daunting! So, I fiddled around with my Mac and learned enough skills in IMOVIE to make a rough cut. With this in hand, I was able to communicate to someone else exactly what I wanted. The women at Rewind Pictures took it from there. Ultimately, very glad I invested in the process. It's here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zelaggSm9Tg

  • Diane Lockward

    My challenge was to make a book trailer for a book of poetry. How to capture the essence of a collection of poems in 2 minutes or less? I worked on those 2 minutes for weeks, but ended up quite happy with the result. Now I'm working on another one for my new collection. I used iMovie on a Mac. Also used an online program called animoto.com which is very cool. I ended up choosing the iMovie version but recommend that you take a look at Animoto. For $30 per year, you can make an unlimited number of videos on their site.

  • Dasaya Cates

    Like many, I agree that the trailer is yet one more way to reach potential buyers and yet another marketing avenue. Trust me when I say I am not at all a technical guru; I think I have average skills and managed to create a trailer on my own using Windows Movie Maker. The software made it very easy for me. Yes, you'll be limited in what you can produce because of how Movie Maker is set up, but it's not at all chintzy. I think after some experience, you can move on to more flashy programs. I balked at the prices some were charging for trailers (well over a thousand dollars!) and decided I'd learn on my own. Unless the money isn't an option, I'd give your own creative vein a shot at making one for your book.

  • I think it's also important to remember that while the trailer is, yes, a promotion for a single book, it also gives you another platform, could be something TV shows or other websites want to show, and could reach people who might not pick up your book (or any book) otherwise. That anyone can embed that trailer on their site gives them an easy way to help promote you. There's also the site Blazing Trailers where you can add your book and one of mine, for my anthology Peep Show, got featured as the trailer of the day in publishing industry newsletter Shelf Awareness (I just sent it in myself as a suggestion). I think it has to, like a book cover, grab people's attention and even if they just file that away or smile, it's still valuable in terms of putting your book cover out there.

  • Mackleen

    I have heard book trailers are actaully a great marketing and promotion tool that has really been working for writers. I think if your book even has a youtube page, it will also do a lot of promotion for you. People want to listen and view things these days and sometimes don't want to read about a book coming out but see a video of it. Sometimes I even see people do an actaul skit! Either way, it's a great marketing tool that will do wonders for your book.

    Congrats and good luck!!


    Also! it's a new day and age! You have to tap into where the market is. Much of the market is online and I am very sure the clip, video or book trailer, is going to be effective. I have done research on this.Change is good. :)

  • Binnie Klein

    I agree with you totally. Unless you're particularly video/tech savvy, find appropriate people to help. Graphic designer Bill Brown of Madison, CT stepped up when I put out the call because he wanted to try his hand at a book trailer. The result? We had a wonderfully creative collaboration, with my husband doing the soundtrack, me doing the voiceover, and Bill working with images I provided. I knew Bill was the guy -- he'd done a fantastic cover for me. Our trailer was a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews book trailer contest and shown at BookExpoAmerica. click here to view on YouTube

  • Cindy Oldham

    Shawna I liked the trailer. Very original in presenting your book to the public. It's representative of how people see each other in this digital age. I hope you'll have much success with it and kudos for asking for help. I've done the same thing and am waiting for a sweet friend to finish my book trailer. I think they are necessary as another marketing item in our bag of tricks.

  • Shawna Kenney

    I never had a book trailer for my 1st 2 books (they weren't around yet) but for the latest (an anthology I edited), I sought help, too. With a budget of $0 and the kindness of artistic friends, we came up with something decent to convey the message of the book, going the animation route (our cover artist had extra illustrations lying around; my husband's former band provided the music; the producer, normally a music video director, wanted book trailer experience; we used actual text from the contributors' work in the book). Here is the final result. It was a great experience overall, and you're right in recommending asking for help. Unlike writing, I could not have done this alone.

    I love having the trailer to show retailers and potential buyers, though I am not sure if there are other ways I should/could be using it.

  • Faith M. Boughan

    I have to say, book trailers are such a new thing that I haven't quite got into the habit of watching them... I wonder if they're as effective as marketers say they are? I'd love to see some statistics, but who knows where to find them! I think if done well, they can probably be an asset... the only one that sticks in my mind out of the 10-12 that I've watched is for Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters -- great acting, and it was funny!

    But your trailer is also going to have constraints due to budget, etc. Either way, I applaud you for making the jump into book trailer-land, and that's fantastic that you have a friend who can help you out. :) Best of luck in making your trailer, and I hope it brings you plenty of success in return!