Making A Book Trailer on a Budget

When I started my indie author adventure, I believed that if I just wrote good books, people would find and read them. Three years later, I’m still fighting to get noticed. So one of my 2018 goals is to put more effort into book marketing. With the Syzygy omnibus launching next week—uniting all six novellas and one bonus prequel novelette in a single edition—I wanted to do something special to announce it. What better time to make my first book trailer?

IMovieBook trailers are the literary equivalent of movie teasers, short videos designed to pique interest in the story. In a media-driven society characterized by short attention spans, it’s a catchy way of introducing your title to potential readers. But spending a fortune on licensed content or elaborate software wouldn’t leave anything in my writing budget for things like book promotion campaigns. I challenged myself to create a book trailer on a $0 budget.

Video Production

First I needed footage. Many websites offer royalty-free video clips, but few had the right kind for a Syzygy trailer (lunar colonies and space elevators aren’t standard corporate advertising fare). After some hunting, I found a beautiful piece from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. It was exactly what I’d envisioned and, as far as I could tell, free for use with attribution. I downloaded the video and opened it in iMovie, the editing program included in my MacBook’s standard productivity suite .

My Laddie passed by and peered over my shoulder. “You’re making a video?” he asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow.

I planted a fist on my hip. “Did you forget that I minored in film?”

A awkward, contrite smile turned his face boyish. “Actually…yes.”

Fortunately, I hadn’t forgotten the skills developed during countless undergraduate hours holed up in a windowless video editing studio. I figured out the essentials of iMovie in a few clicks. It’s hardly Final Cut Pro, but provides an adequate toolkit for basic functions. Footage, audio, and text each occupied a track, allowing me to organize them as desired. The title effects were limited, but the library of sound effects proved surprisingly rich, even offering an ambient “space” music I used as background. But this trailer needed more than just animated text and a drone bass.

Audio Production

I wanted to pair the video’s stark lunar surface scroll with compelling dialogue from the book. A few key but spoiler-free scenes condensed nicely into a short composite exchange. Script in hand, all I needed was vocal talent. I’ve done my share of theatre, so dramatic reading and character voices come easily to me. But just as Ash and Skye discover in the book, some missions require a partner….

“Hey, husband!”

Maybe he felt a little guilty about dismissing my mad video skillz, because he approached the microphone with professional composure and no teasing. He needed only two takes to bring Ash to life. I never imagined my laconic Laddie had a thespian streak (after almost five years together, he can still surprise me)! My part took a little more work, requiring careful pronunciation—Skye’s got enough quirks already without adding a Long Island accent—but the completed narration added nice aural texture to the video.

I used a USB microphone to ensure better sound quality than my laptop’s built-in mic provided. iMovie let me record voiceovers directly into a new track, a handy feature that spared me importing audio separately from another program. Splicing, shuffling, tweaking timing…when you tend to perfectionism, it can take hours to create a 50-second video! My ever-helpful indie author pal Anela Deen offered helpful feedback on pacing the trailer’s various elements, which inspired a second round of revisions. (Like any other creative project, videos go through drafting and editing.)  At last I had a product that satisfied me:

Not bad for a weekend’s work! Now, how about getting it out there for readers?

Hosting

The logical place to display my book trailer is on my website’s Syzygy page, but my freebie WordPress account doesn’t support video hosting. To circumvent this, I can host video on another platform and embed it on my page. The hitch? I didn’t want my trailer to sink in the ad-driven morass of YouTube. Luckily several good alternatives exist.  I chose Vimeo, because it’s well-supported on mobile applications and offers a decent data allowance even on the free accounts (since video isn’t the core of my business, basic hosting and sharing services are all I need). Setting up an account required only an email address and a password. I had my book trailer uploaded within minutes.

Sharing

Embedding my new video in WordPress couldn’t have been easier. I pasted the Vimeo link on its own line in the text pane and a shiny play window appeared right on the webpage. This also worked for Twitter, my sole concession to social media. (Although if you want the clip to play automatically in the feed, you’ll need to attach the video directly, and Twitter allows a maximum 45 seconds of video; I have a condensed version and an “extended cut” of my book trailer to accommodate this limit.) Not all sites were so accommodating, however. I discovered to my annoyance that GoodReads only supports videos hosted on YouTube and LiveStream. Vexing, but not a huge detriment: GoodReads is really a social hub for readers, not a marketing platform for authors. There are other places for that! I uploaded the video directly to my Amazon author page, same as I do images. Now any visitors to my profile can enjoy a nifty trailer along with the parade of book covers.

Although it’s too soon to tell whether my book trailer succeeds in its marketing objectives, I had a lot of fun making it, and it prompted me towards more inventive ways of advertising my books. And I did it using entirely free tools, which means more money in the budget for book boosting services. If you’re an author in a sales rut, or just curious for a new avenue of creativity, give book trailers a try!

What do you think of my first book trailer? Have you ever made one? What tips and resources do you recommend?

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