When we first got started we made a few trailers for friends with almost no budget at all. With a little bit of effort and creativity, you can too. Here’s a shot-by-shot look at how we made one of our earliest book trailers for virtually nada.
1. Show the author’s name right away. Or save the title for the end.
2. Put some effort into the font.
3. Shoot driving scenes, and light the actor using a single practical bulb.
4. Bridges and overpasses allow you to get a tight overhead angle. Just bring a tripod.
5. Imply more than you show. In this shot the character’s told us he has a body in the trunk.
6. Use stock video sparingly. And try to find free clips. Videoblocks.com has a bunch.
7. Stay tight on actors to avoid showing lack of production value and budget.
8. Use guerilla style as a tool rather than the only tool. Steal shots and weave them in.
9. Bring your own props, and use parts of your own home for one or two shots.
10. Blend shots together in Final Cut.
11. Keep the font consistent.
12. Find a composer who will score the trailer for free. Or try incompetech.com
Money spent: $1.50, practical light bulb, $1.50, gasoline.
This isn’t for everyone, of course, but if you’re on a shoestring budget, there’s also no reason to settle for a slideshow and still frames.
Click here to watch the full-length trailer, running time 1:25
This has been an exciting season for Red 14 and all of our writers.
Production has started for cinematic book trailers for The Golden Apple of Discord by Lauren Hodge, The Blink People by Bruce Walker, In Search of Lost Causes: Fragmented Allegories of an Iranian Revolution by Hamid Dabashi, Miami: A Survivor’s Story by Frank Abrams, Camouflage for the Neighborhood by Lorene Delany-Ullman, which incidentally will be our first trailer for a poetry collection, Dirty Little Secrets by Liliana Hart, Knotty, Knotty, Knotty by Joshua Kornreich, and our contest winner, Scott Dominic Carpenter’s Theory of Remainders.
Scott Hess featured Red 14 and several of our authors in his article for Huffington Post Books, Can A Hot Book Trailer Spell Success, which you can read here…
Red 14 President Adam Cushman was confirmed as a keynote speaker at Book ‘Em North Carolina writer’s conference in February 2014.
Stay tuned for new cinematic book trailers in May and throughout the summer…
And check out the brand new YA trailer for After Math by Denise Grover Swank.
What is a Literary Blurb Short?
We’ve created these alternatives to full-length Literary Shorts (formerly known as book trailers, meh). Some of our authors want one to accompany their full-length short, while others opt for just the blurb version.
The main differences, aside from the lower cost, are length and the amount of footage used. We were trying to figure out a way to incorporate text, but text that’s informative rather than existing just to take to up space.
Here’ another example, this one for Stefan Kiesbye’s Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone.
Just found this 2009 book trailer for James Ellroy’s Blood’s A Rover. This was the third book in Ellroy’s USA Underworld Trilogy. As far as trailer-making craft, this one seems like one of the better ones. The production quality is high. The filmmakers did a great job choosing images directly from the book, and nailing the tone of Ellroy’s writing style. The low view count might be due to the cheesy elements like the voice over and music. If there’s one flaw it could be the mimicry of the movie trailer style. As a more fluid cinematic short, this could have been something groundbreaking for publishing. Still a great job though.
This is inevitably what everyone wants to know, especially publishers. What are the numbers? What they mean by that is how many direct book sales will a book trailer or a short literary film generate. Thing is, there’s no way to measure this. The same as there’s no way to measure how many record sales result from a music video. That’s not why they make music videos anyway, and that’s not why we make short films for books.
Another way of looking at the numbers though is by views vs. clicks. If you’re promoting your book, you’ll probably end up using Google Ad Words or Facebook Ads. Your keywords will end up costing about $1.00 per click, give or take, depending on the time of day. Let’s say you spend $2,500 on a book trailer. If your trailer reaches 10,000 Youtube views (which ours do), you’ve paid $0.25 per view. With each additional view, you’ve saved more. At one hundred thousand views (we’re not there yet, but we’re close) you start to see the picture.
We’re not saying Facebook ads and others aren’t worth it. We’re saying with a cool film promoting you and your work, you can spend less, reach more people, and have something to show for it.
What Else Can We Call It?
The term “book trailer” is a misnomer. They’re nothing like movie trailers, even if some of them try and mimic movie trailers.
Ideally, they’re more like short films or music videos, adaptations of a work of art that bring people to the book through the film.
But that’s not why it’s a misnomer. A trailer lets you know in advance the film is coming. After the film’s release, the trailer is useless.
A book trailer shouldn’t just trail, it should accompany the book throughout its infinite shelf life.
First pass at a digital book cover. We will be developing these over the next few months.