Always being a big fan of movies since I was old enough to understand what was happening on the big screen…I know just how exciting a visual presentation can be when it comes to some of your favorite stories. I *LOVE* movies! Even more…I love movie trailers! I never get enough of them. I love the visuals, the excitement, the dialogue, the stories they tell, the music, the emotions they can invoke within you…even BAD movies are good movies as far as I’m concerned when it comes to trailers. It’s all about being assaulted from as many angles at once as possible, and being able to fully immerse yourself in the fantasy while it’s happening. There’s something about an awesome movie trailer that always makes me smile. Especially, when it comes to something that I’m already excited to see. That’s the best! I could watch and re-watch those all day long!
Make no mistake…when I create a story in my mind, when I’m thinking about the characters I want to use and the story line and the tone that I want the story to have…I’m totally picturing it as a movie trailer. That’s sort of how my ideas first develop. I think of the music, and the look of it all, and certain ‘big’ events that I want the story to have and push as the standout moments of my project. Whether it’s action or sci fi or horror or just a romantic coming of age love story…in my head, I get a ton of ideas and a true feel for what I want to write by mentally picturing it as a movie trailer. I take my notes, and I pick those big moments as a focus to expand on later. Because that’s what movie trailers are, essentially, right? They are asking the question, “What would ‘sell’ my audience on this particular story? What can we tease you with to entice you to make that jump towards feeling like you’ve just GOT to check this story out?” I like to think of stories as a series of grand moments like that. Connected by important events leading up to those moments, and then experiencing the rewards or consequences after those moments have passed. If your story was made into a movie or a TV series…how would you advertise it? What would you want people to see in order to tempt them to pick your project over any one of a million others out there for them to read?
I always thought that it was a good mental exercise for gathering my thoughts and jotting down some creative beats to get an idea of what I wanted my story to be before I even started writing it out. It helps me find direction and purpose, and it got me all hyped up too, just like I hope it would for everybody else. Hehehe!
However, it was quite a few years ago when I decided that I wanted to really stretch out and go all in with my biggest project ever to date at the time (My very first full length novel and gothic romance themed concept for GA Premium, “Empty Corners”). This was a huge milestone for me, and I wanted to do something big to make it special. You know? So…when the whole ‘mental movie trailer’ thing wasn’t enough to satisfy me, My ambition kicked in and I had to self teach myself to go up to the next level. Hehehe! I wanted this to be a major event. I wanted people to actually see what I was seeing in my head. I wanted to take the thoughts in my mind, and not just put them into words for the story, or try to sum up the entire project in a condensed story blurb. This had to be a monumental step up. So, I began to wonder…what if I could actually put together an online movie trailer of my very own? With actual video clips, and dark music, and a horror movie motif that would get other people just as excited about this new release as I was. And that’s when I made my very first video book trailer for the site.
It wasn’t much to look at, as I had very little expertise with what I was doing, and I was just learning how to use the programs needed for the very first time…but I have to admit that I’m still pretty proud of my first official story trailer to this day. I knocked around the laptop, spent hours and hours looking for brief clips that sort of matched what I had in store for my readers, spent hours and hours searching through the movie scores that I usually use to write to so I could find the right background music, and even went to get the little ‘this trailer is approved’ green screen to put ahead of the trailer itself. Hehehe, after watching a million trailers beforehand, I kind of knew how they worked and how they presented the story to fans in a limited amount of time. So I used that blueprint to bring this “Empty Corners” preview to life. Just to see if I could pull it off. And readers were really impressed, which is always a good feeling for me to have! Hehehe!
And…here it is. My very first real attempt at making a book trailer for one of my own stories…
Take a look at that first ‘experimental’ trailer for “Empty Corners” above…and then look at the newer one below. (Which is still quite a few years old now) And this is me, still learning all of the new tricks that I had at my disposal. As “Empty Corners” was beginning its run on GayAuthors Premium, receiving RAVE reviews and five star ratings all across the board…I made it a point to go through my emails, and the comments on GA, and the stuff on my forums…and found specific quotes about how much people were really enjoying, (or possibly just freaked out) over this story! Adding it to the trailer in the hopes of drawing even more attention to it for anyone who was interested. Those comments made me happy, through and through! So I quoted them, word for word, to help advertise and promote this story to other people who might like the story just as much, if not more, but probably never would have taken a chance if it weren’t for some fan validation telling them that it would be worth their time. HUGE thanks to everyone who spoke up and supported that story! I love you forever for that! 🙂
The first thing that you have to think about, when making a video trailer for your story…is ‘tone’. That is the MOST important part to me. You know what your story is about, right? You know how it begins, how it ends, and what happens every step of the way in between. Or, at least, I’m assuming so. How are you going to convey that emotional involvement in a mini-trailer? I mean, if you’re going to do this…you’ve got about 90 seconds to get your point across. Two minutes at best.
Most of the stories that I have made trailers for have been of the sci-fi/thriller/horror genre…and that’s because those are the most difficult stories for me to get people to read sometimes. I think there’s this notion that it won’t be your typical Comicality love story between two teen boys like all the rest of them…but in reality, that’s exactly what they are. They may have a supernatural or fantasy or paranormal spin on them…but they really aren’t all that different from what readers are used to reading from me. And, more times than not, when they run out of new material to read…they check out stories like “Savage Moon” or “Skylight” or “Gone From Daylight”, and it ends up being their favorite stories on the entire Shack Out Back website! But, what can I say? People are stubborn! ::Giggles:: Then again, so am I. So I totally get it.
When you’re setting the overall tone of your book trailer…the number one component of that process is the music that you choose. That is a HUGE part of it! When I’m making a trailer, the music is what I concentrate on the most. A lot of times, I’m just using an instrumental track or a score…but if you’re going to use an actual song for your trailer…make sure that the song is conveying the kind of emotion and feeling that your story is trying to put out there. Listen to the lyrics of the song. Listen to their meaning. Play it on repeat and feel the vibe that it’s giving you the entire time. Does it match up with your story or series? Does it express the right emotion? This is crucial when making a video trailer for your story.
When I was in college, my best friend in the world and I got an apartment together. And I had been MADLY in love with him since we were both 14 years old. So that was…stressful, because he didn’t know. Hehehe! Anyway, I just remember one day that we were hanging out, and having a bunch of deep conversations (as we always did), and I was feeling super infatuated with him in that moment…and we had the radio on. And this is when the song, “Iris”, by the Goo Goo Dolls came on. And I was almost literally driven to tears in that moment, because that song was speaking the EXACT words that my heart wanted to express in that moment. It was like…so powerful to me. It’s like the ultimate, closeted gay boy song! Seriously! It’s classic! Just…the idea that “I don’t want the world to see me” and yet, “I just want you to know who I am” really floored me in that moment. And I never let go of the feeling it gave me.
So, when it came to making a video trailer for my story “The Secret Life Of Billy Chase”? What better song could I choose? Nothing else would have had the same impact. And, to this day, this video book trailer has more views than anything else on my Youtube channel! And I mean by…tens of THOUSANDS of views! The music fit. The tone fit. And I’ve probably sold more ebooks from this trailer than anything else that I’ve created for the site.
Use music and images to capture emotion the best way that you can. Give readers a true feeling of what they’re in store for if they come to follow your story. Make them a promise, and give them the chance to see whether or not you’re going to make good on that agreement. A video trailer is a fish hook that can grab a lot of attention from new readers. But once they get there, you’d better deliver! Otherwise, you’ll lose their trust and faith in you. Possibly forever. You”re not the only talented writer onlne, you know?
This is the “Billy Chase” trailer that I made. I was getting a pretty good handle on the programs that I was using at this point, had a lot of ideas about the characters and the movie clips that I wanted to use…and this is what I came up with. Using that song that had me soooo emotionally wrecked years beforehand…
I am writing a series called “Agenda 21”, about a man made apocalypse. It’s basically a ‘holocaust’ on a global level. And it’s a dark story about how little changes, incremental shifts in public consciousness can lead to BIG consequences later on. How blatant propaganda can invade the public and suddenly destroy us all before we all wake up and realize that it’s too late to reverse course now. I made sure to write it in a way that was interwoven into current events (Both back then at the time, and even now) to create an appropriate sense of dread and despair. I made three different trailers for this story, and one brief teaser, to promote the story. This is where the music came into play. In the first trailer, I used the song, “Stars Gone Dim”…beginning the trailer with the wave of an American flag. Representing the 50 stars. This was shortly after a post 9/11 world was still trying to readjust. nd it just seemed to fit the tone and the mood that I was trying to create for the story. However, for the second trailer, which came a few years later…when the US had already been sent into war overseas, I chose a very slow (and somewhat creepy) female cover version of Buffalo Springfield’s song, “For What It’s Worth”. Often associated with the Vietnam War. Both trailers have the same feel to them. The menace. The desperation. The drk tone of it all. I wanted that to be a part of the trailers that I put out for this story in particular. In the second trailer, since it involves teenagers just trying to survive through an unimaginably horrific situation, the lyrics at the end of the trailer saying, “Children stop! Just stop! Just stop! Just stop! JUST STOP!!!” really is the impact that I wanted this trailer and the story, itself, to have on everybody reading. Like…how far are we going to take this madness? You know?
Here are both trailers if you want to compare the two. Again, I had to teach myself how to use the programs that I was using on my own. So getting the timing down and the clips and figuring out how to manipulate images to get them to look and move the way that I wanted to move was a struggle. But I figured it out! Practice makes perfect, after all. 😛
So…what programs are the best to use for something like this? I’m glad you asked, random voices inside of my head! Hehehe!
What I use for video clips is Windows Movie Maker. NOT the newer version! I forget what it’s called, but…no. That one sucks! Find yourself an older version of Windows Movie Maker, and download that one to your laptop or PC. It will let you upload whatever files you have on your computer, set the volume, edit them down to (literally) 1/10th of a second, and give you options to fade the videos in and out, control the audio, add a soundtrack, add pictures if you want…or titles and website info…it’s an EXCELLENT program! Go searching for it online and get an older version of it. I guess it was one of those things that Windows was like, This is TOO good! Why are we giving it away for free?” But they suck for that! Get it, hold onto it, and as long as you’re not using it for anything professional…it’s 100% free! So grab it, get used to it, toy around with it…and you’ll be able to make your own book trailers in no time. Trust me, I’m not really computer savvy at ALL! So if I can teach myself how to use it as well as I have, then you could probably create something twice as awesome, and in half the time! So grab Microsoft’s Movie Maker and ive it a shot!
Also, another tool that I have used in the past, is Wavepad Sound Editor. Also free, but accepts donations. So if you’ve got a few bucks to spare and want to help them out, feel free to donate. This is for audio. It allows you to amplify sound or music, cut out background noise, and change the tone, pitch, and speech, of any audio files that you run through it. It’s extremely easy to learn in just a few hours, and I love using it, myself.
Here’s where this has really come in handy for me. When I was still making new trailers I had the music, I had the movie clips, I had everything that I needed to make a decent video. But…you know me! Hehehe! I’m shamelessly ambitious, so I still wanted more! I wanted to have actual quotes from the story itself be a part of the book trailer. And so, the final trailer for the “Gone From Daylight: Rogue Angel” ebook…I actually used my own voice to record as a part of the trailer. (See? I can still put some of my former acting chops to good use every now and then!) And by recording my voice, and then running it through Wavepad to change the pitch and add a dark echo and reverb to it, I was able to create an added layer of realism to the trailer by speaking as the vampire ‘Comicality’ himself. Which turned out to be really cool! I enjoyed that!
I also added in a quote from another movie/TV show that fit in with what I was trying to do with the trailer. Now, if you decide to use movie quotes in your video trailers, a great place to look for them is in found footage movies! I say this because there’s no score, no background music…they’re all filmed as if they were documentaries. So if you have any ideas in mind that you think will somehow connect to your particular story, you can find spoken quotes in found footage movies pretty easily, and won’t have to go through the struggle of trying to block out the background noise or movie soundtrack.
This is the final trailer that I made for “GFD: Rogue Angel” to market it in the ebook section (https://imagine-magazine.org/store/comicality/) and hopefully get people interested in the new release…
To sum it all up…taking the time and effort to create a video representation of your story, no matter what it may be, can really grab people’s attention and guide them over to your story to give it a chance when they normally wouldn’t have. You have to generate your own fanbase if you want to gain any appreciation for what you do. It takes time to figure out the right programs and how to use them. But once you find the clips that you want to use for your video, everything else is just a matter of trimming them down and getting them in tune with the song or the beat that you’ve chosen. Listen to the music. Follow the rhythm of it. Can you hear it? Listen. Let your clips stay in time and tempo with the music you’ve chosen. Look at the trailers that I’ve posted above as an example. Keep those drums and change ups in mind, and edit your clips accordingly. Think of it like a ‘dance’. The music and scenes you’ve chosen should be in sync with one another. Feel it out. Keep watching and replaying your video until it ‘feels’ right. Don’t be afraid to be a geek about it if something feels like it’s a quarter of a second off beat. Go back and fix it! Another great thing about Windows Movie Maker is that it has a ‘reverse’ arrow at the top of the screen. So if you cut something too short or let it run for too long, you can click that and try it again. You’d be surprised how quickly you’ll get a feel for how it works.
Also, the big thing for me when making these trailers…is creating the illusion that they’re real, and not just clips from multiple movies that people have already seen before. Hehehe, I can’t have Brad Pitt fighting zombies, or John Wick walking around with a pistol. Try to avoid using popular, easily recognizable actors and movies, if you can. Instead, look for indie flicks, short films on Youtube, commercials…hell even some music videos have great imagery that you can use to make a trailer. But, when you find a clip, keep it down to a few seconds at a time. Use clips that have some kind of ‘movement’ in them. A camera panning from left to right, or a back flip, or a passionate kiss, or some hand to hand combat. Whatever it is that you’re writing, if you’re making a trailer for it, make every shot count by having a certain momentum in its presentation.
This is a video I made last year for the site’s anniversary, and I tried to celebrate as many of the top stories on the site as I could within the amount of time that I was given by the song that I was using. (Hehehe! I used the Avengers theme, because the Shack was 23 years old on June 19th, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe had 23 movies under its belt at the time!) But I tried to find clips that could somehow represent every single story that was crammed into this one video, and I wanted to make sure that they all had some kind of ‘movement’ going on, and that they displayed the feel and tone of the stories that I was referring to. It doesnt take much. A blink, a smile, a blush…just something to get your readers to give this story a chance. Check it out!
This is a truly effective promotion tool for your stories, especially if you’re writing in a niche genre like sci fi, horror, or fantasy. Some genres immediately conjure up preconceived notions of what the story is going to be like, even if your audience knows and appreciates the author’s previous work. It can occasionally put some of your stories on the back burner, or possibly not read them at all. But, a well made visual trailer, with the right clips, the right music, and the right tone and emotional weight to it…can get those same readers to raise an eyebrow and maybe give some of your other projects some much needed attention. So, if you’re the creative type…give it a shot. I, personally, have a lot of fun making these trailers! Whenever I’m watching a movie and I see something cool on screen, I file that in the back of my mind, like, “Oooh! That would look cool in a trailer later!” I hope other people like watching them too!
So, this article was super long! Sorry if I babbled on for too long! But this was my advice on making a video trailer for your story! Maybe you’ll use it to make your own, and maybe you won’t. But the info is here any time you need it. K? I can honestly say that I have a Bunch of stories on my site that nobody would have taken a chance on had it not been for the trailers that I made for my Youtube channel! And I consider them a very valuable tool in my arsenal when it comes to releasing new material and gathering new readers along the way. So keep that in mind, k?
I hope this helps! And here are a few other trailers that I’ve made over the years! Hehehe, I just watched them all again, and I still get a little giddy about them, even now! There are plenty more. So if you want to see them all, check out my Comicalityshack Youtube channel! (https://www.youtube.com/user/ComicalityShack/featured) They’re all there waiting for you!
Seezya soon! And I wish you all the best in the future!