A trailer is, in effect, an advertisement. Like all advertisements, it can range in quality and effectiveness from very poor to exceptional. The most effective trailers cause the viewer to make a purchasing decision and to share their discovery with their friends.
3 THINGS THAT MAKE A TRAILER LESS EFFECTIVE
There are many things that can effect the reception and effectiveness of a your book trailer. We’ll only talk about three of them in this article, because these are the most significant.
1 The Visual Content
2 The Auditory Elements
3 The Story
The most noticeable thing about a book trailer (and possibly the most important for any visual medium), is the imagery. If you can remember ever being repulsed from a business after seeing an advertisement that looked terrible to you, you’ll understand how a bad visual impression from your book trailer can actually cause a viewer to make a decision not to explore your book further. It can actually be counter-effective. So getting it right visually is really important. If your trailer has fuzzy imagery and photos are “out of aspect” (stretched) or if some pictures display with black bars at the sides during the video, these are turn offs to viewers.
The auditory elements of an advertisement (your book trailer) can set the tone for your novel. But it can also be a distraction. Too much sound, music or vocalization (or too little) can make your trailer uninteresting or too grating. Striking a balance between the visual and auditory elements is important. If your trailer has too much music or it’s too loud or it’s a song that distracts from everything else, or if there’s too much talking (or reading) throughout the trailer, this will turn off your viewer. I’ll explain about more in the next section.
Of course the story, which is what you’re hoping to sell, has to be carefully revealed. Many authors’ trailers are merely re-readings of cover blurbs or story synopses. Not only does this usually make for too much auditory information, but listening to the reading of a synopsis or blurb while watching a video is not compelling in any way. It will bore your potential reader. Your trailer should give away only enough information to create a compelling desire to buy your book. I’ll explain a bit more how in the next section.
HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR TRAILER’S EFFECTIVENESS
Surely authors and publishers have many options today to create a visual promotional tool for a book. Some authors choose to try constructing a trailer themselves. Others choose to hire someone to create a book trailer for them. Whichever route to choose, remember these steps to help guide you toward a trailer that will help your book sales, rather that hurt it.
I’m starting with the story first in this section because without knowing what to include and not include in your trailer, you can’t choose your visuals or your auditory elements effectively. This also happens to be the toughest thing for DIY trailer-maker/authors to get right.
First, take a day or two (or more) to study trailers and television promos. You may not be able to create one like them, but it’s good to study them to see what works for Hollywood and for the big television networks so you can emulate them as best you can. Visit IMDb and look at their trailers. You should also visit YouTube and type the word “promo” after the name of any movie or television show to see the short version (usually 30 seconds) of the trailer. If you can find films or tv shows in the same genre as your book, that’s even better. See what works when millions of dollars are on the line and emulate what you see as best as you can.
You’ll notice that there’s no narrator reciting the play-by-play actions of the main characters. There’s no one explaining the story in great detail. What you will notice is that the protagonist and antagonist are often introduced rapidly and the story’s conflict is made obvious, sometimes with the inclusion of some critical part of the backstory. Now, of course, you won’t have characters speaking because your book is not a film or television show. But you should take note of how much information is being communicated. It’s just enough to intrigue the viewer.
Pay attention to pace and tone. A trailer using stock images and stock video should be under 45 seconds long. Anything longer will require a lot more visual work than most authors can do on their own.
In summary, make sure your trailer will only reveal a small portion of what your book is about. It should introduce your antagonist, your protagonist and the short version of why they are battling each other. That’s all you need. Believe me.
If you are not someone who creates visual content as a profession and you are going to tackle making your own trailer, keep in mind that the shorter it is, the better. Thirty to 45 seconds is plenty long enough. You’ll want to pack that 30-45 seconds with a ton of images to keep the pace snappy and to make sure your trailer doesn’t draaaaag. In general, you don’t want one image on the screen longer than 2-3 seconds. (Go look at those TV and movie trailer and promos again).
Choose visuals from any number of stock photo and video sites. Your imagery might be literal or it might be metaphorical. Or it might be a mix of the two. Since you are using stock, your imagery will tend to be metaphorical. But if possible use at least one well placed image of a human being. People relate to people. Effective ads usually contain people.
Be careful of fonts. Keep it simple, clear and elegant. Avoid cursive fonts, bright colors and metallic or other 3D text effects. Remember: emulate what works for Hollywood and TV as much as you can. Fonts are completely within your control. Do it well.
Music sets the tone for any work but you may want to add some sound effects: a heartbeat, a door creak, footsteps, horses. Make sure your auditory elements do not overpower the visual content. You can find royalty-free music (and sound effects) online for as little as a dollar a song. If you’re creating your own trailer, you’ll be pleased to know that 30 seconds and 60 seconds are standard song sample lengths. Perfect for the 30-45 second trailer! Don’t hesitate to use more than one song in your trailer. It might start out mysteriously, venture into a chase and end in suspense.
As for what to say in your trailer, you have options. You can hire a voiceover actor (or actors) to voice a theme (“In a world… where… “). Or you could hire them to voice character lines, much like a film. The key is to make sure what’s being said works with your visuals and your music. It should be paced nicely and it shouldn’t overwhelm your viewer. In general, fewer words are better than a lot of words. This should be the very last thing you do, even though writing out what would be said was likely conceptualized during the “story” phase mentioned earlier. Just remember, you’re communicating in a visual medium. When in doubt, study the film and television promos!
Yes, you can harness the power of the digital age and create more visibility for your book with an exceptional book trailer. Just follow these steps and try your best emulate the principles at work in Hollywood trailers and do your best to apply them to your own video.