Creating A Book Trailer
I take an “anything goes” approach to book promos, trying not to limit the creative possibilities, just getting into the content of the manuscript, and experiencing it as a reader. That determines my visual approach, which is different for every project.
I’ve been an art director in book publishing for about ten years, so my creative approach to videos is similar to the way I approach book packaging. Design composition, typography, and color play a huge role. If it’s a quirky story, for instance, I think of a playful way to execute it. Maybe with loosely drawn or hand-drawn animated scenes. If it’s a serious thriller, the right music will be crucial. I’m also a composer, and if I can’t find the right music I’ll write and record music for the piece. For Jeff Strueker’s new book Blaze of Glory, I composed the music for it and just finished the film.
The most difficult part, but most important, is to provoke an emotional response. I make the book’s hook visually interesting, lasting somewhere within thirty to sixty seconds.
Often the best copy comes straight from the book. If I can’t take copy directly from the manuscript, I look to the marketing copy and selling points. Sometimes I get ideas from the back cover copy. But using text from the manuscript for the Book Trailer is usually the best way to go. I did a promo for Havah by Tosca Lee, and all of the titles came straight from her amazing prologue.
Voice over can work, but I tend to use copy points in the form of titles instead. An amazing voice over is rare. It’s more of a challenge to communicate with titles, but I think it can be more effective if the titles are well designed and fit the vibe of the content. There are exceptions, of course, and some of my own work may have benefited from a voice over, but it can really be a gamble if you don’t have “the right voice.” I had author Tony Morgan read the first chapter of his book Killing Cockroaches, and I created an animated cartoon to go along with it. Tony was used to public speaking and his voice really worked well. It’s one of my favorite trailers.
Live Action vs. Still Shots
Whether I shoot something myself, use stock movie footage, do hand-drawn cartoon/animation, or use still images is all determined by content. I try to stick with concepts and don’t show too many faces or people unless the content dictates. I find it more effective to suggest ideas and let the viewers’ imaginations do the rest. A good example of a trailer I did is for a book called Rooms.
I have some friends in the business who want to work with me on projects that required live-action shoots. One of the most effective pieces I’ve seen using live action with actors is the Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters trailer.
Cost and Complexity
Though several factors affect the budget of a Book Trailer, the type of trailer and its length determine the cost of the trailer. The more costly pieces are those that require hand-drawn or stop-motion animation and live action with actors and a small film crew.
I got my first freelance job when a coworker at my day job saw a stop-motion animation film I had created for my own amusement. He asked if I could create a twenty- to thirty-second short film for a Web site promoting a book. He liked the animation piece and said, “Do something like that. Something creative. Whatever you want.” I ran with it and made a twenty-second spot using stop-motion animation and action figures. Pretty soon I was asked to do more, and once word got around, I was creating all kinds of short films to promote different books.
This past year I was doing so much of this work while still holding down a full-time position as an art director that it almost killed me! I knew it was time to strike out on my own. I started my own company, Octoberville Creative, and this February it will become my full-time gig. I welcome any new creative opportunities.
Blaze of Glory
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters