Jim Rubart

Since 1994, Jim Rubart has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Barefoot Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. His debut novel ROOMS will be published by B&H Fiction in April. He's also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world's most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn't sleep much. You can reach him at jlrudini[at]comcast.net

Want Your Book Trailer to Be Excellent?

Do you know the old adage “A bad agent is worse than no agent at all”?

Same wisdom applies to Book Trailers. Books are judged by their covers, and now they’re judged by their trailers as well.

Unfortunately, many Book Trailers out there are camping in the never-should-have-been-made part of the forest. That’s because anyone with a computer can create one, just like anyone with a computer can create a novel. But with a novel there are gatekeepers. You have to either sell it to a royalty paying house or pull enough coins from your own pocket to get that pup self-published. With the ability to create a trailer for almost zero dollars, the Book Trailer gatekeeper is on a long coffee break.

So what do you do if you want a compelling Book Trailer for your novel? Keep the following in mind if you’re creating your own, or if you’re overseeing someone creating it for you.

1. Your competition is movie trailers. When asked what a Book Trailer is, most people say, “It’s like a movie trailer, except for a book.” So readers’ expectations are high going in. If the production values for your Book Trailer scream, “Made in the basement!” that’s what people will think of your book. Don’t compare your Book Trailer to others. Go to QuickTime and watch five of the latest movie trailers. That is your competition.

2. The music bed— a. Sound is power. Check out my June ’09 CFOM column if you’re interested in the science of why the sound (music and voice-over) you use in your trailer is so critical. Take your time with the music bed. Find a piece of music that will convey the emotion of what your book is about. You know the theme of your book, right? Keep it in mind when choosing your music bed.

3. The voice-over— a. In most Book Trailers I’ve seen, the VO (voice-over) is atrocious. It does not sound professional. It sounds like Aunt Mildred or Bobby Joe dropped in for a visit and someone stuck a microphone in front of them along with a script and said, “Please read this.” Would you publish a novel from an author that has never written before? Then why do authors grab their sisters or neighbors or brothers, who “Everyone says has a great voice,” to do their Book Trailer voice-overs? Remember, viewers are used to hearing professional voices in radio spots, TV spots, movie trailers, audio books, etc., so this is not an area to scrimp in. “Sure, Jim,” you say, “but I can’t afford to hire a voice talent from the local radio station and pay them seventy-five dollars to do my VO.” (In my opinion, it’s worth every penny to do that.) Okay, then don’t use a voice-over. Truly, no VO is better than a bad one.

4. The images—
Sorry to be a broken record, but you’re competing with movie trailers: their level of images, creativity, and editing. Some of the pictures I’ve seen on Book Trailers are hideous (and they’re not selling a thriller). So make sure your images are stellar. With iStock and other online photo Web sites, there’s no excuse for having shoddy images. (You can buy video clips as well as still images on these sites.)

5. Make the script compelling—

a. Determine the goal of your Book Trailer (it amazes me how many Book Trailers have no call to action). What do you want viewers to do? Go to your Web site? Go to Amazon and buy your book? Send the trailer to other people? As Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.”

b. What worm do you want to put on the hook? The goal of the trailer should not be “I want to tell the whole story, or at least most of it.” No, the goal of the trailer is to make a potential reader say, “Wow, I gotta find out more about this book.” Fishermen don’t put every worm on their hooks when catching fish. You only need one. So what’s your one worm? What is the core message of your book? That will be the heart of your script.

c. Writing ads (and that’s what your Book Trailer is) is not the same as writing novels. It is a skill not easily acquired. So unless you have experience doing it, consider hiring someone who knows how. Yes, I know I’ve just added to your budget, but if you’re not committed to excellence, it might be better to wait till you can afford the cost to make an outstanding trailer.

6. The length—
Make ’em long. Long, I tell ya! Remember, in this day and age with all the blogs and tweets and Web sites to visit, people have lots and lots of time to view a five . . . okay, sorry for the sarcasm. Just like an elevator pitch needs to be long enough to hook an editor or agent into wanting to know more, your Book Trailer should be the length it will take for a potential reader to say, “Oh, I need to know more.” Maybe it takes five minutes to do that. Maybe it takes only thirty seconds. The length will be determined by the complexity of your story, but if you’re going to err, err on the side of shorter, not longer.

There’s more to making admirable trailers, but I’ve gone way over my five minutes so we’ll have to save the rest of my thoughts for next time. But if you want to check out some excellent Book Trailers while you’re waiting, head for my publisher’s Web site (B&H Fiction). I might be biased, but I think they’ve done an outstanding job.

I’ll see you on YouTube. My socks are prepared to be blown off.