Book Trailers on a Budget

The irrepressible Thoraiya, reader and commenter on this blog has had a novella published with Twelfth Planet Press. Yay, for Thoraiya. To coincide with the release of this back-to-back novella, she’s made a book trailer. I was so impressed with it, I’ve asked her to come onto the ROR blog to tell us how she went about this. Take it away, Thoraiya:

ROR has already posed the question of “do book trailers sell books?” The consensus seemed to be, “no, but they are fun.” I don’t have a novel coming out, but I do have half of a Twelfth Planet press novella double coming. I couldn’t resist joining in.

My favourite book trailers are always ones that are more like movie trailers than a series of stills, no matter how tantalising the stills may be. Examples include Rowena’s King Rolen’s Kin trailer:

And this trailer (  ) for a French pop-up book illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe.

I couldn’t afford professional 3D animation. However, I have a tragic history of creating animated GIFs known as stick-figure-deaths, usually in a gaming community context. And if a bunch of scribbles in MS Paint could be put together using MS GIF animator, so could photographs from a digital camera.

“The Company Articles of Edward Teach” is only 14 000 words, so I wanted only a very short teaser that didn’t give away too much. Just a hint that the two main characters come from different backgrounds (Muslim, Jewish) and that they end up on Blackbeard’s ship together. (Yarrr!) Here is the finished trailer:

Rowena wanted me to mention how I decided what words to include. That decision came down to timing and also a backlash against the Forbidden Rhetorical Question in agent queries. Agents say they need a good strong hook in the first sentence in order to keep reading a query but they’re sick of seeing rhetorical questions. This ignores the fact that most Hollywood film trailers include assorted clichéd rhetorical questions which are actually very successful in getting people (OK, maybe it’s just me?) interested. Since I was only making the trailer for my own enjoyment, well.

Welcome to Rhetorical Questions R Us.

(Yes. This post describes the making of the kind of book trailer I like, and I am in no way a judge of which book trailers are actually the best or will get the most views!)

On the timing issue, in my previous stick-figure-death experience I would often get the complaint that I hadn’t left the words up for long enough. I’m a speed reader and also I already knew the material, so I would short change the type of people who don’t like subtitled movies (an example here) – they would say things like, “that was fun but the words went away too quickly.” So. On the one hand, I think it’s important to give a sense of the main conflict of the book in a book trailer.

On the other hand, I wanted the clip to move along quickly, and that meant not more than a few words at a time. Some other book trailers I have seen include actual pages or paragraphs from the book, but if I want to read, I will pick up the printed page and construct my own trailer in my head. YouTube exists to provide graphic goodies to my brain. Assuming my trailer was going to be less than a minute long (and some of these suckers run at fifteen minutes or more), and that it takes a few seconds for the brain to register half a sentence, there was a natural limit there. Note that Rowena’s trailer is 43 seconds long and contains a single, conflict-charged sentence that displays a few words at a time. The pop-up book trailer is 93 seconds and displays no words besides the title of each to-die-for illustration.

Because I’m no composer, I did have to pay for the music, a thirty-second swashbuckling tune from AudioMicro . It was about thirty dollars Australian? I chose a 60-second piece first, but that turned out to be too long (see below).

The storyboard I already had didn’t match the music at all, so I threw it out and did a new one. Now I know why the studios always record the soundtrack first!

I made each frame by cutting out paper silhouettes. With a desk lamp inside a cardboard box and a blue bed sheet over the top, I photographed each silhouette. Here’s the setup in daylight (I took the pictures at night):

I regret not having the skills or peripherals to use any graphics program more advanced than Paint, because I’m certain that I could have saved time if I could have drawn the silhouettes directly onto a tablet and skipped out the whole scissors and paper part. Also, I initially thought I’d be able to get away with 5 frames per second, as I do in stick figure deaths, but it looked clunky so I had to go to 10 frames per second, and that halved the length of the trailer.

Once I’d animated each moving sequence, I was ready to whack them all into Microsoft Movie Maker. Yeah, Microsoft is apparently evil, but if you’ve paid for Windows and Word, you sure do get a lot of cool stuff for free.

In conclusion, it is really fun to play around with this stuff and everyone should have a go. As Mr Chrulew pointed out, everyone with kids has Lego (and Play-Doh!) in the event they’re not so keen on pen and paper.

But when you discover a plot hole in your future novel and need something repetitive to do, there is nothing like cutting out a hundred silhouettes with a dodgy pair of scissors while your subconscious solves the plot problem for you. And just in time for NaNoWriMo, too!

Thoraiya DYER is a newbie Australian writer of short fiction. You can find her fantasy and science fiction stories in Twelfth Planet Press anthologies Sprawl and New Ceres Nights, Fablecroft anthologies Worlds Next Door and After the Rain (forthcoming), Zahir #23, Aurealis #43, and next year’s ASIM #51. The Company Articles of Edward Teach will be her first published longer work. Find out why pirates are better than robots at visit Thoraiya here.

This entry was posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Visiting Writer and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Book Trailers on a Budget

  1. Thoraiya, I’ve been meaning to tell you how awesome I think your book trailer looks! Such lovely effects.

  2. Congrats, Thoraiya! It looks fantastic, and I think that the effect you’ve come up with says a lot for your creativity and eye for detail. Looking forward to reading the book.

  3. Chris L says:

    Hi Thoraiya,

    Congratulations on the novella, and the trailer looks great. I can’t believe how much wrok you put into it. Ten frames per second!

    I read your story Death’s Daughter & the Clockmaker the other day too. Really enjoyed it.

    What do you think about the length of the pop-up book trailer? Although I liked the book, I don’t know if I needed to see quite so much of it in the trailer.

    • Thoraiya says:

      Thanks, Chris. Although I adored the pop-up book trailer, my husband’s immediate reaction was, “was that the whole book? I’ve seen it all, now, I don’t need to buy it.”

      So I see where you’re coming from. But my reaction was, “I love every page of that book…and let me just replay this trailer so I can see that cute itty bitty bunny again.” I think if I bought the book, I would be likely to remember the fantastic atmosphere of the trailer while I was reading it; hear the wolves howling and see the flicker of candlelight over bluebeard’s partially concealed features.

      Yeah. I’m besotted. I wouldn’t have liked any of it to be cut or shortened :D

      And when it comes to pop-up books, I don’t know if there’s such thing as a spoiler, because the small child you get it for is going to make you read it A BILLION TIMES in a row anyway, so you kind of value re-readability over a surprise ending ;)

  4. Trent Jamieson says:

    Great trailer, Thoriaya!

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pingback: More proleptic promotion « Negentropy

Leave a Reply