Saturday, January 28, 2012

Making a Book Trailer

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The winner of the Swag Bag is llamannerdymom.
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Thanks to everyone who left comments!

Having failed in my last attempt to make an exciting book trailer myself, I learned a lot for my next try, with Deliverance: Mortal Path Book 3. Why even consider making a trailer myself? The type of trailer I wanted wasn't the still photo with text overlay that was the least expensive type. The kind I wanted was full of action and music. It would cost up to $3,000, and I would have limited opportunity to make adjustments to it. I like tinkering with things myself, getting everything just the way I want, without having to worry about whether I'm on my third change or my thirtieth. That plus the cash outlay convinced me to try my hand again.

Last time, I made a video with my own video camera and narrated it myself. The lighting was poor, the filming was jittery, I can't believe my voice sounded like that, the script was lame, and there was no action. (If you want to see this trailer, click here--and brace yourself.) I don't display this one on my website - I'm not sure if I ever did.

One of the first things a professional trailer production company wants from the author is a working script. Another reason I hesitated to go to the pros was that I didn't have a script and couldn't seem to come up with one. I seemed to be writing one almost as dialogue between two characters - focused and limited in its representation of the Big Picture. I finally threw out all my drafts of that script and wrote a new one in five minutes. It dealt with concepts rather than details. Shazam! Pictures began forming in my head for the visuals to go with the words. To see how high-level this script is, here is the one that freed me:

Sumerian demons survive to this day
causing chaos, destruction, and death
with the help of Immortal human assassins.
Maliha was an Immortal assassin
until she defied her demon
and became a rogue with a new agenda ...
balancing lives she’s taken with lives saved.
Immortal Jake is Maliha’s true love
or is he?
Maliha’s mortal friend and partner
is kidnapped.
Maliha must watch him die
or accept a sinister new master.
She’s damned if she does ...
and damned if she doesn’t.
Is there a way out for her?

Notice that it's broken into short lines that are easy to read and dramatic when presented one per "page" of the trailer. This is the first step in making a quality trailer yourself. Each of these lines suggested an image to me (except lines 2 & 3, which go together with the same image). I looked for places to purchase still images, video clips, and music, and ended up using, which in my opinion has the best selection. (Others are and, plus many more.) These are media that you purchase a Standard license to use, and don't have to pay any royalties per use.

I used Windows Live Movie Maker, a program that came with Windows 7 and is available as Windows Movie Maker in earlier versions of Windows. You might want to play around with it by using some family photos and text overlays just to get the hang of it. You'll end up with a nice movie you can share, too.

When you select images or video clips that go with your script, you can initially download a "comp" - complimentary - version with a watermark that can be put into place in your trailer to see how you like it before you pay for it. This is very useful! I ended up building my entire trailer, including the music, from comps so I could see how it flowed before buying any of the media. There finally comes a time when you have to lay down your bucks, though, because the watermarks are a dead giveaway that you're using unlicensed media. Before distribution, then, pay for everything and substitute the real stuff in your movie.

In my case, I used Photoshop to crop some of the images, but there are a lot of image processors for simple editing, like Picasa, that will do the job for free. You may end up buying a video clip that runs for a minute and only want to use 20 seconds of it. You can do that kind of editing right in Windows Movie Maker, which allows you to specify how long each image or clip stays visible on the screen.

Ah, music! Wonderful, talented people write original scores (with symphonic performances, no less!) just for movie trailers and I found a perfect match for mine. I ended up buying two trailer productions, one for the main part of my movie and one for the section at the end that I use to display quotes I've obtained for the book. I'm really fussy about music and I found that the variations in volume from one part of my purchased music to another didn't sit right. I used a program called MP3Gain Pro to automatically even out the volume level without losing too much off the top or bottom. The results were terrific, but as I said, I am fussy and you can get along without this step.

Total cost: about $400. Plus some time finding the right images and sound, and learning to use Movie Maker. It was a rewarding project for me and I know I'll confidently tackle making the trailers for my books from now on! And here it is:

Do you make video clips of your own and upload them to YouTube? If so, post your link below! How do you think the trailer turned out? Leave a comment and you'll be entered in a giveaway of my Swag Bag: a tote bag, signed copies of Dark Time and Sacrifice, bookmarks, pens, and magnets. If you want me to be able to contact you if you are the winner, include your email in a disguised way. Otherwise, you'll have to come back and check the top of this post to see if you've won after the deadline. The giveaway ends at midnight CST on February 1st. All my giveaways are international.

Easy Tweet: On @superntrlUnderg Blog: @dakotabanks talks about making a trailer for Deliverance; enter to win a Swag Bag!


Helen Lowe said...

Awesome trailer, Dakota! I "like."

Donna Galanti said...

Dakota, as a new author just looking into the world of book trailers this is valuable information! This lays it all out for how I can script mine out with photos/music. LOVE yours...the music really excites...and the flames. I loved how you incorporated the video with stills. Thanks!
- donnasgalanti(at)

SandyG265 said...

I've never uploaded a video but I enjoy watching them.

sgiden at

Anonymous said...

When I think you've done it all for your readers, you go yet another step - now offering to answer questions about writing to any one that asks is spectacular for us! Thank you, Shirley!!! We can always count on you! :D

Cindi Pierce

SmittenWithBadBoyHeroes said...

Dakota, i'm not a big fan of book trailers but i have to say that yours is possibly the best i've seen.. absolutely fabulous luv! well done!!

Squenn said...

Hi Dakota! I watch the book trailers. It gives you peek in to the book. I really enjoyed yours!


Sharon said...

that was freaking awesome!! Love the two doors at the end :) I have never made one, but my teenage daughter has made two for my review blog

and this one features many of our Supernatural authors :)

June M. said...

I have to say that I don't generally watch trailers, I prefer blurbs and excerpts to learn more about the books. Yours is cool though. I would think that this would take a long time to do.
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

Jessica@a GREAT read said...

Awesome trailer! I am so bad at computer stuff myself. I just don't work well with computers either!


alainala said...

these books look great!
im usually not a fan of trailers.. i like to find out the book from the book itself most of the time.. that being said, i admire the people who make em! didnt know they cost that much to make though!!

alainala AT hotmail DOT ca

llamannerdymom said...

Oh my gosh!! It's not like I was already snapping at the bit about DELIVERANCE already. Now I am even more anxious to read it!! Maliha is one of my favorite literary characters. Keep them coming!!

Ashley Phillips said...

This Deliverance trailer looks fabtastic!!!! I am going out and getting your first book right now!!! How i havent came around your series yet i will never know!!!

Sara Creasy said...

Fantastic trailer, Dakota! When I made mine 2 years ago, I didn't even realize you could buy stock video the same way you buy stock images. In the end I used images I made myself (using DAZ3D software - a lot of their stuff is free [full disclosure, I work for them as a freelancer]) and free music.

I did what you did - wrote a script in short punchy bites - then made images to match. The only cost was the Flash software to put it together - about $30. Oh, and the time cost of course, which was far longer than it probably should've taken but this was my first effort.

The trailer is here: Song of Scarabaeus Book Trailer

Dakota Banks said...


The ebook of the first book in the series, Dark Time, is on sale by the publisher. Regularly $7.99, it's only $.99 for about another week. Then the second book, Sacrifice, will go on sale. This is all done as a push for the release of the third book, Deliverance, in March. It's nice getting a bit of help from the publisher!

Dakota Banks said...


I love your trailer! I'd like to post it only my blog. Okay with you?

Dakota Banks said...


I'd like to include your I SMELL SHEEP videos on my blog. Okay?

Dakota Banks said...


Thanks for the tip on the DAZStudio software. I've downloaded the free version to play with in my "free" time. Looks very useful for me and fun too.

Sara Creasy said...

Absolutely, Dakota. I'll link back here from my blog - you've inspired me to write a post about book trailers.

bn100 said...

Your trailer looks amazing! I haven't made any videos.


Terri Garey said...

GREAT job, Dakota! I know how much work goes into making a trailer - very time consuming, but also fun in a creative type of way. I've done two of them, which are both on YouTube:

Devil Without a Cause


You're the One That I Haunt