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Book Trailers: Compiling & Arranging Elements for Effective Results

In book marketing, there are numerous promotional avenues. There’s Facebook, media interviews, book signings, book tours, news releases, and speaking engagements. These approaches are straight forward and rely on communication skills found in most writers. Book trailer is an animal of a different sort. It demands an assortment of skills and resources, mainly condensing the story to its most tantalizing elements and embellishing it with photos, videos, text, voice over, sound effects and music. It’s complicated, time consuming task, and if you hire someone, very expensive. Yet with some simple strategies, guidelines, and resources you can produce an effective video with little or no money. That is, if you have a video camera/smart phone and an editing program, things you likely have already and don’t know it.

Defining Goals

First, let’s look at what you want to accomplish with at book trailer. In general, you want to promote book sales. However, being more specific you want to hook the viewer with unique and enticing information so they will watch the entire video. If you lose them before you’ve completed your pitch, there’s little chance of a book sale. As such, you require new and fascinating information throughout the video, information that not only holds their interest, but moves them toward buying your book.

Another goal is to make your trailer shareable, that it moves on from your initial viewers to their friends and followers. If your video resonates, it’s possible it will spread beyond your contacts. It could have an afterlife that spreads exponentially through social media. If you ask, you get. So, it makes sense to make this request, please share, toward the end of your video.

Compiling Elements

What types of things go into a book trailer. Normally, trailers answer potential readers” questions such as: what’s the book about, what’s the genre, is it any good, plus something about the author. Such things are usually found on the inner flaps of the book or on the back cover. If not, the following template used by producer Nat Mundel to create loglines that land movie and TV deals will help in that regard.

TITLE OF BOOK is a GENRE about NAME OF PROTAGONIST, AGE, ONE OR TWO VIVID WORDS DESCRIBING THE CHARACTER who wants HIS/HER IMMEDIATE GOAL. When THE INCITING INCIDENT happens and ONE MAJOR PLOT POINT, he/she goes on a journey to ACCOMPLISH GOAL and discover/realize/find THEME.

The above template is a great starting point to help you distill your book down to two sentences. It clarifies the genre, offers a mesmerizing shiny object that grabs their attention, and provides enough to leave the reader wanting more, all in a few brief sentences.

A logline is a one or two sentence description of your story that boils down its basic premise in a way that’s concise yet evokes emotion in your reader. It highlights what is most unique about your book. Specifically, the logline provides the author with a way to focus on the three main anchors of their writing.

Who is the protagonist?

What do they want?

What is at stake?

Once you have the logline sketched out, look for some escalation in the book that ups the stakes. It could be a confrontation or complication that takes the story in a different direction. The outcome should be unclear. It could also be the discovery of a new evidence, a red-herring, or a revelation that gives hope to reaching the goal. This section presents an emotional argument for buying the book and sets the hook before the prospect is reeled in. Most importantly, it sets up a question in the viewer’s mind about how this story continues.

The next section is more specific. It could be a brief discussion about the character traits of one of the main characters and how this reflects on the story. This might include character faults, misplace dreams, or foibles of the heart. It answers the question why. It could also be about the location or period of the story and what effect it has on the characters. Another consideration is the social or morale setting and how this affects the direction of the story. This section pulls the viewer deeper into the story, both emotionally and literally, asking the question, “Why did this happen?” It can also facilitate a love-hate polarity that further draws the viewer into your story.

The last section is closing the sale. By using adjectives commonly found in reviews it could imply the benefits of reading your book. It could present some additional arguments such as testimonials, reviews or awards. Being on any best seller list likewise deserves mention here. Acknowledgements for use of photos, videos and music are also shown in the section. You should also make a request to share this video. The most important part of this section is stating prominently where the book can be purchased. Various images of the book should be used in this section to imprint cover art and book’s title.

You will note that each section provides new and revealing information. It pulls the viewer in, creating an investment in different aspects of the book. Primarily, it creates that pressing question, “How does this story continue?” And that’s the bait that hooks your viewer and causes them to buy your book.

While there are other templates, the above format serves fiction books well. It answers the questions book readers ask and provides the information in a straight forward memorable fashion.

Writing your script will be a major task in that it demands a different style of writing, one that is denser and more compressed. Your script should contain both the narration and the card or graphics displayed on the screen. You should know that narration spoken over images is processed easier and quicker than the graphics competing with it. Thus, words on the screen tend to be brief, short phrases or individual words designed to be memorable, imperative and engaging.

Narration, on the other hand, relies on the human voice-to emote, phrase, emphasize and resonate- to develop deeper meanings. Its task is to tell a complicated story briefly and compellingly; or to highlight characters, situations and conflicts. Writing has to quickly and powerfully present the “saleable” qualities of your story, such as the characters and conflict(s) while hinting at likely outcomes. It might also convey the tone, style, and quality of your book.

Narration should use a recognizable vocabulary, figures of speech, and accepted language. Also, avoid long sentences and complex ideas, as the viewer’s attention is split between images, graphics and narration. If there is dialogue that explains a crucial story point, allow the narrator to take on that character and for greater impact, post the dialogue on a white screen.

Avoid wall to wall narration as this will soon dim the viewers’ interest. To take its place and vary the content, mix in moments of sound effects, graphics and/or music. Likewise, consider the use of live video with sound as this will too enliven your presentation. In the closing section, some narration can be used to punctuate key selling points even with same information shown on the screen.

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