Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Business of Writing: Do Your Homework! (DIY Book Trailers part 1) via @nancyjcohen

So you're a brand-new author with a brand-new book that just begs to have a brand-new trailer shouting its brand-new virtues... but your budget for such promotional items is best described as "shoestring"—of the baby booties rather than combat boots variety?

No problem; you can create your own!

Rather than reinventing the wheel, I have received permission from author Nancy J. Cohen to re-blog her wonderful article that was first published 8/10/2015.

In fact it contains such a tremendous wealth of information that I'm going to break it up over two weeks, with next week's installment covering the actual how-to aspect.

Nancy writes:

Would you like to create your own book trailer in Windows Live Movie Maker? If so, be prepared to spend time on a learning curve. The first effort is the hardest, but then you’ll know what to do for subsequent titles. Just follow these steps that apply to Windows 7, and you’re on your way. Go Here to download Windows Essentials 2012 for free. It works with Windows 7 or Windows 8. Or check your list of Programs to see if it’s already installed on your computer.

View the Book Trailer for Peril by Ponytail:

Various companies will do trailers for you on the cheap, but their work is similar to what you can do with a slide show. I’d rather pick out the photos and music that best suits my story. If you’re a big moneymaker, a bestselling author, or perhaps a thriller writer whose work demands a broader canvas, then you can go for moving videos, productions using real actors, or voiceovers. [Note: the above embedded trailer for Liberty by Kim Iverson Headlee is a professionally produced trailer that sets a very high bar for DIY-ers. :) ~kih] But if you’re an average writer who wants to give your readers a taste of the story without making a big splash, this will work for you.

Do Your Homework and Watch Book Videos
  • Go to author sites on YouTube and find trailers for books in the same genre as your work.
  • Write down the text on each slide and note the type of image accompanying it.
  • Listen to the music. How does it make you feel? Does it create a certain mood?
  • Does the story move quickly while giving you an idea of the plot and main characters?
  • How long is the trailer? Is it too long? Or too short?
  • What do the credits say at the end?

Write Your Text

Now write your own text in verses to fit on each slide. Remain brief, offering your story points in as few words as possible. The text should give the reader an idea of what your story is about, the tone of your work, and an introduction to your main characters. Ask your critique partners for input. You’ll need other critical eyes to help you hone down your plot to a few sentences with punch. It’s not an easy task.

Remember the adage: Short and Simple. Try to keep your video under 2 minutes.

At the end: Add your book cover and publishing info, where readers can buy your book, music and photo credits, and review quotes if desired.

[Note: The best promo materials have a way to capture sales, so add to your book's slide a QR code for your book (you know, that funny little square not-a-barcode thingy), perhaps directing customers to the Kindle edition if that is where you log most of your sales. QR code readers can capture the code straight off a computer screen. My favorite web site for generating free QR codes is QR Stuff. ~kih]

Search For Images One medium-sized image at 72 dpi for Web usage is approximately 824 x 581 px and costs 2 credits. You can buy 40 credits for $38. Music is available here too. Make sure you read the fine print on the licensing terms. If you want to use an image as a book cover, you may need an extended license. [Note: And "Editorial license" is only for web and newspaper use, never for book covers. It can be as much as a 4-figure (i.e, >$1,000) mistake to make. ~kih] Small-sized images are 900 x 743 px and are 1 credit each. You can buy 10 credits for $35 or 25 credits for $49.

If you see a photo you like, look at the description and put that same wording into the search box. Similar photos will pop up. Or go to the photo you like and click on the Related Images displayed. Figure out how many credits you’ll need per photo and what the packages cost. Also check the licensing terms to be sure they meet your needs.

Here are more photo sites. Some of them also have music available. This one is pricey with 1 credit for $12; 6 credits for $60. (30 credits for $32) (For Blog Posts)

Whichever site you choose, register for an account so that you have a Lightbox, or a Likebox as it’s sometimes called.

[Note: If you find a site that has images that you like but you're not ready to pay, sign up for their customer email so you can get notices on special sales! In that way I was able to download 5 high-quality, standard-licensed images for a nickel via Dreamstime last year, and you can see them on the covers for The Color of Vengeance, The Challenge, and a forthcoming release titled Twins. :) ~kih]

In the site’s Search feature, put in keywords for the type of picture you want (i.e. romantic couple, beautiful redhead, businessman, airplane over island). Scroll down until a photo catches your fancy. Click to add it to your Lightbox (at 123rf, you click the little heart). You can search this way for Photos, Video Clips, and Music.

Match an image in your collection to each verse in your text. Then purchase enough credits to buy the ones you want. Click on the image and then on Download. Save it to your computer.

Whichever site you use, check the licensing requirements before you make your purchase. As mentioned above, some may require an extended license to use the image as a book cover, in a collection such as on a Pinterest board, on a coffee mug you offer for sale, and so on.

Search For Video (Optional)

Live action can add spice to a video but it also takes up time and increases the size of your file. Many of the sites listed above will have royalty-free video clips, but here are some more.

Search For Music

Searching for the right music can be a time-consuming task. Decide upon the tone of your video and put keywords into the search feature on these sites. Is your story dark and scary? Light and funny? Upbeat and bouncy? Intense and mysterious? The music is important because it elicits an emotional response in your viewers.

Check the length of the music clip against the length of your trailer, and make sure it’s long enough. You can repeat the music if necessary to extend its length on your video, but there might be a slight gap where the first one ends and the clip restarts. $39.95 per track; Pay once, use forever. My Favorite.

[Note: The word "free" in most if not all of the above sites does not refer to $0 cost but "royalty-free"—as in, you pay one upfront licensing fee, which entitles you to forever usage of the image, music, or video clip. I do encourage you to read the fine print about licensing requirements so that you don't end up getting slapped with, oh, a $1,200.00 bill for improper use. That happened to a client of my book layout designer's, and the site in question was GettyImages. Proceed with care, and good luck! ~kih]

Next week on The Maze: You've done your homework, written your script, selected & paid for your music and images... now what??


All this month, you are invited to...
— Follow Kim on Twitter
— Follow Kim on Pinterest
— Subscribe to Kim's YouTube channel
— Leave a comment on any page of The Maze, especially if you have done the Twitter, Pinterest, and/or YouTube follow
...and each action this month is good for one chance to win a copy of any of Kim's e-books. Please enter often, and good luck!


  1. Kim ~ Just wanted to let you know that I stopped by your as we are both signed up to review Pan for Carol on My Family's Heart and for obvious reasons, I was immediately drawn to Liberty. I am also an author in the making so I love to learn from other authors and avidly read this post. Thank you so much for sharing both your and Nancy's wisdom. In the process of watching your Liberty Trailer, I became fascinated with the story and could not wait to get a hold of it to read. Having the eBook only priced at 99 cents was a pleasant surprise I'll try to sneak it into my reading this month, although I am swamped between a writing class and rounding up weekly Christmas books to review between 9/25 and the end of the year. I will let you know when I read and review Liberty though, okay? I'm so excited!!

    1. Oh my heavens, thank you so much, Liberty! I do hope you enjoy LIBERTY and all the other books you're reading. :)

      Good luck in the Christmas-book hunt for your blog, too. Other sites where I sign up for tours as well as schedule my own include Goddess Fish (currently advertising at least one Christmas book, The Christmas Cradle) and Magic of Books. Both of these companies, as well as My Family's Heart have open tours for my various books, too, including one for LIBERTY and 2 other unrelated novels!

      Thanks again and have a lovely day & Labor Day weekend! :)


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