Few will deny nowadays that making a book video should be on any author’s must-do list of marketing tools. But other than just juxtaposing a series of images picked from iStock and adding music, how do you make an original book trailer while conveying the story without having thousands or even just hundreds of dollars at your disposal? This was my dilemma and it may be yours whether you are an indie or contracted author. This post aims to show one way of making an original DIY book trailer on a tight budget.
The biggest mistake in taste to my mind would be to try to copy cinematographic techniques using your home video camera or smart phone and your friends as actors. Sure, some people are really talented at this but most authors are all thumbs and two left feet when it comes to mise en scene, lighting and camera positioning. There is one way, though, of making a quality video that is easy to do, doesn’t call for a graphic designer, animator or a video pro, and which won’t put your book to shame. In a word, Prezi.
Prezi is a presentation program based on zooming in and out of a scene, image or set of images. It creates a dynamic, interactive nonlinear way of telling your story while conjuring surprises all the way. To put things into perspective from a financial point of view, the method I am about to relate for Strange Metamorphosis cost, barring the price of the licenses ($59 & $99) which I already had, less than $100 to make. Here’s how I did it.
1) Get to know Prezi
Prezi (http://Prezi.com/) is a presentation program that, unlike PowerPoint, offers a nonlinear approach to presentations by zooming in and out of documents. There are plenty of templates to choose from which you can use to structure your trailer or just get inspiration from. It is very intuitive and there are plenty of tutorials. I had already done one presentation for my job using an existing Prezi template so I already had a good idea of how to go about creating my own template from scratch. It took me about a week to get it to how I wanted it. You can sign up to use Prezi for free or buy the Enjoy license which costs $59,00 USD per year. If you buy the license the Prezi logo will not appear on your video.
2) Brainstorm and layout
Once you have explored the possibilities Prezi has to offer, sit down and think about how you can portray your story using image layers. You see, unlike cinema, which sets images one after the other, you zoom in and out of them. Write out your layout, this will give structure to your thoughts. You can also brainstorm with others via the Prezi platform.
3) Write a short script
Write out your script using as few words as possible to convey the bare essentials. You’ll have to hold back your writer’s impulses here.
4) Research and buy content
Next, you have to find the suitable images and/or video to build the content of your Prezi trailer. I used www.istockphoto.com for the photos and the video clip at the end, but there are many other platforms you can choose from like, fotolia and shutterstock to name but a few.
5) Assemble your images
I used the cover picture of my book as a base in which to zoom in and out to create surprises. Once you have created and perfected your Prezi presentation of your book, it is time to film it. At this stage my Prezi looked like this:
By the way, I’ve made my Strange Metamorphosis template public and reusable so that anyone can use its architecture to build their own trailer from. Here’s the link >> http://prezi.com/dfc4xx2dlyxa/strange-metamorphosis-by-pcr-monk/
6) Film your Prezi
Now you need to do a screencast of your Prezi, which is basically a video of your computer screen. It is important that the zoom in/out effects are smooth, otherwise it will look amateurish. The best program I found in terms of frames per second, i.e fluidity was ScreenFlow. I was lucky enough to already have a license through work but it costs around $99. You can try it out for free but you will need a license in the end. The disadvantage of this program is that it only runs on mac, so I borrowed one to shoot my Prezi and came away with an editable video file (mp4) of it. At the risk of trying to teach your granny to suck eggs, don’t forget to shoot the Prezi in full screen mode. And by the way, the cursor will disappear when placed somewhere at the bottom, I’ll let you find out where for yourself (without having the mac in front of me I can’t remember exactly where).
7) Add sound
Now that you have your silent Prezi in video form you can add sound using a video editing program. I used KdenLive (for mac and Linux) because it is free and enables you to use multiple sound tracks. I used the royalty free platform www.audiomicro.com to research and buy the sounds I needed. I made up the simple music line on my piano (and left the metronome ticking), but you can also buy that too from a royalty free music platform. I was tempted to add a voice but mine sounds awful, so I didn’t.
8) Render and publish
Once you have added the sound tracks you can render the whole thing, video and sound, into a video format such as mpeg to publish it on the various platforms (amazon, youtube, goodreads etc.). To recap, here are the ingredients I used again:
- iStock for photos and video,
- audiomicro for sounds,
- I used a Mac, which I borrowed, and a PC.
This is how my DIY book trailer looked once finished:
Remember you will have to spend some time getting used to the programs but they are intuitive and the cost is minimal. From scratching out the first layout idea to uploading the finished trailer it took me about 10 days which includes at least 2 days finding the right images and sounds. The whole thing cost under $100 and that includes buying the images (about $14), the video ($56) and the sound effects ($19). I have not included the licenses in this price as I already had them through my work. So you would have to add an extra $99 for ScreenFlow and $59 if you decided to purchase a Prezi pack instead of using the free version. That said, for your next trailer not only will you be better and quicker, you will not have these licenses to pay.
Drop me a line if you have made your own trailer on a tight budget, I’d love to hear how you did it.
Extra tag: how to make a book trailer