I create commercials for a living, and I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a blog series on what works and what doesn’t in terms of book trailers, plus maybe offering some tutorials on simple text animations or tutorials on cool effects. Would people be interested in that? And if so, what programs do you have access to? I use After Effects in my day job, but I don’t know how many people know how to use that. Do most people have Photoshop? I could probably even teach how to do text effects using frame by fame hand animation so you can just drop it into any video editing program. This would take a while to put together, but if there’s interest, I’ll try to get the first lesson up late next week (since I’ll be away from the computer for the majority of this week). For example, i could teach you how to make an animated glow across your text very easily. Or I can teach you how to take a still photo and make it look like it’s in 3D space as the camera pans across it. (Very trendy in commercials right now, and easy to accomplish). Also, one more important question, do you know what LAYERS are in photoshop?
That being said, I thought I’d share some thoughts about successful book trailers and why most I see miss the point of advertising in this medium. I don’t have time to really research this today because I’m in a huge rush to get to that NYC Teen Lit Festival. But I plan on posting examples of some successful book trailers later in the week. (I won’t post unsuccessful ones, I’m sure you understand why).
The biggest problem I see with book trailers is they are too long and they don’t quite understand the purpose. It’s essentially an advertisement. Most of the commercials I work on are either 30 seconds or 15 seconds. A LOT of stuff is crammed into that small space of time. They are not just slide shows or screen flips of static text tag-lines. One second is equal to 30 frames. A blink of the eye takes approximately 5 frames. That’s 1/6 of a second. Think about how quick that goes by! End tags, i.e. the part at the end of the commercial where the logo sits on screen with a tagline, is by industry standard, usually only 3 seconds. It’s also never static. Something on screen is ALWAYS moving, whether it’s the background or a simple glow sweeping across the text. I’ve seen a lot of book trailers that let static text sit on screen for more than 10 seconds. Your viewer will get bored.
Commercials try to entertain the viewer, because otherwise the viewer would fast forward or flip channels. I think book trailers need to operate under the same principle. Think about it, the Internet conditions us to have short attention spans. We get annoyed if it takes more than a few seconds for a page to load or if it takes more than 3 clicks to navigate to the webpage we’re seeking. Since book trailers use the Internet as their medium of delivery, I think it’s important to play by the rules set by high-speed internet connections. Don’t give us a chance for our attention to wander, we may just find another page to surf.
It’s like the opening pages of your book. When you’re querying/on submission, you want to hook the agent/editor from the first sentence of your sample pages and not let them go, right? Don’t give them a chance to get bored. Book trailers need to operate under the same principal.
The point of a book trailer, to me, should be to get people talking. If someone already knows who you are and visits your website, they most likely already know about your book. So they are not your target audience for the trailer. The trailer’s purpose should be to hook other viewers and spark some word of mouth buzz going. It’s an advertisement. Think about the Superbowl and how talked about those commercials are. I think that’s what you want for a book trailer.
If I ever sell my book, I would create a book trailer of about no more than 15 seconds. I would also try to give it some kind of "hook" like a book pitch that gets people talking. Whether that hook is in the cool animation or some interesting tagline, I’m not sure yet.
The ones that are a minute long are not successful to me unless they manage to keep the viewer enthralled that entire time. Which is a very rare feat to achieve. I’ve seen book trailers that let text sit on the screen for ten seconds before it flips to a new page or the cuts between the slide show images are too slow. There are cool things you can do to liven up static images. I can teach tutorials on how to simply achieve some very advanced techniques that will fool your viewer.
Basically, it’s all about pace. YA readers like fast-paced stories. I think a trailer should be the same way.
I’ll expand on this post with examples later, but I’m curious, what book trailers do you think are successful? Have you ever bought a book based solely on a trailer? (I realize this may be a hard answer because most likely a writer in the industry already knows about said book through other social networking means). Have you ever got bored of a trailer and stopped watching part way through? What kinds of trailers do you like, the ones that are slide shows with some