Tag Archives: marketing

How to Make a Book Trailer

As promised, here’s my post on how to make a book trailer!  I hope you’ve had a chance to view my Lords of Askalon trailer on the SisterMuses YouTube channel, but if not, here it is again…

So, now that you’ve finished watching it, I’ll explain how I put this trailer together so you can make one for your own project.  It was so much fun to do – and if you hit a writing roadblock or mental wall, doing something that uses a different part of the creative brain can be very helpful!

I followed just eight simple steps to put this together.  And be aware that steps 2-4 may happen in a different order than that in which I present them here – I just set things out this way for clarity.  But we all know that a creative endeavor is very rarely a linear process!

1. Fire up your movie making software.

I used Windows Live Movie Maker.  If you have a Mac, just use the equivalent movie producing software.

You’ll notice that you have a lot of different options – different fades or animations, different visual effects, adjusting the time allotted for each frame, etc.  Take a few moments to orient yourself to the software if you’ve never used it before.  We’ll come back to these in a later step, once you actually have content.

2. Decide on the feel (mood) you want for your trailer.

There are a couple of factors to consider in this step:

  • the mood of your story: tragic, heroic, contemplative, etc.
  • the angle of your pitch to your audience (what do you want to highlight about your story?)

Why is this step critical?  You have to identify the mood to be able to choose the right…you guessed it…mood music.  And mood images, for that matter.  So really do take some time to think about this.  In my case, Lords of Askalon is a high-action novel, but there is a significant contemplative thread woven into the story.  I really wanted to emphasize both of these, and that helped me to choose the right music.

3. Consider how to present your novel in images.

Now that you’ve decided on a mood for your trailer, you can start thinking about the visuals.  Consider your story in terms of its high points.  Try to identify the most significant plot points, twists, or turning points.   Consider also the key moments for your main character.  I suggest using the third approach, because a good story will be both plot and character driven.

For a two-minute trailer, 10 images is really the maximum you can include and still give each image justice.  You could certainly do fewer than 10, with more time spent on each frame.  So now that you have a general idea what plot or character points you want to use to convey your story, start searching for some images.

I used Foter for my image search.  Foter is a huge collection of free, royalty-free stock images.  These images are licensed under the Creative Commons license and you can download as many as you like.  Let me just offer a few words of advice:

  • DO look at the permissions given for each image.  There are different levels of licenses under the Creative Commons umbrella.  The most liberal of these is the attribution-only license (indicated by the letters CC-BY).  All that’s required here is that you acknowledge the artist – I do this in a credits page at the end of the trailer.
  • It’s probably safest to look for images that offer a commercial license.  There’s not a great deal of explanation on what constitutes commercial and non-commercial usage.  You could probably make the case that you’re not charging for the book trailer, so that’s non-commerical use, but you are promoting something you hope people will buy…so…to be prudent, you might just want to go with images that have commercial permissions.

You can also look at Flickr for Creative Commons images and browse by license type if you want, but Foter brings together Creative Commons images from a number of sources, including Flickr.

Look for high-impact, high quality images that convey both the mood and the moments of your story.  And sometimes you have to do a lot of searching to find the right images!  This step can take some time, so be patient.

4. Add your text.

This shouldn’t be too hard to do once you find your images.  And it is a fantastic exercise in high-impact language.  I tried to use powerful, mood-based words (i.e., “crouches”) as I presented the story.  You don’t need to get into insane detail – in fact, that’s really impossible.  Remember, you want to give your reader a glimpse of the story on the levels of mood and plot.  Tweak, tweak, and tweak some more until you get just the right flavor!

5. Add your music.

Finding free music is much trickier than finding free images.  You can find stock music in many different places, but if you want to make a trailer for free, your options are limited.  I found my track at Royalty Free Kings.  They had several tracks available for free – most of them pared down slightly from the full version.  They have a lot of music available for purchase as well.

Moby (yes, the band) has a free music section of their website for music that they wrote for film.  You just need to sign up and then you can browse and download what you like for your project.

You can Google “royalty free music” for some other options as well.  Freestockmusic.com has some free cinematic music, for instance.  AudioMicro also offers film music, but I didn’t find anything free when I hopped over to check it out quickly just now.

6. Play around with the effects.

Now that you have your pictures, text, and music, you can play around with the different tools and effects to finalize your project.  Make sure you have your credits pages (photos and music) and a link to your website at the end so people can navigate to find your work!

7. Beta test your trailer!

Try to have a few kind friends view your trailer and give you feedback before you offer it for general consumption.  I subjected my husband and my kids to my trailer (more times than they’d like to count, actually), and made J. Leigh and our mom watch it too!  They all gave me valuable feedback.  When you beta test, ask your viewers if

  • it made a strong impression on them
  • they enjoyed it
  • it made them want to read your book
  • if there is anything they would change to improve points 1-3

Tweak your trailer if necessary.

8. Publish!

You’re ready to post your video!  Set up a YouTube channel for yourself, post it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your website/blog, Pinterest, reading boards like Goodreads and Shelfari…everywhere you have an online presence!

That’s it, folks!  I hope you have as much fun putting your trailers together as I did!  And please come back and post a link to your trailer in the comments section so we can all see what you’ve put together!

Happy directing!!!



If you read most author blogs, there’s one theme in common across the board: successful writers are the ones who stick with it, no matter how tough or discouraging things get.  We all laugh in amazement when we hear how many rejections Author X received before publishing The Blockbuster of the Century or how many years Author Y toiled over the manuscript of A Great Literary Work.  Wow, we think to ourselves. That’s perseverance for you!


Word-wielding is a writer’s chief skill; perseverance is his chief virtue.  It’s so tempting to pitch the keyboard through the window when the plot tangles itself in knots, when your ninety-ninth rejection comes to your inbox, or when your words seem to disappear into The Void.  Writing does have its seasons.  And for some of us, spring will be a long time coming.  That doesn’t mean we should give up.  In fact, if you were born a writer, you won’t be able to give up.   Writing is in your blood, and no matter how cold a reception the world gives your work, the words keep coming anyway.

But let’s face it.  We do tend to measure success by book sales.  And when a big fat goose egg greets you every time you check your sales report for the month, it can get mighty discouraging.  How do you offer yourself encouragement?  Better yet, how do you strive harder to achieve success (measured in units sold)?

This is a quandary that I am currently working through myself.  After the initial wave of euphoria that came with seeing my novel in print, things settled into a rhythm of…nothingness.  Goose eggs as far as the eye can reach.  Frustration replaced euphoria.  And I turned my back upon my little book and said, “Do whatever you will.  But don’t expect me to help.”

Well, clearly, that wasn’t the right response either.  So I’m back on the upswing now, ready to lend a hand to my floundering brainchild.  I got on the phone to set up a few book signings.  I started looking for book fair venues to offer my book to the public.  I offered an alluring discount on my ebook.

If you’re in the same situation, take a few minutes to consider some things:

  1. What’s your target audience?
  2. What’s the best way to engage your target audience?
  3. What’s the most efficient use of your resources (time and money) in engaging your audience?  Where will your time and/or dollars spent go the farthest and reap the most return?
  4. What is your goal?  1000 copies sold?  10,000 copies? A million?  Get a number in your head.  When I worked in direct sales, we talked a lot about goal-setting.  Make a poster or a screen-saver that reminds you of your vision for success.  You may not get all the way to your goal, but you’ll get a lot farther than if you had no goals at all.  Selling 700 copies is a heck of a lot better than selling 10.  Right?
  5. Don’t sell yourself short.  Believe you can reach the goal you set for yourself.  Get out of your own way!

There are a million and one quippy sayings for this, all to the effect of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  Don’t let frustration get you down.  Figure out where you want to go, and find a way to get there.

It’s all you.

The Essential Checklist for the Self-Published Author

It’s an unfortunate thing that there’s a stigma associated with self-publishing.  I don’t think most people look at a self-employed plumber and say, with a shake of their heads, “Gosh.  I guess he must not be good enough to cut it at a big plumbing company.”  Most of us, I think, are happy to support these brave, self-employed souls and others like them because a) they give you great service/products, b) they give you great value, and c) they’re living the American dream, man!!!!

Okay.  So what about self-published authors?

We’re definitely living the American dream.


Great quality products?  Not so much, sometimes.

Great value?  Well, if you’ve just shelled out $14.95 for a book riddled with typos and grammar that would make a seven-year-old schoolboy blush, that’s not value.  Not even remotely.

If you are an author and are ready to take full control of your writing career by taking the self-publishing plunge, do us all a favor — your fellow authors and readers alike — and make sure you work through the following list before you bless the world with your work.

Run spellcheck.   (No, this is not a joke.) 

I recently had the privilege of judging for a self-published writer’s contest, and I was absolutely stunned by what I saw.  Not only had some of these authors shelled out for the entry fee, but they actually have their work out there.  In the marketplace.  Circulating in the sea of commerce…or at least floating with the aid of buoys.  Please, for the love of all that is holy, run spellcheck on your book before you waste your time and money and your readers’ time and money.

Get an editor.  (This isn’t a joke either.) 

If you are well-versed in things grammatical and know your stuff, at least get a friend to beta-read for you.  It’s really invaluable.  You just can’t catch every inconsistency or flub.  A literary (or at least literate) friend with a fresh pair of eyes will help you spot them.

If you aren’t well-versed in comma usage, or the use of capital letters, or when to use an exclamation point, then please (please) hire a professional editor to help you.  I promise, it’s worth it.  If you care about what you’re putting out there with your name on it, it’s worth it to make sure your product is top notch.

Editors can help you with content as well.  Make sure you have someone who will tell you if your characters are flat, your plot redundant or boring, or your universe stale.  Take your book to a critique group and ask them to help you improve your story.  Be humble and accept criticism.  It will make you a better writer and help you produce a better product for your customers (your readers).

Writing is a craft.  It takes work.  It takes practice.  It requires study.  Anyone can type words on paper; not everyone can write.  If you want to be a writer, take some classes, belong to a writer’s group (even if it’s an online one), attend writers’ conferences, or just make a point to study your craft!  Take your work seriously and readers will take you seriously.

Double-check your formatting (interior and exterior).

Make good use of your proof copy.  Give it an honest read.  Look for stuff like funky spacing, blank pages, or floating chapter glyphs that appear mysteriously in the middle of your text.  Looking at the page — whether it’s on an e-reader or in hard copy — is part of the experience of reading.  Give your reader text that’s easy on the eyes, and they will love you for it.

Similarly, have a cover that conveys your story.  Covers sell books, so be sure you give yours the attention it deserves.

Have a marketing plan.

This would be necessary even if you scored a book contract from a publisher.  You need to know how to get your book into the hands of your readers.  Start contemplating venues for book signings early on in the process.  Start tweeting.  Get a Facebook page.  Work on building a fan base.  Think outside the box.  Be creative!

Marketing, for many authors, is like Edward Rochester’s crazy first wife, locked away and never looked at or let out if it can be helped.  Face the monster.  It’s just part of the writing process.

What’s that?

Oh, I see.

You thought writing was an easy career.  Effortless, as it were.

It’s not.  It’s a lot of work.  Beautifully rewarding work…but work.

Spellcheck and proofread your book.

Yes, I said that already.  It’s that important.

Self-publishing and the ebook revolution are changing the face of publishing as we know it.  Let’s follow the example of the savvy self-employed craftsman: put out a good quality product, make it a good value, and chase down that American dream!

The decision to self-publish

Well, today is the official release date of my book, Down a Lost Road.  As of this moment, it is undergoing the publishing process at Kindle, and is in queue at Smashwords…and the proof copy of my paperback is on its way to me.  So, all that being the case, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to talk about self-publishing.

Now, I know there are writers and laymen out there who probably hear the phrases “self-publish” or “indie author” and crinkle their noses up in disgust.  How do I know that?  My nose has a line across the bridge from all the crinkling it used to do at the very same phrases.  I was a very pompous stickler for the “real” publishing process.  And my thoughts on those who stoop to self-publish ran along these lines:

Self-publishing is cheating.  Obviously no self-published book could ever withstand the scrutiny of a real professional.  Obviously every self-published book failed to gain attention in the “real” publishing world because they are all #@$!.  Obviously the author was lazy.  Or they aren’t “serious” writers.  Self-publishing is for losers.

So…why the change of heart?

Continue reading