Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Trailer Gaffes and Greats

Copyright © 2013 Kim McDougall
Originally published by 1st Turning Point

It’s better to have no book video preview than to have a bad one. There I said it. Coming from someone who makes trailers for a living, that might sound like sacrilege. But I see so many trailers that are nothing more than static slideshows—image after image that mean nothing to someone who hasn’t read the book. Like a jacket blurb, a trailer needs to stand out from the crowd. It needs to hook a reader, demand that the book be taken off the virtual shelf.  After making two hundred plus trailers and reviewing them for others, I’ve picked up a few tips to help authors create good trailers, or evaluate existing trailers with a critical eye. 
Rather than pick on someone else’s preview to show what not to do, I remade one of my own with many of the mistakes I see too often. Below are two videos for my story “Barbegazi.” You may think that the mistakes in the first trailer are exaggerated, but I assure you, I’ve seen these gaffes in many trailers. Test yourself to see how many differences you can find between the two. If you’d like to play along, list your observations in the comments. Use the list of Trailer Do’s and Don’ts to help you.
Barbegazi “Don’t” Trailer

Barbegazi “Do” Trailer

Trailer Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t use quirky, hard to read fonts. Outlining text can often make it easier to read. Choose font colors and size to stand out from the screen images.
Do be consistent with font style. Choose one and stick to it. Exceptions to this rule would be changing the font color to better suit an image or font style for dramatic or humorous effect.
If adding an effect (like brush strokes or sepia) to your images, do be consistent and make them easy to see. Often I see altered images that are barely recognizable.
Do consider transitions carefully. No transitions between images can make a video feel stilted. Too many fancy transitions can seem amateurish.
Text and Voice Over
Do leave text on screen long enough to be read aloud.
Don’t tell the whole story. A trailer is a hook, not a movie. Trailers should show mood, character, genre and basic plot. No spoilers!
Don’t be overly wordy. Think in headline format for text.
Don’t put text lines over black screens unless for dramatic or humorous effect. Putting the text directly over the images adds drama and saves time.
Do be consistent with punctuation. Some trailers use text like headlines with no punctuation. Some use punctuation. Either style is fine, but be consistent. 
When using voice-over, do sound professional and eliminate background noise. Click here for some tips on getting good quality sound at home. Click On Screen Text or Voice-over? for an article about getting the best sound quality from a home recording.
Don’t cover faces or main objects with text. Try to keep text off to the side or in a spot that doesn’t detract from the visual appeal.
Do choose dramatic pictures that will show up well on a small screen. 
Do use the images to enhance the text. For instance, a generic text line like “Danger stalked her” can be enhanced with an image of a kidnapping, a war zone or a plague. In this way, very different plots can be hinted at while keeping text lines short.
Do add movement to your photos through zooms and pans.
Do think about adding live video clips, even if it’s just animated text. Live video takes a trailer from a slide-show to a movie. One clip can often be cut into pieces and used throughout the trailer for better effect at lower cost.
Don’t leave black space behind your images. Use the whole screen. This includes cover images. Add a background texture behind your cover for visual appeal.
When choosing photos, don’t use different models for the same character. This is just plain confusing to the viewer. Many stock photo sites offer the option to see other pictures of the same model.
Do use only royalty free music and images. Here is an article, A Few Cautionary Words about Royalty-free, that list some limitations of royalty-free media as well a offers a partial list of royalty-free media sites.
Music and Sound Effects
Do choose music that suits the story, is not irritating and allows for sound effects or voice-over if necessary. 
Do fade music at the end. Music that cuts off abruptly is jarring.
Do use the beat of the music to add dramatic emphasis to the photos. This often happens naturally, but you may need to tweak the placement and length of images to take advantage of the music’s beat.
Don’t use music with lyrics along with on-screen text. It can be difficult for the viewer to concentrate on both. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. If the music lyrics are quiet or generic enough that the viewer can tune them out, then it may work.
Do show your cover at least twice. I prefer to begin with the cover (if it doesn’t detract from the drama) and then show it again before the credits. Finally, I end with the cover (or logo) because this is the image that will stay on the screen.
Do include the author website and buy links in the credits. Don’t miss out on this valuable marketing real estate.
Do post your trailer on your website and as many video sharing sites as you can.
Don’t send viewers to a dead end link to view your trailer. Most video sharing sites have no way to link to the buying site for your book. When inviting viewers to watch your trailer, send them to your website or a book site that includes buy links.
Do target your audience. Children’s books need to target both adults (the buyers) and children (the readers). Romance novels may want to include images that appeal more to women, while WWII mysteries might benefit from images that appeal to men. Know your audience and target the trailer accordingly.
Don’t make the trailer longer than two minutes. Sixty to ninety seconds is best.
For children’s books, do include the reading age.
Don’t regurgitate the book jacket blurb. Often times, the trailer will work in conjunction with the blurb. Give the viewer a reason to watch the trailer.
Do try to think out of the box. Book video previews are the hot new marketing tool in a multimedia world. How will yours standout from the thousands of slideshows out there?

I love hearing from you! Let me know what your worst trailer gaffes or best trailer greats have been! And don't forget to enter our contest to win a complete book promo package at

Kim McDougall is an author, fiber artist and photographer. Kim writes between the cracks of fiction genres, mixing literary, romantic and fantasy elements for a new brand of storytelling: Between the Cracks Fiction
In 2007, Kim McDougall had her first book published and began the arduous journey of marketing her novel. This was the beginning of era of ebooks. Amazon was getting ready to launch the first Kindle. The world was becoming a multi-media social network jungle. Kim immersed herself in the publishing industry and discovered the newest marketing tool: book trailers. She created her first trailer for her young adult novel, The Stone Beach. Having been a photographer all her life, she had a flare for the creation of these visually stimulating videos that promoted books. Soon, other authors started asking her to produce trailers for their books and McDougall Previews was born. Since then, she has created over 400 unique videos to promote books of all genres. Under the business, Castelane, Inc., Kim has joined forces with her husband, Louis Chatel, former Sales and Marketing Director of Olympus Imaging America, to create an all-in-one shopping experience for both the authors looking to market a book and for readers looking for their next great read. 
The Golden Hour, a novella by Kim McDougall. This is not a romance. This is not the story of boy meets girl, boy wins girl.  The Golden Hour goes beyond erotica and romance. Instead, it is an exploration of how sex defines us, particularly in those first years of sexual burgeoning when it is intoxicating and empowering. Sarah’s life has been defined by the men in it. Now she must learn to define herself or forever live in the past. The Golden Hour is a story of the greatest love of all.
Malek and Sarah have a passionate and destructive relationship. When fate and stubborn pride separates them for good, they promise to meet twenty years later in that exact hour at their favorite restaurant in Nice.  At age 42, Sarah waits at the little cafe for her first love to appear in the falling afternoon light. Will Malek be the same mysterious man he was? Will he still want her? Will he even come? Her imagination is overwhelming as she remembers their dark and fiery past, and dreads the secret she must finally reveal.  
Heat Warning: For mature readers only. Contains explicit heterosexual encounters. The Golden Hour is a novella, approximately106 print pages. This version is the second edition. 

No comments:

Post a Comment