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How to Make a Book Trailer: 6 Tips

1. Erase from your mind the ambition to make a movie trailer. The result will inevitably look amateurish (even if you enlist the help of your nephew who majored in film). You have to aim for an attainable aesthetic. The nature of this aesthetic will depend on your book, your audience, and the skill set you (or those assisting you) have to draw upon, but articulating it clearly to yourself is the most important first step.

1. Erase from your mind the ambition to make a movie trailer. The result will inevitably look amateurish (even if you enlist the help of your nephew who majored in film). You have to aim for an attainable aesthetic. The nature of this aesthetic will depend on your book, your audience, and the skill set you (or those assisting you) have to draw upon, but articulating it clearly to yourself is the most important first step.

What does a trailer look like? See 2 examples of book trailers here:

  1. Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green
  2. And Yet They Were Happy

Guest column by author Helen Phillips and Adam Douglas Thompson.
Helen is the author of HERE WHERE THE SUNBEAMS ARE GREEN
(Delacorte, Nov. 2012), a middle grade for ages 10 and up. Adam
has exhibited his work at Regina Rex Gallery, Sara Meltzer Gallery/Projects,
and Studio 10 Gallery, among other venues. In 2010, a book of 100 of
Thompson's drawings was published by Regency Arts Press, Ltd. His
work has appeared in The Believer Magazine and other publications.
Thompson lives in Brooklyn with his wife, writer Helen Phillips.
(See the book trailers to both of Helen's books above!)

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2. It is better for your book trailer to be super simple and beautiful than lavish and cheesy. The more visual, auditory, and verbal elements you incorporate, the greater the likelihood that your trailer will be a mess. Your book may be a novel, but your trailer should be a poem.

3. Labor over the script. Don't just use the jacket copy. We digest text very differently when we are watching a video than when we are browsing at a bookstore. The script has to be ultra-pared down, ultra-clear, and very thoughtfully aligned with the imagery.

4. Don't assume that you need to summarize the plot. It may be appropriate (again, depending on the particular book and particular target audience) to summarize the plot, but consider a more impressionistic approach that strongly communicates the aesthetic of the book while only hinting at elements of the plot.

(What are overused openings in fantasy, sci-fi, romance and crime novels?)

5. Depicting your characters using amateur/non-actors can lead to trouble. You don't want the nuanced psychology of your protagonist rendered banal by poor acting and filming. Using actors can also crowd out room for the imagination (illustrated images are less likely to cause this problem). If you use photographic/video-graphic images, either have them not show people, or not show the actual characters, or at least not show the actual characters' faces in a clear way.

6. Have your book cover, blurbs, and publication information appear at the end of the trailer, not sprinkled throughout it. Have the meat of your trailer be an evocation of the book itself, separate from the explicitly promotional content.

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