Yesterday I posted the final version of my Private Property book trailer – if you haven’t seen it already, I’ve reposted it at the bottom of this post, or you can go to yesterday’s post to view it.

Technically there’s no empirical evidence that says viewing a book trailer will lead to a sale of that book. But I figured it’s another way to get my name seen, and from what I’ve been told, name recognition is key to increased sales.

I started writing this post comparing the different software I’ve used, right down to a chart of ‘advantages/disadvantages’ but frankly I think I’ll turn that into an article as it’ll just be too much for here. As I mentioned yesterday there are a variety of packages out there you can use. The most available, for those of you who use PCs is Windows Moviemaker which comes as part of XP and Vista. There’s also another freebie Microsoft product called PhotoStory which is basically just MovieMaker with a couple of cosmetic changes. Or you can try various programs Gizmo Guy uses when he’s transferring out home videos onto DVD – Roxio is his favorite. Or if you’re a wiz with flash, you can make them as flash programs then convert them to AVI files (which is how I made the final product that I posted yesterday.) Mac users might try using iMovie – although I have two Macs I’ve not actually tried using the software yet, although I have looked at it. That’s for another day, and frankly I’ve got other video software (the millionaire granddaddy program of the professionals, Final Cut Pro) that’ll work better.

Warning: These next two steps are HUGE HUGE HUGE time sucks. Before you do anything, you need to storyboard your trailer. You need to do this to determine what type of photos and music to use that are representative of your story. Ideally, you shouldn’t make a trailer longer than a minute and a half to two minutes long. Your viewers’ attention span wanders after that. Then, and here’s the time suck part, you have to go find those photos and soundtrack. And since it’s technically an advertisement for a commercial product, you need to make sure you don’t steal someone’s copyrighted photo or song no matter how perfect it would be. Otherwise you may find yourself with a cease-and-desist letter from the lawyer representing the copyright holder. (I use to find stock photos and purchase them. The cost is based upon ‘credits’ and some photos take more credits than others to download. Another bonus about Dreamstime over somewhere like iStock is Dreamstime has a ‘free’ download section – the pictures I used in the First Night trailer were all freebie downloads or ones I already owned. Also check out the Creative Commons License section over on Flickr, but don’t forget to read the fine print to make sure you credit the photos properly or again … another lawyer’s letter may be in your post box.)

Music was harder to find because of the time investment in surfing to find the sites and listening to the songs to find that ‘perfect’ sound. Another minus in this category is that music generally cost a lot more than the $1 or $2 the photos cost. Most of the sites I found charged anywhere from $20 to $300+ per song. However, anyone who has viewed videos on YouTube, or if you’d noticed the credits on my piece, may have seen the name Kevin McLeod. Kevin, God bless him, has a site called where you can download his royalty-free music without charge; he only asks that you donate $5 via credit card or paypal to help him defray the costs. His songs are professional quality, as evidenced by both yesterday’s video and today’s, no cheap midi sound here. (Yes, I donated to Kevin, and I’m now thinking I didn’t donate enough for the product he’s providing to impoverished writers like us.)

Then you can finally dive into the actual creation of your project on your chosen software.

Another WARNING: According to my sons who are both trained – in high school and college in various media programs, and my own experience, video software is inherently unstable. SAVE your work. Often. And not with the same name, use version numbers. I had the unfortunate experience of discovering this the hard way when a project I’d spent quite a few hours on was lost when the program crashed my system. (I can’t remember which program it was at the moment, but I THINK it was Roxio.) I thought I was safe because I’d saved it right before the dreaded event. Uh uh. Because I’d given it the same name, for some unexplainable reason, the crash destroyed the file and all was lost. Ever since then, I’ve named them things like PP_V1.01. (I use the .01 because I haven’t yet created a video I was satisfied with in less than two digits and the .01 allows the file list to show properly when you come to .11 or .19.

Below is the very first version I did using MovieMaker … This was made before I had my cover, and uses the original tag line of ‘No trespassing, unless you know the password-No boundaries.” Now it’s “There’s nothing casual about this caper.”

Take a look at the text and how it’s hard to read against the picture – one of the drawbacks of MovieMaker. You can change the color of the text, but no matter what color I chose it was tough to read. (And red’s darned near impossible to read on any background.) And another warning – it’s ROUGH, people. I’ve learned a LOT since then. I was very very tempted to clean it up because there are some basic mistakes in it that made Guitar Hero cringe (all that sliding text for instance), but decided to leave it unchanged, for posterity.

(it’s loaded, but I’ve been getting errors that it’s ‘unavailable’. Let me know if that happens to you too.)

First Draft, using MovieMaker

The next one I did with Roxio. It allows a sense of motion with a pan-and-scan option across the photo. I’d love to keep the scene where the camera is panning down Mark revealing he’s tied up, but I can’t figure out how to do it in the flash program I used for the final version.

Every picture I used represents something that the casual viewer may not get until they’ve read the story. For instance, the estate shown in the trailers below represent Sam’s Lake Arlington house – it was perfect because there’s a wrought iron fence in it that I mention in the very start of the story as Jodi’s breaking in. But again, like Moviemaker, with Roxio, you can’t change the placement of the photo, they’re always smack-bang in the center of the screen, so there are still parts where it’s hard to read the text so that’s why I ended up using a shadow to try to make the text more readable.

In this version, note how the text is shadowed, and certain words can be different from the others in color or italics. Especially at the end, I managed to find the fonts cover designer Natalie Winters used for the title and matched them – it’s like that on the final version too!)

Second Draft, using Roxio

Of course, for comparison purposes, here’s the final version that I’ve decided to go with:

Notice I used almost all the same photos (except the safe cracker and silhouette), and the text is pretty much the same as well, but the music changes the entire mood of the story. And that’s what helped me decide upon the final copy. The first two versions are just too contemplative, too introspective, when the real story has a lot more emotion – anger, jealousy, excitement, etc. to it that I think the final version reflects much better.

Trailer Making 101
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5 thoughts on “Trailer Making 101

  • January 14, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    This is a great post, Leah, and really helpful. One day soon I’m going to make time to do a trailer.

  • January 14, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Wonderful!!! …and yes, I’m counting down!

  • January 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Great post and very timely! I use a Mac and have never played with half of the software that came loaded on it. I have no clue what I am doing, but it looks like fun.

    Congrats on your book’s release too, btw.


  • January 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    You rock, Leah! Guitar Hero, move over…

  • January 19, 2009 at 4:58 am

    Wonderful information and LOVE the trailers! Glad your later versions improved the print. Earlier trailer the white type was very difficult to read and was too small. Much better in the later trailer! Like the split screen with the type on one side on a black background – MUCH easier for these old eyes to read. PLUS really peaked my interest in the book!!! GO! GO! GO! Fantastic job!

    Healthy Happy 2009


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