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15 Tips for Building Book Trailers in iMovie


Book Trailer Tips Header

Over the last four years, we’ve seen more and more publishers creating book trailers. For those not familiar with the concept, it’s basically the same thing as a movie trailer. Think of it as a TV commercial for a book.

Book trailers can be funny or serious. They can feature the author reading the book, or have no spoken words at all. If you’re a self-published author or your publisher doesn’t do trailers, the idea of creating a trailer is pretty daunting.

Book trailers from the big publishing houses are slick productions, often using professional videographers, editors, and actors. The budget on some of these is probably bigger than your advance. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own.

Not all authors like the idea of making a video book trailer (Jonathan Franzen is a good example), but we have to recognize that YouTube isn’t all cute cat videos. It’s a powerful marketing tool, and book trailers are a great way to pitch your book.

A few days ago, I decided to give it a try. I Googled around looking for tutorials on trailers. Most focused on fairly primitive slideshow-like tools. That wasn’t quite what I was after. I spend a whole day last year trying to build something in Prezi, but it always looked like a Prezi presentation instead of a book trailer. Same thing with PowerPoint. No matter what I did, it always felt like a slideshow.

I use a Mac, and a few years ago I spent some time working on iMovie. I was fairly unimpressed. But I watched a tutorial on the latest version, and it has improved a lot. It looked like it could get the job done. Here’s the result:

That trailer took me about four hours to build. I had already scanned all of the pages from the book for a PowerPoint presentation I did some years back, so that was a time-saver. I certainly wouldn’t call this the equivalent of one of the big fancy children’s book trailers from Penguin, but it says what I want it to say.

I’m not going to try to write an iMovie tutorial here — the video tutorial from PC Classes Online that I linked to above handles that just fine — but I’ll give you some tips:

  1. Don’t use commercial music. You value the copyright on your book, right? Then respect the copyright of the musician. You can search for free music (Freeplay Music has thousands of songs you can use on YouTube videos), use the built-in music in iMovie (I confess: that’s what I did), or create music yourself. You can also do it without music.
  2. If you use spoken words, repeat them in subtitles or closed captions. If someone is watching your book trailer in an office or other quiet environment, they’ll have the sound off. They should catch the whole message. Besides, deaf people read books, too!
  3. This should be obvious for writers, but proofread, proofread, proofread. And then have someone else proofread, too. It looks really bad for a book trailer to have spelling or grammatical errors.
  4. If you use a lot of Ken Burns effect to pan across your pictures or pages, try to keep the motion relatively slow and steady. In retrospect, I panned too fast on some of the shots in my trailer.
  5. Include your website. This is a trailer for your book. Include your website!
  6. If your book is only available in ebook format, state that explicitly. Don’t make people waste a bunch of time searching for the printed version.
  7. If your book is available in bookstores, say that. Don’t just say “available online” or “available on Amazon.”
  8. Once you have the trailer ready to go, put it everywhere. Create a YouTube channel. Tweet out a link. Put it on Facebook. Put it on your blog. Put it on the book’s website if it has one. The trailer doesn’t do any good unless people watch it.
  9. Keep it short and sweet. A minute is a good length. Two minutes is the absolute max for most of us. I’ve seen effective book trailers only 30 seconds long!
  10. If you use your voice, use a professional microphone. We can take some great video with cell phones these days, but you don’t want your audio to sound like that Jonathan Franzen video I linked to above.
  11. Watch a bunch of trailers for books similar to yours to get a feeling for what people expect in your genre. I watched a lot of children’s book trailers before deciding what I wanted to do.
  12. Don’t try to pack in too much information. Unless you’re doing a trailer for Goodnight Moon, you can’t do a full plot synopsis in 30 seconds. Keep it simple!
  13. Use the title of the book, and show the book cover.
  14. Don’t forget to include your name, too.
  15. Have fun! If you obsess over making the book trailer perfect, you’ll never end up making one. Enjoy the process, and when it looks good enough, put it out and move on.

Video of my TEDx talk, and a few words about the content


TEDxBozeman header

Everything always seems to take longer than expected, and when my talk hit YouTube, I was out of town on vacation for a couple of weeks. I’m back now, and we can get caught up.

First of all, the talk is on the main TED website, but it’s a bit laborious to find. The primary search doesn’t turn it up (and the Gary Robson that appears isn’t me); you have to look in the TEDx section of the site. I’ll save you the trouble and provide a direct link: go here to watch my talk on TED.com.

I also have a direct link to the talk on YouTube, but I can make it even easier than that: here’s an embedded video with closed captions so you just have to click “play.” I am really excited that over 1,500 people have watched this on YouTube in less than a week!

A word about the captions on this video: The TEDxBozeman video crew hadn’t dealt with web captioning before, and when they sent me test files, I was having trouble getting them to play on my computer for some reason. We started with a clean transcript. My wife, Kathy, is a realtime captioner and she volunteered to create the file for me. I did a bit of editing (not much required; Kathy is a pro!) and then the video crew did the timing and placement. We still have a few glitches with line breaks and positioning, but I hope we can get those cleaned up soon.

My “behind the scenes” post talked about the actual experience of giving the talk, but I’d like to talk a bit now about the content. The message in this video is important to me for many reasons, and everyone who shares this video with their friends helps to spread that message. In a nutshell, the message is this: Captions are a nicety for those of us who can hear; they are a necessity for those who can’t. Certainly hearing people outnumber deaf and hard-of-hearing (HoH) people, but we can’t let the needs of the minority be drowned out by the convenience of the majority.

As I said in the talk, the World Health Organization says that 5% of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss. That’s 360 MILLION people! They need more than just an approximation of the dialog randomly tossed on a screen. Their captions are every bit as important as our audio, and those captions should be properly timed, properly placed, properly spelled, and comprehensive.

I am pleased by the action that the FCC has decided to take. They are moving the right direction, but it’s going to be a difficult move. How do you assign a numeric score to caption quality so that it can be legislated? What’s worse: a misspelled word or a caption covering someone’s face? How far behind can realtime captions be? I don’t envy them the work that’s going to go into legislating quality, but I’ll be happy to jump in and help if they ask. I’ve put a lot of time into questions like that throughout my career.

On TEDx stage with FCC logo

There’s one other thing I’d like to clarify: in no way should my talk be construed as a blanket condemnation of the people performing captioning today. Quite to the contrary, that business is filled with talented, caring people who work their tails off to produce a quality product. Unfortunately, a lot of station executives don’t give captioning the priority it deserves, and the job goes to the lowest bidder rather than the most qualified bidder. A broadcaster can meet the letter of the law today with a captioner who does no preparation, no research, and no post-broadcast QC analysis to improve the next broadcast. This is why realtime captioners earn less than half as much today as they did 20 years ago.

When we do something because we feel that it’s the right thing to do, we want to do it right; when we do something because we’re forced to do it, we’ll often do the least that we can get away with.

Legislation has unfortunately hurt us here, even as it’s helped in many other ways. By forcing everyone to caption, we have increased the quantity of captioning without providing incentive to increase (or even maintain) the quality. It’s good to see that changing.

 

 

TEDx Talk Details. Vague details, but details nonetheless.


When I first wrote about the talk I’m giving at TEDxBozeman, there wasn’t really a lot to say about it. My application had just been accepted. The details weren’t nailed down. The lineup hadn’t been posted. Things were quite preliminary.

TEDxBozeman logo

Today, I know quite a bit more, but I’m not allowed to ruin the surprise. The TEDxBozeman website has bios for all of us, but it still doesn’t list details about our talks. We are, in fact, forbidden to publish our slides or outlines beforehand. But there are a few things I can tell you!

The event

Tickets are sold out. If you haven’t purchased a ticket yet, you’re out of luck. You can, however, still be a virtual attendee. All of TEDxBozeman will be streamed live on Livestream next Friday, March 21, 2014. The event link is http://new.livestream.com/tedx/events/2814001. The theme is “Pioneer Spirit.” The schedule is approximate, as this is a live event, and nothing ever goes as planned, so I can’t tell you the length or start time of any given talk. Here’s what do know:

TEDxBozeman begins at 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time on Friday, March 21. If you’re connecting to the stream online, do it early.

My talk will begin at approximately 2:50. If you wish to watch, I recommend connecting at least ten minutes before that, just to be safe.

My TEDx talk

The title of my talk is, “Does Closed Captioning Still Serve Deaf People?” In the talk, I will briefly explore the history and development of closed captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing people and look at where it’s heading. For more details, you’ll have to tune in and listen!

TEDx Cover Slide

My cover slide might look something like this.
But then again, it might not!

If you don’t have a ticket to the event and you’re unable to connect to the live stream, fear not! You’ll be able to find my talk, along with the others from TEDxBozeman, on TED.com at some point. When it’s there, I’ll make sure and post the details here.

I will drop one teaser about the content. The FCC made a new ruling about captioning quality last month. It necessitated a number of changes to my talk.

Accessibility

Well, this is a bit embarrassing. I am speaking about accessibility, and my talk will not be closed captioned live. I just couldn’t get things worked out. I promise you, however, that I will do everything in my power to make sure that when it hits TED.com and YouTube, there will be captions on it!

Books!

Closed Captioning HandbookOne of my favorite independent bookstores, Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, will be selling books at the event, and each presenter was allowed to choose one book: our own if we’ve written one, or someone else’s if it inspired us. I chose The Closed Captioning Handbook (duh), but fate — and my publisher — seem to have worked against me.

When The Closed Captioning Handbook became a textbook, the price shot up. The publisher, Focal Press, has made the book available through the mainstream distributors that bookstores buy from, but it is nonreturnable. This basically means that no bookstore other than a campus bookstore or specialty broadcast industry bookstore would ever stock it. Understandably, Country Bookshelf doesn’t want the possibility of ending up stuck with a stack of unsold $75.00 textbooks after the event.

Never one to give up an opportunity, I came up with an alternative. If we can’t have my primary closed captioning book for sale at the event, we’ll use one of my other books. And so, my friends, even though I’ll be talking about closed captioning, the Gary Robson book at TEDxBozeman will be the Yellowstone National Park edition of Who Pooped in the Park?, because poop books are always appropriate, right?

If you do wish to buy a copy of The Closed Captioning Handbook, Country Bookshelf can order one for you. If you don’t live near Bozeman and won’t be attending the event, you can order one from my store, Red Lodge Books & Tea. If you buy a Who Pooped book at the event, catch me afterward and I’ll be happy to sign it.

A professional social media business manager, obviously


This blog, like every other blog, gets a lot of spam comments. Most of them are nonsensical, posted by bots in the hope that there’s no spam filter and the comments will remain as links back to the spammer’s site. Many are in other languages and even other alphabets. I regularly get comments in Chinese that are a full screen long.

Facebook likes

Like me! Love me! Make me legitimate, relevant, and authentic!

Sometimes I get one that makes me chuckle, and then makes me think. One such message began with, “Hello, I am a professional social media business manager, obviously.”

At first chuckle, I mentally edited it to read, “Hello, I am a spammer, so I’m a non-professional social media business manager, obviously.” Then I thought about the implications of this message, and what bloggers — especially authors — might think when reading it. After the opening paragraph, the spam comment goes on to say:

“By building more than 10,000 real people profile endorsements using Facebook LIKES to your business page. This tell Google that your website is relative and authentic to what you do. IT WILL BE POSTED RIGHT ON YOUR PAGE FOR ALL VISITORS TO SEE HOW MANY -(people) Facebook LIKES !you have, via Facebook, by real FB counter button. Click on to see how you can do this in you free time or no time.”

(Just to get this out of the way, please assume a great big red [sic] plastered across everything I copy from spam comments.)

We all need metrics in our lives. We need a way to measure how we’re doing. Authors often use book sales, but that information isn’t updated that often for print books. Most traditional print publishers issue royalty statements semiannually, so it’s hard to tell how effective that email you sent last week was. Alternatively, we might use placement on Amazon category bestseller lists, but that only measures Amazon sales, which are a tiny fraction of overall sales for some of us. The last time I ran the numbers, Amazon was responsible for less than 1% of the sales of my Who Pooped books. But there are a few metrics that are up-to-the-minute, and Facebook provides one of them: likes.

It’s tempting (and easy) to measure our self-worth by the number of Facebook likes on a page. Was my last comment witty enough? Let me see how many people shared it. Are people excited about the book signing I announced yesterday? Let me see how many people “liked” the announcement.

Likes do more than that, though. When somebody clicks that like button on your page, they’re going to see the next thing you post, too. That helps to build what publishers call a “platform,” and a good platform can help you land the next book contract. I’m not saying Facebook is irrelevant to writers. As I’ve said before, Facebook can be a great tool for us in ways you might not expect.

This spammer is striking right at the heart of our self-worth as writers. She (apparently, her name is Karen) is offering to sell us likes. Thousands of people hanging on our every word. Our blogs flying to the top of Google search results. Our sites become “relative and authentic!” We get bragging rights! Legitimacy! A real platform! And it doesn’t stop there!

“We can help you also with build 10,000 Twitter Followers in 7 days, or 100,000 YouTube visits, to your YouTube video or channel, build 20,000 Google +1, from your peers about your business. Best offer G+1 building in 7 days. You can get help building 100,000 Facebook LIKES in 7 days. Likes Mean visitors endorse your Fan Page or website.”

Let’s back up a minute here. Why did we start using social media professionally in the first place? To help us sell our books, of course. Even if Karen the Spammer followed through on her promise, you wouldn’t get 10,000 people following your tweets because they want to buy your books. You’d get 10,000 bots, shills, and hacked accounts. You’d get people duped by a spammer into clicking a “like” or “follow” or “+1” button.

“How do you think Justin Bieber(singer) get his first 1,000,000 followers before his first album? His producers bought the followers for him?”

Metrics like Twitter followers are, indeed, important to celebrities. I doubt, however, that Justin Bieber became the 2nd most followed person on Twitter (at the moment) because Karen the Spammer delivered a million paid followers.

“Ah, this is all just sour grapes,” you may be thinking. “This Robson dude doesn’t have a million followers on Twitter. Heck, he doesn’t even have a thousand.” True, I don’t. Given the right “social media business manager” and an appropriate budget, you could have ten times the likes and followers I have in a matter of days. Maybe even a hundred times.

But does it sell your books?

I confess. I’ve gotten caught up in the drive for followers on some of my business pages. The first time one of my posts on this blog got over 100 views, I was ready to throw a party! But 1,000 views or 10,000 likes or 100,000 followers won’t pay the bills. It’s dangerously easy to spend your days fighting for social media metrics instead of writing books, putting on book signings, doing interviews, and sending out queries and proposals. It’s important to use social media for marketing, but we have to remember we’re writers, and writing pays the bills.

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