Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tips for Writing Video Book Trailer Scripts

Jenn here. One of the things that has helped me in creating video book trailers is my background in communications. In college I took Broadcast Journalism, and while the equipment and technology has changed, some fundamental concepts are still the same--especially script writing.

One of the hardest things for novelists to do is write a synopsis and/or the one-sentence elevator speech or TV blurb. How can one get  a 300+ page manuscript down to a bite size paragraph or a sentence? Believe me, it's possible, you just have to change your mindset in how you think about your story.

Think "Concept"
We all understand movies, so think of your story as a movie. Admit it, we all dream of our novels becoming real movies. This is YOUR chance at the next best thing--a video book trailer. What are some of the key scenes you want to see? Think of each as a frame. What one image could represent that entire scene? What word or phrase? Sometimes a single word can have more impact than a whole sentence.

In my Highland Blessings video, I showed images that matched these words: Betrayal, Fear, Murder. Then I showed a bright image that contrasted those dark concepts with: Faith, Hope, Love. When you only have seconds to make an impact in the mind of a reader, abandon multiple words and go with a single word concept.

For example, you don't have to show an actual wedding scene to show readers a marriage. A simple frame of wedding rings can get the point across. Think "concept" when creating your video book trailer and when writing the script.

Even in writing the script for a video book trailer, you still have to show GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict), then end with a question or a cliff hanger that makes readers want to find out what will happen. Last, you enticed them with the book cover and where to find it.

I like to start out a video book trailer with the image of the book cover and end with that same image. That way there is no question from the very beginning as to what kind of video they are seeing. People may access your book trailer from various sources and you want them to know up front that this isn't one of those high school/college classroom projects or a silly video that someone made for fun.

Video Tips
Unpublished Writers Should Practice Making Videos. Even if you are still unpublished, I would encourage you to start creating video book trailers for your stories. You don't have to upload them online. It takes practice and you'll want to be ready to make a good one by the time you sell your debut novel. Unless you have a lot of money stored in a book fund somewhere, you may not be able to afford quality video book trailers--at least not right away. Businesses are popping up all over the place, some good, and some not so good. I'm seeing the prices for book trailers come down and the quality go up. This is a good thing.

Don't Settle for Limitations. I'm seeing lots of limitations. For a specific price you might get a 30 sec video with a limit of 10 photos. For more money, you might get a 60 sec video with 15 photos. I've seen some of the same photos looped 2 and 3 times in a video because frankly they didn't use enough images. In my opinion, an image should only be used once, unless you are trying to emphasis something in the story. It makes a viewer feel like they're being cheated if they keep seeing the same thing. They've given you 1-2 minutes of their time to watch your video. You can't afford to make them feel like they've wasted it. They won't watch another one if you have other books out.

Length Depends on the Story. I think a story needs to be as long as the story requires, but still remain under 2 minutes. I say this because story always trumps everything else. It may be hard to show the concept for some stories in 30 secs, but 40 secs might be perfect for that particular story. Likewise, 12 photos instead of 10. Be careful with these kinds of limitations. Find out if the person who is making your video is willing to give it what it needs over the limitation. If they offer a range of photos like 10-15, and a length of 30-40 sec, I think this is a much better option and more realistic.

Avoid Voice Overs. Let good music carry your video! Even if a person has a professional voice, it still has to be the "right" voice for your particular story. Otherwise, it can ruin the whole video. I've seen some well-known authors hire people to create their video book trailers, and I'm sure they paid more than small change, and the voices were awful. I cringed and couldn't even finish watching it. We all have different tastes and what we like is subjective, but 9 times out of 10, even bad music sounds better than a horrible voice.

Video Book Trailers Helps Sell Books. There is a huge debate on whether or not video actually sells books. I think this is a moot point.  It's part of an author's promotion plan, and without it, the author is missing an opportunity. In our digital world, not having a video book trailer is like navigating a sale without a book blurb on the back cover of a printed book. People do most of their buying research online now. Many of them "expect" to see a video book trailer for your book. It's a well known documented fact that buyers must see 10-20 impressions of a product or service before they buy it. A video book trailer is another one of those impressions, and if done well, can serve as multiple impressions if they watch the whole video all the way through.

For more tips on Writing and Promotion, visit my Writing Tips page on my website/blog

What are some good and bad characteristics you've seen in video book trailers?


  1. Loved your trailer. It really fit the book. And it was the right length.

    I don't like book trailers that are too long.

  2. Excellent trailer, Jennifer. I loved your images of the church and castles. So beautiful.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  3. Lena, Thank you and I agree. I think trailers should be less than 2 min.

  4. Thanks, Raquel! Great images are so hard to find.

  5. Excellent post, beautiful've got it all down pat girlfriend!

  6. Bonnie, Thanks for stopping by. Coming from you, that means a lot. I appreciate it!

  7. Jenn,
    Like the others I agree with the length being shorter as opposed to longer. Yours is a great length. You put images and words that complete your story. The music also is a reflection of the story.
    Great job!!

  8. Lindi,

    Thank you! Even though it was fun, it took hours going through photos and listening to music. I'm so glad to receive feedback that it all came together nicely.

  9. Hi Jennifer:

    Great video!

    I think the setting alone will sell many books. Perfect photos and music. Totally professional. A superior video makes me think the author is serious and that the book will be carefully edited. I also tend to think the quality of the video reflects the quality of the book – but mostly in a negative way. A bad author with money can buy the best quality trailer. So I can’t be sure of the quality of the book. But a poor quality trailer makes me think that the author has bad taste or judgment. So if you have a trailer at all, make sure it is a good one.

    I noticed something on the video that I see all the time and it is the words “Place text here”. Was that on your video? It was at the start of the video.

    I do have a bone to pick with you.

    ”It's a well known documented fact that buyers must see 10-20 impressions of a product or service before they buy it.”

    This was ‘documented’ by radio and tv advertising departments to explain why their ads don’t work very well.

    Can you imagine telling this to a direct marketer? People have to read your direct mail piece 20 times before they will buy! They better buy the first time for the DM copywriter will be out of business. Even my retial ads had to work the first time!

    Ads can work the first time if written well and by a copywriter who is always (and I mean always) having her copy tested. The DM institute has an over 500 item checklist for improving a DM piece!

    BTW: This post has really stimulated me to write a trailer for my WIP! I am a big believer in affirmations and creative visualization. Imagine watching a video trailer for your book each time you sit down to write!

    ALSO: can you edit the “Coming May 2010” out. It may make the book look dated. I’d put in, “Now Available at Bookstores”.

    Again great post. I’ve got to act on it now.


  10. Vince, I always look forward to your comments. Yes, I need to update that particular video. It is looking dated, but I'll lose the views and comments--not that there are loads of them.

    I concede that good copy writing can work the first time for direct marketing, but the percentage isn't as high as most would like. And in regard to traditional mail, I think it is getting harder and harder with this new generation. That's why I think online DM will be more compelling to them. I do think it takes more impressions than it used to with traditional DM b/c people didn't have as much media distracting them as they do now.

    I hope your video book trailer goes well for your WIP!

  11. I've seen some really bad book trailers. Made me decide not to do one, since I don't have the expertise and wasn't willing to spend the money. But Jenn, yours are always so good. I'm amazed.

  12. Hi Jennifer:

    “I concede that good copy writing can work the first time for direct marketing, but the percentage isn't as high as most would like.”

    It’s all relative.

    DM measures actual sales. DM probably has the highest response rates in all of advertising. I would get at least 5% on my mailings (these were to past customers.)

    Now just imagine if you got a 5% response to a TV ad. Let’s say 100,000 people saw the ad, that would be 5,000 sales! How would I get all those people into my furniture store? The fire department would close me down. TV and radio would kill for anywhere near DM response percentages! But it’s all relative.

    It gets down to cost-per-sale.

    BTW: About your first trailer: I did not mean it was dated. It’s fine. My comment was that it self-dated itself by saying “Coming May 2010”. I would just change this to read, “Now Available”. That’s all.

    Remember: no one is likely to see your trailer more often than you do. It may look aged to you but most people who see it will be seeing it for the first time. That first video is excellent.