Let’s Make a Book Trailer — Part 3

Let's Make a Book Trailer, Part 3

Today we (OK, I) have part three of the Let’s Make a Book Trailer series.  For those interested here is Part 1 and Part 2.

Note that the following (and that in the previous posts) are merely my thoughts.  Your mileage may vary.

Today’s post is on book trailer structure.

Trailer structure can be divided into two components:  Elements and Sequencing.

First, though, a brief recap of our trailer constraints:

  • We’re creating a “Teaser” trailer
  • Using PowerPoint only
  • No video, music, animation or voice overs
  • Working with stock images or some commissioned images

These constraints force us to craft more of a book trailer slideshow, but future posts will show how to increase its sophistication by using various tools.

Now, on with today’s post:

Structure

Teaser book trailers need to convey certain information about the book itself:

  1. Opening
  2. Setting
  3. Characters
  4. Conflict
  5. Cliff hanger or question to be resolved
  6. Call to action

Let’s take a closer look at each of these:

Opening

This is the first thing the viewer sees.  You have two choices here:

  1. You can start with a visual that provides some context to the novel.  This could be the novel title, some brief descriptive text about the protagonist, or perhaps some information on the setting or main story goal or conflict.
  2. Alternatively you can jump right into the story with a visual or text without providing any context, focusing upon a story element or character that is central to the novel.

If you’ve ever watched movie trailers from the 40s and 50s you will see they tend to use the former method.  Many recent trailers use the latter (naturally movie trailers work with sound and motion to convey information as well, but the principle is the same).

Setting

The next task in the sequence is to convey time and place.  This can be accomplished through visuals or text, typically some combination of the two.  The idea is to allow the viewer to quickly grasp the setting essentials:  historical, fantasy, urban, future off-planet, whatever it might be.

Characters

This is one of the two most important trailer elements.  Most novels possess a character central to the story — the protagonist.  This is the person we root for or vilify, and follow to see how things turn out. The trailer needs to present the character (or characters) vividly.

You’ll have to make a decision as to whether you are going to fully depict your character.  Many advise against this on a book cover because it prevents the reader from using their imagination.  The same could apply to book trailers.  My feeling is that this is less important for book trailer than a cover (which is a static medium) but you may disagree.  Your decision may be made for you if you are using stock images and cannot find one that depicts your character as you would like.

Conflict

Conflict drives story, so this the second of the two most important trailer elements.  With the setting established and the character(s) introduced, you must establish the central conflict or goal.  This is usually done quit explicitly in a promotional trailer.  In a teaser trailer the conflict or goal can be implied, but it must be there.

Cliff Hanger or Question to be Resolved

This can flow quite naturally out of the conflict.  Does the heroine save the empire?  Does the handsome, though destitute blacksmith win the heart of the Countess?  Does the plucky upstart win the big race after all?  You don’t answer the question, of course, but it must be somewhere in the trailer.  Why would potential readers buy the book if not to see how things turn out?

Call to Action

A book trailer serves one of two purposes:

  1. If the book is written and available, the book trailer should pique interest in order to drive sales.  In this case, the call to action supplies, naturally enough, information on where to buy the book and pricing.
  2. If the book is not yet available for sale, the book trailer’s purpose is to build awareness.  The call to action here are consists of links to the author’s various social media sites or accounts, the most important of which is the author’s blog (you don’t have an author blog?  Start one.)

Either call to action can include information on the author, but this is usually kept to  minimum.

Moreover, good book trailers will part of a larger marketing strategy; they should not exist in isolation.  However that is beyond the scope of this book trailers series.

Sequencing

Book trailer structure can be fairly linear.  Simple trailers will probably introduce the information in the order listed at the start of this post:

  1. Opening
  2. Setting
  3. Characters
  4. Conflict
  5. Cliff hanger or question to be resolved
  6. Call to action

It’s entirely possible to vary the sequence, though the structure can be a little more complicated.  Moreover, you can introduce several elements at once.

However, the of the  Call to Action’s position will almost never change, it comes at and the end of the trailer.

Let’s see how this works with two examples.

Linear sequencing

In this example we’ll use the straightforward sequencing introduced earlier.

  1. Opening:  Title: Dark Disaster
  2. Setting: Aboard a starship en route to its destination; obviously in the future
  3. Characters:  The newly promoted female captain and her experienced, gruff first officer, recently passed over for command of his own ship
  4. Conflict: He views her as an upstart, undeserving of command; she thinks he’s a bitter, flawed officer, likely not given command for a good reason
  5. Cliff Hanger or Question to be Resolved: When calamity strikes they must put aside their differences and work together in order to survive.  Can they?
  6. Call to Action: Where and how to purchase the book.

OK, not the most original plot, but it does illustrate the introduction of each of the book trailer elements.  The sequencing is logical, if not necessarily inspired, and it gets the job done.

Mixed Sequencing

Now we’ll alter the sequencing a little bit.

  1. Characters:  The newly promoted female captain and her experienced gruff first officer, recently passed over for command of his own ship
  2. Conflict: He views her as an upstart, undeserving of command; she thinks he’s a bitter, flawed officer, likely not given command for a good reason
  3. Setting: Aboard a starship en route to its destination; obviously in the future
  4. Cliff Hanger or Question to be Resolved: When calamity strikes they must put aside their differences and work together in order to survive.  Can they?
  5. Opening:  Title: Dark Disaster
  6. Call to Action: Where and how to purchase the book.

This sequencing is more interesting.  We start with the Characters and Conflict right away and only after they’ve been introduced do we bring in the Setting.  This is followed by the Cliff Hanger or Question to Be Answered.  Only then is the title revealed, followed by the call to action.    This can be more dramatic than linear sequencing, but may require more care in design.

It is important to realize that each of book trailer elements is NOT a tight little box, cut off from the others.  There will always be a certain amount of “bleed” between elements no matter how you sequence them.

For example, if your trailer reveals your main character first with an image, and she’s riding a horse and holding a Colt revolver, a lot can be inferred about the setting.    Likewise, introducing the conflict may provide significant clues regarding the Cliff Hanger or Question to be Resolved.  Such “bleed” is not necessarily a bad thing.  Many times it will work to provide more cohesion and improved flow to the book trailer.

Well, that’s all for this post, and I will see you again soon.

 

 

One Reply to “Let’s Make a Book Trailer — Part 3”

  1. wow, you’ve been busy! great work on the book trailer. I’m getting ready to publish my next one so I’m going to create a trailer – also picked up the branding book you recommended. Let’s chat sometime. I’m still in the middle of big project – until Dec, so my time on writing is limited to weekends/evenings when I’m not exhausted. But I hang in there and plow away.

    cheers

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