It is a given book trailers serve the purpose of promoting either a single of multiple book projects. However, I have yet to view a trailer that actually motivated me to seek out and purchase a book. I’ve created a dozen or more for my own work and while not “shabby”, I’d hardly call them studio quality.

Here is an example from one of my works in progress:

and another for the 2007 released I Remember Tomorrow:

So… the question becomes; what elements (or parts) are needed to create a promotional video that actually catches the viewer’s attention and pushes the viewer to want the promoted product.

To be more specific, with video we have two senses with which to work; visual and auditory. In many book trailers I’ve seen still images (often from royalty free photo websites) with background music (that adds little to the experience) and text overlays that are little more than a synopsis of the story (much like what one expects to see on the inside jacket of the book). On a few occasions I found trailers with voiceovers used instead of, or in addition to, the text overlay. Yet even with the voiceover, the overall affect tends to be bland to boring.

I understand indie authors are normally working with little or no budget when it comes to promotions, however, oft times the videos I’ve viewed were created by supposed professional services to whom authors have paid good, hard earned, money.

So… my first questions would have to be, what makes a good, powerful video and what model should we be looking at when we decide to take the leap.

Sadly, my personal experience with a model based on television advertising, is I’ve never been prompted to buy anything because of an ad. Movie trailers (theatrical, not the aborted things that get condensed into 15 or 30 second commercial spots) tend to have a greater impact on me. But since we authors have no motion picture from which to pull juicy scenes, we’re left in a bit of a lurch for content.

The compromise I’ve tried to reach with my own projects has been to model my trailers after the opening credits of films that have stirred my imagination over the years. To clarify that, I mean the credits rather than the film. Some example would be the first Superman or first Tomb Raider movies. In both, the combination of music, sound, and visual cues combined to stir the imagination and prepare the viewer for what was to come. Each without a single piece of spoken dialogue.

A similar model, to my way of thinking, would be the opening prologue to the theatrical release of the film Dune. It opened with a long, lone musical note on a blank screen which became the zoomed image of the woman who then began a conversational narrative that gave the backstory to what the viewer was about to experience. All the while, subtle music played in the background to lend to the experience and expectation of something awe inspiring to come.

These are my thoughts… I’d be happy to hear from others and see if I’ve missed the mark.

Be well,
William

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This is the shortest complete story I’ve ever written. It began life when I quipped to my wife one morning (whispering in her ear to wake her from her night’s slumber) that there were women in the pit and that we should throw them raw meat so they would not starve. While it began on such a silly note, somewhere along the way it became a bit darker. At a mere 438 words, you can breeze through and judge for yourself.

William


THE PIT
by William Butler

Martin drove into the garage and let the engine run.  Lightning flashed, briefly illuminating the darkness as thunder rumbled in the distance.

“You know what’s next, don’t you?”

His voice was cold and hard.

Jenny sat huddled against the passenger door.  Makeup left dark trails as it trickled down her cheeks from red, puffy eyes.  She shivered from fear rather than her cold, wet clothes.

“I won’t do it again, Martin,” her voice quivered.  “Really I won’t”

When Martin didn’t respond, she pled again.

“Please don’t put me back.  Oh dear God please, Martin.  Please.”

Martin switched off the engine and stepped from the car.  Jenny stayed hunched against her door eyeing him in the service porch doorway.  Finally, she got out and eased past him.

He followed through the kitchen and into the main hall where they stopped at a recess leading to the basement stairs.  Martin reached around her and opened the door.

Light shown from below, casting odd shadows.  Jenny stared down into the semi-darkness, shook her head and began to inch away.

“No,” she begged. “Please, Martin.”

“I’m sorry but it didn’t work.”

Before she could offer further protest, he lunged forward and grabbed her arms.  Lifting her bodily from the floor, he carried her kicking and screaming down the stairs.  At the bottom, he flung her sprawling to the floor.  Through tears, her eyes found the pit.

It spanned twenty feet from edge to edge, and fell away into a tangible darkness.  Faint voices rose up from below.  Disordered and excited, they called Martin’s name.

“You see,” he smiled.  “You have to go back so I can bring one of them out; give one of them a chance.”

The voices grew louder.

“I won’t do it again.”  Jenny slid away from him and nearer the gapping hole.  “I swear, Martin, I won’t.”

Slowly, he moved closer and knelt beside her.

“I let you out, cleaned you up and clothed you.  I tried to show how much I loved you; cared for you.”

With one hand he stroked her hair while the other gripped tightly around her arm.

“But you ran away in less than a week.  And I told you…”

Before he could finish, a hand reached over the pit’s edge and clamped around his ankle.  Two more appeared, then a fourth.  He tried to stand but they clawed and pulled, and he toppled over onto his hands and knees.

He turned to Jenny, eyes pleading, his mouth open in horror.

“No!”

“Yes,” Jenny shouted as she scrambled to her feet and threw herself at him, “let’s go into the pit!”

Martin screamed.

THE END

Copyright © 1994 by William Butler

Pets and Prisoners
By William Butler

Lin Coe stood in the open doorway, hands on hips, staring down at Robert and the cage he held in both arms.
“Aren’t you going to ask me in?”
“What is that,” she asked, referring to the small animal cowering in the center of the cage.
“It’s a pet.”
“Hmpf,” Lin muttered, “It’s in a cage.”
A sigh escaped Robert’s lips. But before he could respond, Lin reached forward, pushed aside the clasp on the cage door and reached inside. The hamster immediately scurried into her hand.
“Remove your shoes and leave the cage outside.”
She turned, walked through the foyer and into the living room. Robert followed after setting the cage beside the porch and slipping out of his shoes.
In the three years she’d lived there, this marked the first time Robert had been inside Lin’s apartment. To his surprise, it wasn’t the Spartan affair he believed it would be.
A low table surround by cushions occupied the center of the main room. Dark, wood cabinets with ornate carvings framed the front window. Smaller incarnations sat against the opposing wall on either side of the swinging door to the kitchen.
Lin lowered herself, knelt on a cushion and placed her hand on the table. The hamster crawled onto the table and turned to face Lin as if awaiting instructions.
“You know it will run away if you don’t keep it in a cage.”
She stroked the animal’s head with a finger. “Cages are for prisoners. Pets should roam free but be required to respond to the wishes of their masters. If not, they are not pets.”
Robert raised an eyebrow. “What about fish?”
Lin cocked her head to one side. “Fish are food.”
“They can be pets, too.”
“How?”
“Well,” he thrust his hands into his pants pockets, “you keep them in a fish bowl.”
“Fish bowl?”
“Yes. You know; a bowl with water.”
“And how will a fish in a bowl of water respond to my needs?”
“Well, it won’t.”
“Then it is not a pet.”
Robert’s shoulders slumped, “and I suppose that hamster will respond to your needs?”
Lin nodded.
“Yeah, right.”
Lin smiled, “Do you have a pen?”
“Yeah.”
“Put it on the table.”
Robert lowered himself and sat cross-legged, then retrieved a silvery, retractable pen from his pocket. Placing the pen on the table, he scooted back.
“Show me.”
In response, Lin tapped the table with her finger. It was enough to draw the hamster’s attention to her. She touched the animal on the tip of its nose, then reached across the table and touched the pen. The hamster’s eyes followed. The animal scurried across the table, maneuvered itself behind the pen and began pushing it toward Lin. Within an inch of the table’s edge, the animal stopped and sat on its haunches waiting for approval. Lin stroked the hamster’s head.
“How’d you do that?”
“I do not understand.”
“How’d you get him to do that?”
“She is not a ‘him’.”
“That doesn’t matter. How’d you get her to do that?”
“Hmpf,” Lin stood. “Do you want something to drink?”
“What do you have?”
“Tea.”
“Then I guess I’ll have tea.”

The End