My first novel, Pilikia Is My Business got a new cover and was re-released as an ebook last month. When it was first released in 2001, ebooks were a new concept, YouTube had not been invented and book trailers were unheard of. My first view of a book trailer, I wondered what was the point? People who read are drawn to reviews. Books, reviews, print media, occupy one entertainment box. Videos and movies occupy other boxes and never shall the boxes merge. Not so any longer. We are now living in a multi-platform world where TV shows are viewed on computers and books are read on phones. What's the first stop for college students doing research? YouTube.
I knew nothing about making a book trailer, but that didn't stop me. First, I watched a lot of book trailers and visited a lot of how-to web sites such as NovelHelp. I concluded that a book trailer does not tell your story. That's what the book is for. The trailer is an ad that should make the reader/viewer curious enough to buy the book. It's more like a query letter than a synopsis.
Most trailers I viewed were too long. Rather than hook my interest, the author/creator tried to recap the story. The result was that I often found myself wishing the trailer would end so I could get to the next one. In some cases the trailer grabbed my interest at the start, but by the end had lost it.
If a book trailer is really an ad, then it should be ad-like in length. The average television ad is 15 to 20 seconds long. The average Superbowl ad is just over 30 seconds. Therefore, I decided the length of my trailer would be no more than 30 seconds.
What should go into the trailer? I went back to my query letters for the book. The successful ones all had the same elements: 1) the book theme, 2) the main character, 3) the plot, 4) the setting. The difference between a trailer and a query is that the trailer also needs to have a consistent tone.
I set about collecting videos and images to fit the four elements. Images are only one of the tools at your disposal in a trailer. You can also use text, voice-over, music and movement to get your message across. I built the theme by connecting the words "pilikia," "trouble," and "business" with images to represent the concepts and I made the links explicit with the voice-over.
For the main character, I found images of a woman detective and attached the words "pilikia" and "business". I reinforced it with voice over.
It is not hard to find images of Hawaii, the setting of the book. I chose an image of a crime scene to juxtapose with an image of Waikiki and added voice over about the "side of paradise tourists seldom see." The image of the leper colony on Molokai was hard to come by, but important because my main character travels there on her mission.
The plot of a novel is the hardest element to convey in a few words or images. Of the trailers I viewed, the least successful were those that brought in too much of the plot. Rather than try to recap the plot, I picked the critical scene in the story and used a piece of video to dramatize it.
The tone, I hope, comes through in the selection of images: the god of war, a wipeout, police flashers, a detective with chipped nails but otherwise all business, a gorgeous pair of legs, and, of course, the car. I reinforced the tone with music--a hard driving tune called, appropriately, "Surf Inspector."
The final, and most important, element of the ad is the book and where to get it.
So here is the premiere of the book trailer for Pilikia Is My Business. Thirty seconds. Does it grab you?