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Tips for making a book trailer from associate producer Rocco Rivetti of Red 14 Films.

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BookTrailer101 teaches how to create effective book trailers. Red 14 Films is one of the leading cinematic book trailer producers. I asked associate producer Rocco Rivetti of Red 14 for advice to authors about creating a book trailer. Each tip is accompanied with one of their trailers to illustrate the point. Under each video is a link to the BookTrailer101 analysis of the trailer examining the approach and techniques used.

Here are Rocco's tips:

Rich Helms


Why do authors go about creating cinematic book trailers? They’re authors. Authors tend to be concerned with words mainly, and how to go about putting a string of them together in a pleasing fashion. What do these short videos have to do with books?

In this post-social media society we’ve found ourselves in, there’s constantly something new presented to us on our smartphones, laptops, and television sets, every minute of the day, every day of the year. The flow of information has increased so dramatically that it has left many people feeling overwhelmed.

The traditional methods that publishers, booksellers, and authors have long used to announce newly released books are just that, traditional. Newspaper ads, reviews, interviews in the print, on the web, and on NPR are still really, really important for book promotion. It’s just that these traditional forms of book promotion aren’t enough on the Internet.

Book trailers fill a void in digital book promotion, allowing a book to reach its audience in a format they’re already familiar with on the Internet. Video works on the web in a way that nothing else can. Google video marketing statistics if you don’t believe me.

Because of this, book trailers have fast become a staple at nearly all of the major publishing houses, especially for Young Adult titles. However, just because they’re being accepted as an effective and exciting new form of digital book marketing doesn’t mean that everyone is making stellar book trailers. Here are five helpful tips to keep in mind to make sure that your book trailer is a step above the rest.

1. These Aren’t Like TV Advertisements

Cinematic book trailers operate under the rule of successful new media marketing. Unlike earlier book trailers, they are not direct ads. This means you probably shouldn’t use late night infomercials as inspiration. Direct call-to-arms slogans such as “Buy Now” don’t tend to go over well. You should only really be concerned that after watching your book trailer, a reader now knows the title of your book. The Internet is full of great quality, advertisement-free content already, so if potential readers feel your trailer is too sales orientated, they’ll move right on to the next cute cat video.

Video: http://bt101.info/hb
Half Bad trailer analysis

2. Entertain, Entertain, Entertain

How do you keep potential readers interested in your book trailer? It’s pretty simple, really. As long as people are entertained, they’ll keep watching. This may seem daunting at first, until you realize that the thing you’re advertising is a book, and that book is full of really entertaining snippets. Great book trailers, like a great book cover, convey a sense of the book that they’re made for, causing readers to want to go out of their way to find out more about the book. You’ll be surprised that if you simply boil down what’s most interesting about the book, and convey this through a visual narrative, symbolic motifs, or a punchy scene, how much of a positive result you can get. Our trailer for Monica Drake’s The Stud Book takes inspiration from the book cover, which is itself a powerful visual symbol for a strong theme found in the novel.

Video: http://bt101.info/tsb
The Stud Book trailer analysis

3. We Haven’t Got All Day

A good book trailer knows how to get in, get a reader hooked, and then get out as quickly as possible. If your book trailer is over two minutes long, you’re doing something wrong. You don’t need credits for the cast and crew, and that monologue you wanted the actor to memorize? It might be best left for the reader to discover after they’ve bought the book. Some book trailers can be powerful with very little action at all, like this one we recently made for Allison Jewell’s Shine On.

Video: http://bt101.info/so
Shine On trailer analysis

4. This Can Be Art

Publishers and booksellers like book trailers because the numbers make sense. They’re a sound investment that will live online for as long as there is interest in the book it was made for. Authors understand this too, but many are also drawn to book trailers because of their artistic merits. A well made book trailer is essentially a visual artist’s interpretation of a novel, book of poetry, or even a work of nonfiction. Artists have been doing these kinds of cross-media collaborations for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Not surprisingly, it’s the poets who really go for artistic book trailers.

Video: http://bt101.info/ith
In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods trailer analysis

5. People See These

Don’t underestimate the kind of reach that these trailers get! Before you know it, the video will be out in the world, working as an ambassador for your book. Based on the way that these things spread online, the video will almost certainly be seen out of context by someone. Because of this, a good book trailer must give off an aura of professionalism that will reflect positively on your book.

Video: http://bt101.info/m14
Monument 14 trailer analysis

If you’ve spent years on a manuscript, you don’t want strangers to write you off because they can tell that the book trailer was put together in less than half an afternoon. You may be taking only a minute or two out of someone’s day, but in this mad world, a minute wasted is really felt. High production value, a well-planned-out progression throughout the trailer, and careful, tasteful editing are your friends. If you don’t have the budget for explosions, you might want to write that out of your shooting script, or contact someone who can do it for cheap.

Book trailers are best when they’re true to the book, and leave you wanting more. Adhering to these rules will certainly put you on the right track, but remember that these are only helpful hints, not a complete guide to constructing the perfect book trailer. A lot of planning goes into these things, so if you’re going to shoot yours yourself, be sure to allot enough time. Above all else, remember to have fun. It’s exciting to see how the publishing industry is adapting to the 21st century, and thrilling to find yourself part of the sea change!

Rocco Rivetti
Associate Producer
www.red14films.com