Tips for Indie Writers: How to Create Your Own Book Trailer with Power Point

booksinboxBook trailers have become a popular means to draw attention to your book. The main advantage they have over other types of promotional material is their ability to include sound, specifically music. As I’m sure you’re aware, music can set a mood quicker than anything else and reaching a person at the emotional level helps prepare them to receive and accept your message. You can hire a professional to create a trailer for you or you can put one together yourself. If you have Microsoft Office then you should have Power Point which is the only software you need to create a simple but effective video trailer. Besides that you only need three things:

  1. Background picture
  2. Music
  3. Catchy phrase, quote or other hook

Yes, it really is that simple to get started. Don’t worry, I’m going to take you through the process, step by step.

Background Picture

This should be something that relates to your book. It shouldn’t be too busy, though, because that might distract from your written message. I would in most cases avoid people unless the focus is on that character alone. For your first one, keep it simple. If you try to get too fancy on your first try you’ll probably get frustrated and perhaps give up.

Using the background from your book cover is one option or even a generic photograph that relates to it in some way. For example, if your book is set in a specific city like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Paris or some other easily recognizable skyline that will work. If it’s set in the country, a nice country landscape; near a beach, a nice oceanscape, etc. This is your first step toward creating a mood that fits the setting of your story. It should be a bit muted, however, so there is adequate contrast between it and your writing. Don’t worry if it’s not, however, because Power Point can help tone it down.

Music

For me this is the fun part. You’re probably thinking this would be a difficult, lengthy, daunting and potentially expensive task. WRONG! There is a website out there that is so perfect for this you’ll probably be as amazed as I was. Go to http://incompetech.com/music/ and click on the tab that says “Royalty Free Music.” Yes, it’s free! And it gets better. Click on the option “Full Search.“ What you find will blow your mind. On this page you can tell it exactly what you’re looking for by genre or even by “feel.” Make your choices, click “search” and it brings up a variety of choices which you can listen to there and download with a single click. If you like it, even if it doesn’t exactly fit the project you have in mind, save it for future use. I found so many I liked that it was actually difficult to choose which one to use.

If you love music like I do you may find yourself spending a whole lot of time on this page. Bear in mind the mood you want to set for your book and stick to that so you don’t get too overwhelmed. I would choose no more than a half dozen pieces to start with.

After you’ve downloaded your selections take the time to listen to them, start to finish. Take some notes on the timing of the song’s dynamics such as when it’s slow and quiet or loud and booming. More than likely the song is longer than your video is going to be so you’ll want to select the portion that drives your message home. Don’t worry about transitions, Power Point gives you options to fade in and out which I’ll get to later.

If you don’t feel like listening to it and taking notes that’s okay because there’s another option. When you get the song into Power Point you get a visual that gives you an idea what the music is doing. This little strip that looks like a graph gives you an idea where the quiet and loud places are so it can be used, too. And Power Point will also allow you to select a specific portion. You probably want to keep your video to around a minute long, not only due to people’s short attention spans but also to keep the file size under control.

Catchy Phrase, Quote or Other Hook

This could be the easiest or most difficult part. Some authors can spew out titles that have no story behind them while others can’t figure one out for their thousand page manuscript. As an author I have the most trouble with book blurbs. You know, those two or three paragraph descriptions you put out on Amazon describing your book. Some people are better at writing them than their novel, which may not meet the expectations set up in their blurb. Others are the opposite and can write a great book but a lousy blurb. Coming up with these zingers will thus be easier for some than others.

One place to start is the basic theme of your book. If you Tweet about your book many of those catch phrases are perfect! If you’re lost go to the Goodreads website which contains various little ads and trailers for ideas. If you’re an author then you’re creative by nature and these should provide enough fodder to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t worry if what you come up with sounds a little boring. When you combine it with the right music it will work!

Another thought to bear in mind is that, like poetry, you can leave words out for effect. Your message will be presented slowly with the help of all those other marvelous effects which allow the viewer to fill in the blanks. You don’t want it to be wordy. This is another case where less is more.

Putting it All Together

Okay, now you’re ready to roll and get to the fun part. I’m going to talk you through the process step by step so you don’t experience a learning curve akin to climbing Mount Everest.

1.  Open Power Point and select the first option, “Blank Presentation.”

2.  Go to the “Layout” drop arrow in the second box from the left and select “Blank.” I find it is easier to add a text box than mess with their standard layouts but you can use them if you like. Note that in that same little box with the “Layout” arrow is an option called “New Slide.” Remember that because that is how you add pages.

3.  Now click on the “Design” tab and go all the way to the right where it says “Format Background.” From the options that come up choose “Picture or Texture Fill.” You’ll see an option to choose a file. Go and find your background picture and add it. If it needs to be muted you can use the “Transparency” option on that same screen to tone it down. When you’re happy with it click the “Apply to All” button at the bottom, assuming you want the same background for the entire video. If not you will simply go through this same process to add the background to each slide.

4.  Click on the “Insert” tab in the menu bar and then the “Text Box” over toward the right. This is a click and drag feature to create a box where you will put, you guessed it, your text.

5.  Select your font next. Fonts are important and part of the “feel” of your video! Take some time to try out several until one simply grabs you. Avoid the fancy ones that distract from the message. This is another dimension of your message. If it’s bold and forceful, then choose an appropriate font. If it’s a soft and sweet message then use an appropriate font, perhaps one of the scripts. If it’s a horror or mystery story, see which one fits. Seriously, the font is important. It adds punch to your message. All of these elements combine to give the viewer more than information; you want it to be an experience! Choose the color just as carefully. Colors send messages as well with red forceful and aggressive, green a more relaxed impression, yellow demands attention and so forth. With a slightly dark background even white can be effective.

6.  Add your text. Don’t put too many words on each page. You want the words to sink in while the font and music further emphasize it. Make sure the font is big enough to read easily. In most cases the video is probably going to be viewed on Facebook or Goodreads which is not full screen so you need the letters to be big enough to still be readable when the video is shrunk down to a size not much bigger than a post-it note. There is probably some way to set a default font but I have not been able to find it. Thus, unless you can solve this mystery you’ll have to choose the font and size with each slide. If you figure this out I would love to hear back how to do it!

7.  A general guide for what to include is to say your piece, flash a picture of your book up there with the title, add another zinger, then conclude with where your book is available. If they remember your title they’ll be able to find it if you just mention Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, CreateSpace or wherever. Links won’t work in a trailer.

8.  Now it’s time for the fun part, adding your music! To do that go back to your first slide, bring up the “Insert” box, then find where it says “Audio” all the way over to the right. Choose “Audio from my PC” in the dropdown and select your music file.

9.  Go to the top menu bar and select “Play in Background.” If you don’t you won’t be able to hear it.

10.  Select the “Fade Duration” menu box and add some time for the music to fade in and out. Start with around 5 seconds; you can always adjust it later.

11.  Estimate around 4 or 5 seconds for each slide to start, multiply that times your number of slides and figure out about how long your music clip needs to be. It’s good to start slowly and then speed it up as you get a better feel for the process.

12.  Now hit the “Trim Audio” button and that graph I mentioned earlier that represents the song’s dynamics will appear. You can now select where you want the music to begin and end. This is where your notes can come in handy but you can also adjust it by simply listening to it. If you like particular section that you want to loop and repeat it will do that. In fact, if your clip isn’t long enough for the timing to setup then the music will loop back to the beginning. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of practice to end the slideshow exactly when the music ends.

13.  Select “Slide Show” and then “Rehearse Timing.” Your slideshow will come up on the screen and you advance the slides with a click of the mouse. Try to click with the meter of the music. The stronger beat it has, the easier this is to accomplish. When you get to the end it will tell you how long the slideshow lasted and ask if you want to save it. If you do you can play it back with the button on the far left that says “From Beginning.” This will give you a feel for where you are so far. If you know you didn’t like it you can just go back to “Rehearse Timing” and do it again. You can start out slow as you get the hang of it but don’t want it to be so slow in the final version that it allows the viewer’s mind to wander. Right around a minute usually works.

14.  To go back and adjust the music, find the “Audio Tools” box highlighted along the top of the screen toward the right. “Playback” brings back the screen where you can adjust your fade in and out time as well as the clip itself with the “Trim” option. You want to time the crescendos with the statements you want to emphasize. The words need to bear some resemblance to the rhythm of the music. If the timbre of the music fits the words as if they are lyrics all the better. Don’t be surprised if this takes a substantial amount of tweaking until you’re satisfied. You may want to start out with a slow piece until you get the hang of things.  If the “Audio Tools” box at the top ever disappears you can bring it back by going to the first slide and clicking on the speaker icon.

15.  If you don’t like the audio and want to try another clip you need to delete the first one by highlighting and deleting the speaker icon with the “delete” key. Bear in mind you can add multiple soundtracks on top of each other if you want but that is once you become an expert. My point is if you don’t delete this one then both of them will play and it will sound weird to say the least. When you add another track you need to select “Play in Background” again. If you don’t hear anything, you forgot. During this stage you may come up with some editing ideas for your text as well. Note that after a heavy soundtrack silence is powerful as well for your ending. I suggest playing it back with a few different soundtracks and note how it changes the impact. Music with a good mixture of quiet and loud passages works well when you time them to add emphasis to key parts of the presentation. For example, when you show your book cover a big crescendo gives it extra punch.

16.  By this point you should have a very basic slide show. Now you get to have even more fun by adding special effects such as fading in the words and various other fun things. You can add multiple ones but they can also get confusing and mess up your timing when you rehearse since each effect will require a click of the mouse. Go to the first slide, highlight the words, and click “Animations.” Ignore all those symbols that pop up and go instead to the little box toward the right that says “Add Animation.” A big box will come up that shows all those cute symbols but now you can choose how the words come in, present, and leave. Toward the right on the menu bar you can decide how long each one should last. The one coming in will show in green and the exit effect will show in red. While you’re in editing mode the effects you add will show on the slides numbered in the order they occur. If you click on those little boxes it takes you to the screen where you can adjust the timing or change the effect.

17.  After you’ve added the effects you want for each statement, go back to “Slideshow” and rehearse your timing again. Note that you must click the mouse for each effect! For example, you will click to fade in, fade out and advance to the next slide, then click to initiate the first effect, etc. Be sure to allow each effect to finish before clicking. You may need to adjust the timing accordingly.

18.  During the slideshow rehearsal phase note the timer in the upper left-hand corner of the screen which tells you how long that slide has been up as well as the total time. Once you are happy with the timing you can use the total time to fine tune your music clip.

19.  I hope you’re familiar enough with working on a computer to realize you should have been saving along the way. Once it’s finished to your satisfaction you will not only save the final slideshow but you will also do a “Save As” which will convert it to a video. You can save it in either mp4 or wmv format. I do both since some applications prefer one or the other. It will ask you about embedding the music when you save it as a video. Be sure to do this or your sound won’t be there.

20.  Posting to Facebook is as simple as posting the YouTube link. To include your masterpiece on your Goodreads author site you first need to post it to YouTube. After you’ve accomplished that, you will click the “share” button, then the “Embed” option (check the box for the old code) and use that on Goodreads. YouTube will also give you a URL link to your video which you can use wherever you like. For your website you can either link directly to the file you created so it can be viewed there or link to YouTube. Browsers differ in their ability to display them so it’s a good idea to do both. YouTube allows you to choose which slide to show as the thumbnail. If you’re good at html programming or have a professional webmaster they can probably spiff it up.

Here are links to some of the ones I’ve created. I’m still learning as well and look forward to checking out the various other effects Power Point offers. As I get more experienced I’ll probably redo these but these will give you the idea.  I find this creative outlet a lot of fun as a break from writing and another wonderful way to showcase your work to the world. Since most of the authors I know are on a budget it can also save you a few promotional bucks to use somewhere else.

(These links were updated March 2017)

Beyond the Hidden Sky: https://youtu.be/zt7qgTWZFW4

A Dark of Endless Days: https://youtu.be/2xcJrWrJ_nU

A Psilent Place Below: https://youtu.be/-t4NYVBe6FM

Refractions of Frozen Time: https://youtu.be/DMuT0JZu7Os

Entire Tetralogy: https://youtu.be/MsTrKf_66ak

(Coming Spring 2017) The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51: https://youtu.be/Ti4l88V7Y58

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2 thoughts on “Tips for Indie Writers: How to Create Your Own Book Trailer with Power Point

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