Book trailers are a much debated thing among writers. The question raised most often is whether they actually help sell books. I tend to believe they can, but I also believe they can have the opposite effect. If a book trailer looks poorly done, then stands to reason the book will be of similar poor quality. That’s not always a fair assessment, because videos require a different set of skills than writing. If you’ve ever seen a bad book trailer, though, I’m wagering you silently vowed not to buy the book being promoted.
With the above in mind, I fell into the camp of not wanting to do a book trailer for my novel Gidion’s Hunt. I didn’t really have an idea for how it should look or what it should say. That all changed after attending a James River Writers Writing Show this past June. The panel discussed how to build a writer platform and part of the discussion turned to book trailers. They pointed to an example of a book trailer that worked, which was made to promote A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
After watching that trailer, the gears turned in my head. No, I couldn’t afford to do an animated video, but I loved the use of silhouettes. Thanks to my time working in production in television news and years producing my webcomic The Wildcat’s Lair, I knew I could build some clean and sharp-looking images.
The first image I built was the first one in the book trailer, which shows Gidion walking down a street in his hoodie. I briefly toyed with the idea of manually drawing the silhouette of Gidion in the computer but realized that just wasn’t going to work. The solution was to take a picture of myself in a hoodie and then cut out my image and make it all black. Those with a keen eye will notice the feet and bottom half of the legs aren’t perfect. You’ll later see why that didn’t matter.
Then I just needed the setting. This part was much simpler than you might think. I just drew the outline of a group of buildings. The rooftops on the left are lower than on the right. This helped provide a sense of depth.
Then I added in the street, which was just a long box of black along the bottom of the image.
Gidion’s silhouette went in next. The unfinished lower legs from the original image of Gidion aren’t an issue, because they disappear into the street.
I’d already chosen blue as the image’s base color to help invoke an impression of night, but just to make it clear, I added in a moon. Of course, it had to be a full moon, because in monster novels, isn’t it always a full moon? Anyway, the moon also helped fill in some of the dead space I had in the left side of the image.
So, that’s how I built that first graphic. Next week, I’ll show you which of the images from the trailer is my favorite and the graphic art trickery that was required to make it.