So you want to make a book trailer…

We love book trailers. The swelling music, the tantalizing bits of story, and the cinematic glimpse of the written pages make us buzz with excitement to flip to page one. We are just beginning to embark on creating book trailers for our titles, and one of our amazing authors Gareth P. Jones recently worked with us to create his own book trailer for upcoming title Constable and Toop. Gareth and his equally talented colleague Joe Chappell used their years of experience in the TV industry to create something we think is quite special:

To give you a bit more of a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this book trailer, we asked Gareth a few questions about the process.

HKB:Could you run us through the making of your book trailer (was there a script, how you came up with the idea, etc.)

GPJ: I wrote the bare bones of the script not as a script but as a description of the book. I’d done a couple of events and tried to talk about the book and found that it was quite tricky. I had also done an event with the great Philip Ardagh, who has a brilliantly well-rehearsed explanation of how he became an author. I realised that this was what I needed, (in other words I copied him) so I wrote this kind of poem about Constable & Toop. When Sarah and Meg at Hotkey suggested I do a piece for the internet I quickly realised this was a good use way to use what I had written. I also knew that the piece should involve me dressed up as an undertaker and then made to look like old footage. (The book is supposed to feel like it could have been written in 1884 so it made sense that the trailer would too). Luckily for me, at the time I had a TV job with a good friend of mine, Joe Chappell. Joe’s an excellent editor and I asked whether he would edit the piece and he suggested that he film it too.

HKB: Did you run into any challenges on the day of the shoot (i.e. weather, animals, noise, etc.)?

GPJ: We got up early Sunday morning as soon as the cemetery was open. Joe lives nearby and Nunhead cemetery is only around the corner so we were there about 08:30. I actually wouldn’t have minded if the weather had been gloomy given the style of the piece but as it turned out it was a bright sunny morning. Luckily, Nunhead cemetery is quite shaded so we were still able to get a nicely atmospheric look to the piece. In fact, the shadows created by the sunlight even feature at one point. We were a little nervous of bumping into actual mourners but mostly we encountered people walking their dogs. Joe is a dog lover and always likes to feature animals in anything he edits whenever possible. That reminded me about the dogs in the book. So, while we were wandering round I added an extra line about the spirit hounds and we filmed one of the dogs walking through a shot.

HKB: How did you create that cool disappearing effect?

GPJ: There were certain things we knew we wanted before we set off and one was the ghostly disappearing/reappearing effect. It’s quite easy to do. You just need to lock off the shot then wander through it. Other things (like the point where I appear twice in shot) came to us while we were filming. I was conscious that I wanted it to feel intentionally funny but it’s very difficult to get the humour across, so hopefully the bits where I pop up from behind gravestones suggests that it’s not an entirely serious book.

HKB: How many hours of footage did you shoot?

GPJ: You’d have to ask Joe, but we filmed until about midday so probably an hour or so of footage. There was lots of good stuff we didn’t use but hopefully we can use that when we come to make the video for the song. That’s the next plan. But first I need to call in another favour and ask a friend with a recording studio whether I can record the song. Then Joe and I will go back to the cemetery and do the video.

HKB: Did the trailer turn out as you expected?

GPJ: Actually better than I expected. I already knew Joe as a talented editor, but I’m very impressed with his camera work. Also, I’ve been pleased that I can watch it back without cringing.

HKB:What are your top tips for creating an effective book trailer?

GPJ:

  1. Start with a strong achievable idea and if possible script it first.
  2. Make sure you have the right equipment. It won’t be any good if you can’t hear what’s being said.
  3. Find locations which are evocative of rather than specific to your  book (i.e. if your book is set in turn of the century New Cross then standing outside New Cross Gate station really isn’t going to convey the feel of the book)
  4. Find a way to make the budget work. This is tricky. When I started making author films for the Richard and Judy Bookclub we had a budget of thousands for each one. We could fly all over the world to make them, use archive footage, hire actors, props and locations and plaster everything in commercial music (all of which cost). Even with a reduced budget you can make an idea work, but it’s always a consideration. Editors and cameraman get paid for their expertise. They’re the ones who can make things look good.
  5. Don’t try to tell the story. For me, there is nothing worse than someone explaining the story of a book. I don’t even like synopses. The reason we read books is because they tell us a story in the best possible way. So when you come to make a book trailer concentrate on themes, style, the essence of the book. The Hot Key [Key Ring] is a great start. Try and get across everything in that would be in that wheel for your book and you’re half way there.

So what are your favourite book trailers? Tweet us the links so we can watch them too!

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One response to “So you want to make a book trailer…

  1. I’m still fairly new to the idea of book trailers, but I find I like them a whole lot more than I do films of books. Maybe it’s like Gareth suggests – they don’t tell the story? Leaves more room for the imagination to get going and make a story more the reader’s?

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