Modern day movies have always had promo trailers. Now, it seems books need them too. There are a few companies out there that produce them, but for a price. Most are reasonable when you consider the hours that go into a 30 to 60 second video. Me, being on the shoestring, absolutely no extra money for marketing budget, decided to do my own. I have thrown simple videos together using Windows Live Move Maker to promote a couple of events and even done more advanced editing as part of my college curriculum, so I’m very comfortable with technical aspects of it. My bigger issue, and need, was the content to assemble.

At first, I asked a friend to draw me some cool graphics based on some stick figure drawings that I would produce. I had plenty of ideas, but they all seemed a little over-complicated.  Working on both the print and web platforms, I’ve had one thing consistently drilled in my head: “Keep it simple, stupid.” The whole point of the trailer was to promote my book and, except for the cover, the book was made up of words, so I needed to forget about the flashy graphics and concentrate on two things: words and music.

The words were easy. They would come for the book, either the blurb or select excerpt or two. The music was a little harder.  I wanted some that was inexpensive, preferably free, and legal on YouTube. Through a Google search, I found incompetech.com. My initial idea was to find something up beat with plenty of horns and a celebratory tone. Nothing that sounded too synthetic, though. As I started listening, I thought more about the book, which mentioned my main character’s fear and choice. Those suggested a darker, more introspective piece.

I stumbled across Tempting Secrets. The name was cool and so was the haunting melody, but what was I going to do with the bombastic drum at the beginning? I listened to a few more pieces, but they left me wanting something more. I downloaded Tempting Secrets and went on to the next step, figuring that I could always trim off the first few seconds of the piece’s opening, if I had to.

The last scene was the easiest, so I started there. It was the promo for the book with the title, cover, release date, and the pre-order info.  At first, I designed it against a wood background, just to set off the black of the cover. Then, as I got into the production of the video, where I used a space backdrop to keep consistent with the cover, I wondered how I was going to transition between the two without it looking strange.  I ended up scrapping the wood and keeping one background throughout the whole video.

There is a paragraph in Spirit, around the time that my main character is making the decision mentioned in the blurb, that says:

What if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if all free-roaming horses have no other intentions than finding a safe place to graze and shelter? What if this one in particular, despite his heritage and reputation, is more scared of me than I am of him? Can I afford to let nine more years of my life, my friends, my family, and my dreams slip away from me because of some stupid fear?

It seemed perfect for the ideas I wanted to express, but it was too long. From working on presentations and other videos, I knew that most people can only read and retain about three ideas  per slide (or scene) and they have to be presented in quick, little sentences.

As I drove to the beach to walk my dogs, I kept coming back to the “What if” part. Those two simple words are a constant and complicated question that permeate many parts of my life.  Mulling that over in my head, I came up with the opening lines of “What if? Two simple words. One complex question.” The rest of what I was going to say came easy after that.

To create the video, I played around with a few editors, but kept coming back to Windows Live Movie Maker. Only one problem, I wanted to do multiple layers of text and make the transitions look seamless. I’ve done that before by doing all the graphics in Photoshop and then importing what I needed into WLMM. Through this video, I found out how to layer multiple captions. In the end, it was less time than if I had done it via graphics because I didn’t have to try and mask every letter for the effect I wanted, I just used WLMM’s built-in ones.  The production still took a few hours to do because of timing and positioning everything just right.

What about that bombastic drum? Well, the effect I chose for the “What if?” took care of that. It was spot on and I didn’t have to do anything. Judge, for yourself, though . . .