I owe a lot to Rich Helms, author, software guru and creative cheerleader, because it’s Rich who dragged me kicking and screaming into the amazing world of Hands-On-On-The-Ground Book Trailer creation.
Did I leave anything out Rich?
Rich Helms has spent decades creating bleeding edge innovations, including groundbreaking course Book Trailer 101. A seasoned software developer with over 30 years of experience in computer Research and Development, his credentials range from deep technical work (five patents in hardware and software) to running multi-national R&D shops. Rich has been developing multi-media technology since the 1980’s including CARES (Computer Assisted Recovery Enhancement System) for the Metropolitan Toronto Police. CARES was the first computer system in the world for locating aging missing children. He also served as a board member for the Writer’s Community of Durham Region (WCDR) for eight years.
I 2010 he co-authored, Amazon Simple DB Developer Guide for Packt Publishing.
I met Rich a few years back at a Writer’s Community of Durham Region breakfast where his spouse, the inimitable Dorothea Helms was espousing the virtues of comedy and poetry slams. At press time, I have yet to summon the nerve to get up on stage and become a slammy, but I sure took Rich’s advice and got myself together a book trailer.
After just five weeks under Rich’s tutelage, my classmates and I now dabble in sound editing, animation and movie making. Not bad for a clutch of novelists, poets and diarists.
Something this good had to be shared. Presenting Rich Helms, Trailer Guru and father of Book Trailer 101:
The Q and A
You live in Durham Region but sound suspiciously American. Care to explain your provenance?
I was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Pittsburgh. My wife and I met at Clarion University, then moved to Canada for my graduate study. We intended to stay for only two years, but it quickly became home. I joined IBM and we lived around the country, for as many know, IBM stands for “I’ve Been Moved.”
How different is a book trailer from the book itself in terms of the subtext that governs it? Is it more about marketing than telling a story?
A book trailer is a video commercial. It is all about marketing, but it is soft sell. Hard sell doesn’t work for books. Most people read a book for entertainment or to learn. The trailer needs to communicate that their desire will be met. With the Internet offering so much content for free, the trailer has to capture their attention and convince them the reward will be worth the cost both in money and time.
The trailer may tell a story, such as the Miriam Black trailer by Chuck Wendig (http://bt101.info/bm), but more often it is a tease. The story involves an intriguing set-up, but then you are left wanting. A good book trailer taunts, tantalizes and seduces, but reveals little.
Someone in publishing recently told me that a cover font has nothing to do with what’s inside. The same would apply to a level-one trailer if this were true. Do you agree or disagree with either of these statements? And I guess you better explain what a level-one trailer is.
I don’t see the correlation. A level-one trailer has a lot more to do with the book than the font on the cover. A level-one book trailer communicates with titles, i.e. words, rather than a voice-over or live video sound. Titles are limiting, as you can present only about 60 words in 60 seconds. Reading sentences of text in a video is challenging, so you are limited to short phrases. Now comes the big challenge – exciting the viewer with so few words. It is like writing poetry, where every word is precious and has purpose.
The images, font and music set a tone, but the work is done with the words. They sell the story.
The key to an effective DIY trailer is doing your homework. A lot of people want to jump on Animoto, spend a couple hours and produce a trailer, which is fine. So is writing a book in a weekend. Problem is, will either of these be any good? I doubt it. As with writing a book, creating a book trailer takes a lot of thought work to awaken moments of inspiration. It also takes some trial and error, along with an honest look at what the book is about.
That is why I wrote my Book Trailer 101 site and upcoming book – to walk the DIY author through the process to create an effective book trailer.
You have analyzed many book trailers. I hear the comment that a lot of book trailers lack the zip their creators hoped for. Why is this?
It takes time and effort to learn what makes an effective book trailer and when you see the result it becomes clear they didn’t invest the time. Fancy music, pretty images and amazing video transitions do not make a good trailer. Writing does.
The most common problems:
- Too long
- Too much detail
- Overly dramatic including the music
- Music is all one level – loud and pounding
- No grab up front or hook at the end
- Cliché lines used – “Will he survive?”
- The lines could apply to any book
- Too much praise
A great trailer like a great movie starts with a great script.
And you have a book trailer of your own?
Of course (laughs) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4ReQnbvL2E
Thanks for the snapshot Rich. I hear you’re teaching a Master Class at the Ontario Writer’s Conference in April?
That’s right. Three-hours on April 24, 2015. Last year I did a one hour teaser. This one will cover the 7 steps needed to create an effective trailer. And I’ll be making the point again that whether you are working on a first draft or your book is already published, the prep work for trailer creation can help you focus on what your book is actually about.
With some hands on?
Yes! Participants will actually create a trailer for Terry Fallis’ first novel, The Best Laid Plans, during the three-hour session. http://bt101.info/owc
Thanks for your time, Rich. I’m this close to posting my trailer to YouTube.
Good to hear, AB. And great to be here. Post that trailer. Cheers.