Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Trailers Day 5: An Interview with April Halprin Wayland

And so we wrap up Book Trailer Week at TC & TF.

The joys and perils of having students make your book trailer. Today author April Halprin Wayland shares her experiences.

What questions should an author ask herself before making (or having made) a trailer?

How much am I willing to pay?
Do I want to farm it out or do it myself?
Do I have the time to do it myself?
Do I have the skills to do a good job myself?
Whose book trailers do I admire?
What will make viewers want to buy my book?

What goals did you set for yourself for the trailer for New Year At The Pier?

I wanted the book trailer up at least a month before my book came out.
I wanted it to be short.
I wanted it to capture the warmth and the essence of the holiday which this book describes.
I wanted it to be stand out from the crowd.

Please note that I was very lucky. I'd hired a high school student to do a previous book trailer. Beware of high school students! He was terrific and truly original and I love the trailer...but he created half of it on his girlfriend's computer...and then they broke up. Then he got sick. Then there were finals. It came out in the summer instead Poetry Month (April), which was my target. It was a good experiment and learning experience!

I knew Chase Gregory, then a freshman at Tufts, through her parents. She is media savvy and smart and original and she gets the picture very quickly. (Bonus: she's also really wonderful)
It's a Jewish book and she's not Jewish...yet she captured the essence of this celebration beautifully.

She found music that I mention in the book. It was perfect, so we contacted the Klezmer musicians who played it and paid them to use their music. We also link to their website. She could have gotten some generic music for free, but this was absolutely the right music to use.

I literally handed her the picture book which she hadn't read and said, "Make me a trailer, Chase. Do anything you want." She filmed our local pier and the ocean and gulls...and combined those live action images and the music with illustrations from the book (which we got permission to use from the illustrator and our publisher).

The first one was a bit too long, so I asked her to do a shorter version...I've posted them both on my website. I love-love-LOVE the trailer.

My trailer for Tyrannosaurus Math? It was made by film school senior Jesse Johnson, using Final Cut Pro, audio from an online music library collection, and her considerable natural talents.

Thanks to April, and all the interviewees who took the time to answer my questions. I've learned a lot!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Trailers Day 4: An Interview with Mary Ann Fraser

Are you thinking about making your first book trailer yourself? Today author/illustrator Mary Ann Fraser tells us how she went about making the video for the Ogg and Bob easy readers, which she also illustrated. The books were written by her son Ian.

How did you learn to make trailers?

I first learned about making book trailers from David Boeshaar at a Ventura/Santa Barbara retreat on social networking. He was great at making the process easy to understand, but a lot of it is just digging in and playing with the software to learn all you can do.

What goals did you set for yourself? What questions should an author ask herself about her book before making the trailer?

Basically the goal was to attract attention to my book (s) without giving too much away, and the final product needed to be two minutes or less. I also knew I wanted to make something a little different than what was already being done, but was somewhat limited by my video equipment, especially when it came to sound.

I think it's important to plan around what you know how to do and what you can afford. There are copyright free music downloads out there, some for free, some not. It's wise to figure out your budget from the beginning. I recommend writing a script before you start.

Were there any surprises or challenges along the way?

The most challenging part for me was figuring out how to get the video from the camera to my computer. I finally had to load it onto my husband's computer and then he sent it to mine. You can do voice-overs with an inexpensive headset and mike, but the sound will be compromised. The better the equipment, the better the final product.

What kind of software did you use?

I use Windows Movie maker which came with my computer. It is very user friendly.

Can you recommend places on the web for linking trailers?

Amazon's Author Central now allows you to attach a video to your author profile page. You might also look at,,, or

Thanks for sharing, Mary Ann.

TC&TF dedicates this week to book trailers, to celebrate the debut of my own for Tyrannosaus Math (see sidebar), created by the young and talented Jesse Johnson.
Tomorrow: An interview with author April Halprin Wayland.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Trailers Day 3: An Interview with Tina Nichols Coury

Today, TC & TF welcomes Tina Nichols Coury, author, blogger, and producer of many book trailers.

How did you learn to make trailers?

In 2008, my husband, Al Coury, received a lifetime achievement award from a heritage foundation in Washington D.C. and needed to supply a ten-minute video about his career. I wasn’t happy with the videos that a production company had done for the organization. My control freak self rose to the surface and I decided to go take classes and learn to do it myself.

Could you give an example of a trailer you admire?

The trailer for “The Hunger Games.” It is powerful, short and leaves you wanting to read the book. Also the trailer for “The Graveyard Book.” I had interviewed Neil Gaiman on my blog after he won the Newbery and was tickled with the animated trailer that he narrated.

What questions should an author ask themselves about their book before making the trailer?

Number one: can I afford a professional trailer? If you can, make sure the trailer producer READS your book.(You'd be amazed at the stories I've heard about how they "didn't get it.") There are many different companies that specialize in creating video trailers. You can spend as little as fifty dollars for a basic one or up to fifteen hundred for an all out animated version.

But if you have a knack and the proper equipment, you can produce a trailer yourself. Start with a short script, three sentences long. Make it a tease and not the whole story. Next, search for the perfect music to set the tone. It must be royalty free! I know of horror stories where people had to pay royalty fees when their kid made a trailer using licensed music. There are websites that specialize in royalty free music - Music Bakery, Royalty Free, and Beatsuite, just to name a few.

You want your trailer to be unique so it stands out. Make sure the trailer is short: 40 seconds to 1:20 max. Use the cover, your photo and the publishers name to set you apart from the self-published. Publish it on You Tube using a work in progress title, like "A-13." DO NOT USE YOUR BOOK NAME AT THIS POINT! You risk having a ghost trailer when you delete it for the approved version. Send the video to your agent and editor for approval or suggestions. Make the changes and sit on it for a week, as you would with a rewrite. When there is approval on all fronts, name it.

What kind of challenges have you faced in producing trailers?

The challenges usually arise from the clients. Most production houses limit editorial changes to three for a trailer. I am into making the client happy and have at times done as many as ten changes when the agent and editors get involved. 

What kind of software do you use?

I use a 17-inch Mac book Pro, with Motion Four and Finale Cut Studio.

Can you recommend places on the web for linking trailers?

Be sure to post your book trailer everywhere you can: your website, Blazing Trailers, Teacher Tube, Amazon, You Tube, Vimeo…just to name a few. If you do a blog tour, start it off with the debut of your book trailer.

Thanks for all those tips, Tina!

TC&TF dedicates this week to book trailers, to celebrate the debut of my own for Tyrannosaurus Math (see sidebar), created by the young and talented Jesse Johnson.

Tomorrow: children's book author/illustrator Mary Ann Fraser tells us about making her first trailer.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Trailers Day 2: An Interview with Tom Lichtenheld

Today I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Tom Lichtenheld, who illustrated and collaborated with Chris Barton on their trailer for Shark vs. Train. The video won School Library Journal's Trailee award (Publisher/Author created for elementary readers PreK-6) last year.

Additionally, Tom handled production of the trailer for Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Duck! Rabbit! He did the storyboard, and hired a Flash artist and music house.

You're an experienced art director. How did that help you in coming up with the concept for the trailers?

As much as the technical skills, what I bring from advertising is the understanding that every execution needs a strong idea at its center.

What goals did you set for each trailer? Could you describe your process in coming up with the scripts?

I try to entertain the viewer and charm them into finding out more about the book. What I do not try to do is recreate the book in video form. The only time this worked was with Duck!Rabbit!, but that book was already set up more or less as a storyboard, so it worked well. Otherwise I think it's better to convey the personality of the book and just give a hint of the storyline.

Regarding the "personality" of the books. If you could tell us what, specifically, you were trying to capture for those two, that would be helpful.

For Shark vs. Train, we were definitely going for zany. Shark and Train are blindly competitive and goofily inept, so they come off as a couple of blow-hards that are more likely to be laughed at than feared.

Any surprises or challenges along the way?

The budgets are teeny-tiny, but it's a good reminder that a powerful idea is more important than expensive production techniques. For instance, the soundtrack for the Duck!Rabbit! trailer was recorded in my nephew's closet, using a Flip camera as a tape recorder.

What software/hardware was used?

The Shark vs. Train trailer uses a lot of stock footage, and Flash is great for animation.

How would you describe an effective book trailer?

Not overly slick, doesn't take itself too seriously, and is interesting enough to live on its own. The pace and rhythm should definitely reflect the book.

Thanks, Tom.

TC&TF dedicates this week to book trailers, to celebrate the debut of my own (see sidebar), created by the young and talented Jesse Johnson. Tomorrow: an interview with Tina Nichols Coury, blogger- children's book author and trailer producer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Trailers: A Librarian's Viewpoint

This week, TC&TF runs a series of posts on book trailers, in honor of my very first!

Trailer created by Jesse Johnson at

Today, we hear from librarian and book trailer devotee Charna Gross of Sinai Akiba Academy.

Do you think trailers are effective forms of advertising? How are you exposed to the many trailers that are out there? Any sites that you regularly visit?

Yes! Kids are used to music videos, Youtube videos and movie previews. Book trailers speak their language. I look at book trailers that are mentioned on LM-Net, and I look them up on Youtube. I like and here is a site that gives a lot of info on how to make book trailers:

Could you give a few examples of well-executed trailers, and tell us why they might persuade you to read the books they promote?

I really liked the Found book trailer so much that I ordered the book: I also really enjoyed the trailer for the Secret of the Scarlett Stone at They are exciting visually and musically, and describe the book well without giving anything away.

Conversely, what kinds of trailers do not pique your interest?

If a trailer uses music that doesn’t fit the story or doesn't provide enough supporting text, it doesn't work for me. Another observation is that trailers shouldn't be too static. A trailer is meant to move.

How have you been using trailers at your school?

I have used them mostly as student-made products, either for a report on a book that the class is reading or for individuals to create their own trailers on books they want to promote. I have an educators’ account on Animoto, so it is limitless in terms of students making their own trailers.

What kind of observations/feedback have you gotten from the students about trailers?

Students inevitably want to check out books they’ve seen trailers of. Creating the trailers adds to their tech skills. They really enjoy using Animoto, but that is not the only way to do it.

Thanks for giving us your input, Charna.

Tomorrow: an interview with Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator of Shark vs. Train.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Omnivorous Reader

Happy New Year,

TC&TF is back after a long unannounced hiatus, during which time drafts for bio have been written/rewritten, and hands been wrung. Sigh.

To cheer up and keep limber, I've also been reading a lot, all kinds of things. One of my resolutions is to start writing down and organizing the bits I like. For now I'll just share a few on the old blog!

From Five Surprisingly Effective Dinner Party Riddles That I Can Personally Guarantee
By Dan Kennedy (McSweeney):

Q: What's the difference between a knife fight and a dinner party?

A: About six more glasses of this wine.

From When You Reach Me, a middle grade novel by Rebecca Stead:

"The girls at school had been hurting each others' feelings for years before Sal left me and I was forced to really notice them."

From Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins:

"I want them to water ski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it."

From Arthur & George, a novel by Julian Barnes:

(An excerpt from a dinner party, where the hostess senses the "male restiveness" at the far end of the table)

"They were eager for the curtained study, the poked fire, the lit cigar, the glass of brandy, and the opportunity, in as civilized a way as possible, to tear great lumps out of one another."

From the short story Distant Relations by Orhan Pamuk (published in The New Yorker)

(This is what happens after the main character, who is soon to be married, has a conversation with Fusun, a beautiful salesgirl:)

"Then, for a moment, I paused: my ghost had left my body and I was now, in some corner of Heaven, embracing Fusun and kissing her."

From the short story Everything I Know About My Family On My Mother's Side by Nathan Englander (published in Esquire)

(The main character's girlfriend has left him)
She is gone, and she will be surprised that I'm alive to write this-because she, and everyone who knows me, didn't think I'd survive it. That I can't be alone for a minute. That I can't manage a second of silence. A second of peace. That to breathe, I need a second set of lungs by my side.

In other news: I'll be teaching a six week class called "Writing the Picture Book: An Intermediate Workshop" for UCLA Extension on Saturday afternoons beginning April 2.

May your new year be filled with fabulous books- whether you read them, or write them!