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Try Before You Buy

Wattpad is an interesting website that allows you to read part or all of a book without spending any money. As a writer and a reader, I created my free account, posted some of my work, and built a library of other authors’ works. Some of my posted work in available on Amazon while others are only manuscripts that I hope to have published one day. Check out the Wattpad site and see what you think.

From Roaming the Streets to the Town from Hell

Entering a town from hell might seem like a bad thing, unless you’re Siren, the cat. She is the featured “Kirchner Zoo” member whose picture appears on my young adult, supernatural/horror book, Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. Her story ends happily. You’ll have to read Town from Hell to see if my characters Racer and Arloe are as lucky.

“What a difference a year makes” is a statement that is especially true for this cover cat. A year ago, Siren braved the Kirchner Zoo backyard, roaming with ferocious beasts—not an exaggeration for a 7-pound cat—to tear into our garbage bags to feed herself and her unborn kittens. Skin and bones with a dragging belly, Siren had no collar or microchip, and nobody claimed her through ads and posters. Fortunately, through the persistence of my daughter and the help of friends, Mary and Patience, Siren’s four kittens were born healthy in a comfortable and dry room while rain poured outside.

I could say Siren is one lucky cat, but it’s more accurate to say that we’re the lucky family because she chose us. If you check out my other books, the Pirates Off series and The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich series, the author bio always features at least one of my furry kids, and sometimes, they turn up as characters in the book as well.

Siren small
Siren courtesy of Jelly Bean Photos

Kitten Doctor small (1)

Kitten Odysseus small

Kitten Sir Pounce small

Pepper cat 2

Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell Book Tour

It’s official–Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell, a young adult horror/supernatural book, is available on Amazon and making the rounds on Bewitching Book Tours. Visit the tour and sign up to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Some of the stops feature interviews and a sample from the book. The trailer for Town from Hell, which is on YouTube, was the subject of my previous blog on ‘How To Make a Low Budget Book Trailer.’

Town from Hell Button 300 x 225[1]

How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer Part 4: The Completed Project

The book trailer is completed for my Young Adult horror/supernatural Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. The book will be published in April 2015 and available on Amazon. Since I shot all my own video and only purchased two audio files from iStockphoto, which were one credit each, the cost came in around $10.

The desert scenes were actually shot in the Nevada desert, although the ‘Winthrop’ and ‘Welcome to Nevada’ signs were added in Photoshop. The coyote howls were captured at a golf course, the wooden planks were at Bonnie Springs Ranch, and most of the other scenes were shot at home. View the video on YouTube.

Differences from the Original Layout

In the first part of the series, How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer: Step by Step, I showed how I created a storyboard before shooting the video. Most of the ideas from the storyboard were shot as scenes in the final version; however, after having friends view the first version of the trailer, one scene that confused them was deleted. The handwritten notes from Racer and Arloe were replaced by boots and backpacks sitting next to a door. Also the scene with a door, which would have had Blue’s symbol emblazoned on it, was replaced by a treasure chest—possibly hiding a body—watch the trailer to find out.

Special or Not-so Special Effects

I created a burning symbol in Photoshop that glows within Racer’s tattoo on his bicep. The original tattoo wasn’t very good, so I worked on it to get a better version. The flaming symbol isn’t perfect, but I think it portrays what I was getting at. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. I’ve had mixed reviews on it so far. It gives me incentive to work on my Photoshop skills.

The Final Installment

Overall, I’m happy with the final trailer and the fact it is completed weeks before Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell is for sale on Amazon. Hopefully, it will stir up interest about what’s going on in Winthrop and what Sheriff Blue really is. As I bring this series in my blog to a close, I hope that any or all of it has helped inspire you to try making a trailer. Good luck with your endeavor!

How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer Part 3: The Finishing Touches

This is the final part in my blog series How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer. With only one scene left to shoot, I put all the other scenes, music and sounds for my young adult, horror/supernatural book trailer Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell into Movie Maker. I manipulated several pictures in Photoshop to take the place of video I couldn’t shoot.

Special Effects with One Photo

By using photos, it was possible to create an illusion that I wanted but couldn’t acquire as video. The version of Photoshop I work with doesn’t have any video editing capabilities. I’m not an expert with the software, but I still am able to manipulate photographs after some trial and error.
The first picture is of the Nevada desert, which is exactly where my characters are traveling to. Anyone else looking at the video probably couldn’t tell where the location is, so I added a ‘Welcome to Nevada’ sign using Photoshop. It worked better for me to take the sign from a different picture and move it to the desert picture.

The second picture is also the Nevada desert. I wanted to let the viewer know that the characters had arrived at my fictional town, Winthrop, so I added the ‘Winthrop, NV’ sign. The sign is about as dilapidated as the rest of the town, and it should just say ‘Welcome to Hell’, but hopefully, the text I chose for the trailer will convey that.

Creating a Scene with Multiple Photos

I used the same technique that I used in my book trailer The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich: The Zombie Next Door and placed several photographs together in Movie Maker. Each picture varies slightly to create motion. In Zombie, an angel statue turns into a gargoyle. For this video, the tattoo on my main character’s bicep has a symbol animate inside of his tattoo. The tattoo remains the same, but the symbol turns red and has tiny flames dance around the lines.

I took a picture of a bicep and added the tattoo. I drew the tattoo freehand in black pen and colored it in Photoshop before I added it to the arm. Once the two pictures were merged, I created the symbol as the top layer and played with different aspects to get the ‘flaming’ effect. I strung 10 slightly changed pictures together, repeating three of the brightest patterns, so it appears as though the symbol flickers. Each picture is only set for a duration of .2 or .25. You have to play with the duration to see what works for your material.

Arm small

arm n tattoo small

arm n tattoo w flame small

Welcome to NV no sign small

Welcome to NV 5 small

I still have a little work to do before I post the trailer on YouTube, but I’m happy with the way it’s coming along. The budget for this video was very low. I only purchased two audio files from iStockphoto, which were one credit each. I’m not sure what a credit is worth now because they switched to a new credit system, but audio from many sites can usually be obtained for under $10. I’ll post the link to the trailer when it’s finally complete. Good luck with your trailer!

How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer: Step by Step

In my other blog series, Creating a Low-budget Book Trailer: The First Steps, I went over the process I used to create my middle grade and young adult book trailers for under $40. This blog will go through the step-by-step process for my new book trailer from the original ideas to the final product and all the changes in between. Do not confuse low budget with easy. To create a decent book trailer that is one to two minutes long, you will have to invest a good deal of time. Are you ready?

Keep in Mind

I am not a professional videographer, and I do not put together book trailers for a living. I am not promoting any software or companies that sell audio or video. I am just an author on a really tight advertising budget, passing along tips to fellow authors. Even if you don’t find my book trailers as wonderful as I’d like you to, you may be able to pick up a useful tip or two to make an even more fabulous one of your own.

Although I have books published, the trailer I’m going to create will be for a manuscript that isn’t published. Why would I go through the trouble? The reason is simple: I want to be prepared. Hopefully, my agent/publisher will want to publish the book, and when/if I get the thumbs up, I can start promoting it to build interest.

Key Points of the Book Trailer

My manuscript, Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell, is a young adult, horror, supernatural adventure. It’s suspenseful and has some gross scenes. I want those points to come across in my trailer without giving too much away. The quick synopsis is: two 17-year-olds are very much and love and decide to run away just for the summer to escape their meddling parents. The juvenile delinquent Racer and college-bound Arloe are as opposite as their families. They go off the grid exactly like they planned to a remote town and wind up in a nightmare. Of course, their parents can’t help them because they have no clue where the teens went.

Show and Tell

I picked out a few scenes from the manuscript that would set up the story and let the viewer know the teens didn’t arrive at a pleasant place. On a sheet of paper divided into 10 sections, I roughly (as in Pictionary drawings) sketched my ideas for the scenes. I am very visual, so this helps me a lot. It took a few days to decide what to use; I didn’t zoom through it in five minutes.
Creating House rough sketch

I copy and pasted lines from the manuscript into another document. I chose short lines that I thought were interesting, informative, and would introduce my main characters, Racer, Arloe, and Sheriff Blue. Again, it was a time-consuming process. For the next blog, I’ll match the scenes with the lines. Examples of lines:

• Our parents will never find us—I made sure of that.
• Everyone we’d met in Winthrop had a name from the book of nursery rhymes. It was all too weird, and I couldn’t get out of town fast enough.
• “Jack hid bodies!”
I stared at the frozen face of a middle-aged man. His blue lips had frozen squashed against the clear plastic that encased his body, and his pale, lifeless eyes had partially rolled back in their sockets. “I think Jack is a body.”
• “We’ll never get out of here. Things are roaming all over this place.”
“What kind of thing is Blue exactly?”

Just like a manuscript, this is a first draft, but it gives me a starting point. From here, I’ll work on tightening the sentences, finding music and sounds to enhance the scenes and figure out where I’ll shoot or acquire my envisioned video and stills. I recently found this blog by author Kate Bloomfield that also has helpful tips, and I think her trailer is well done.

Check back on my blog to see how the trailer for Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell is coming along.

Making Your Low Budget Book Trailer Interesting

A book trailer you make on a small budget can be as captivating and entertaining as one that costs thousands to make, but you have to be ready to invest a good deal of time on effort on it. When I made the book trailer for my middle grade book, Pirates Off the Deep End, I had never used video editing software before and was pretty clueless about how to begin. Finding blogs such as this one can be invaluable resources. In fact, one blog I found handy is The BookBaby Blog.

For my second book trailer, The Zombie Next Door, I had a handle on what I was doing and could get a little more creative. I wanted to create a scene from the book that involved a nightmare the main character Goldie Rich had. She wandered in a creepy graveyard at night, of course, and admired the beautiful angel statue, which proceeded to turn into a hideous gargoyle right before her eyes.

Fallen Angel

Angel small   Gravestone small

Although video and .jpgs can be incorporated into your trailer, if you have any ability with photo editing software such as Photoshop, you can produce some ‘book trailer magic’ as well. I am not a Photoshop expert by any means, but after taking a class and playing around with it, I can generally get projects put together the way I envision them. Above left is a 5-inch angel statue I photographed at a fountain store. I turned her into a headstone using Photoshop to use as the first photo in a series that changes the angel into the gargoyle show below.

Haunting Goldie’s Nightmares

Gargoyle small   Angel Gargoyle red eyes small

The gargoyle above was a two-foot high statue at the same fountain store. Since I only photographed the statues and didn’t purchase them, it didn’t cost me anything. Using Photoshop, I converted the angel into the gargoyle with two photos that underwent a combined 18 stages. In each stage, the main subject was slightly skewed, shrunken, and re-colored. For the final pictures, I flipped the gargoyle vertically and colored the eyes red.

I was happy with the results, and my SCBWI critique group that watched the video thought it was a nice touch. I also used the technique to make the voodoo doll in the Zombie video wink. If you’re thinking…zombies, graveyards, voodoo doll…pretty cool, check out my book The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich: The Zombie Next Door on my Amazon Author’s Page. And good luck with your trailer.

Creating a Low-Budget Book Trailer: Audio and Music

Making my Pirates Off the Deep End book trailer was a multi-step process. If you haven’t followed my blog, I’ll do a quick summary. First, I literally sketched out my scenes with pictures no better than you’d draw for Pictionary. That helped me organize my thoughts to know what video I needed. I also matched the scenes with quotes from my book. Next, I shot 10 to 20 seconds of different video to try to match the ideas I had on paper.

Before I put the video clips together, I searched for music and sounds to enhance the trailer. Of course, when you take video, it has audio. However, the audio may not be clear and may be saturated with background noise. On the bright side, audio isn’t as expensive to purchase as video. I also used free software, Audacity, to pull audio out of video such as in my Zombie Next Door trailer. The ringing doorbell was removed from one video and added to the ‘tortilla chip scene.’ I am not promoting Audacity software, just telling you what I used.

Did I Spend Any Money?

Yes, I did. My Pirates Off the Deep End book trailer cost $32 to make plus my time. The hourglass cost me $12 plus shipping. I also bought $20 of sounds from iStockPhoto. You MUST give credit for any audio or video you purchase in your trailer. If you look at the credits at the end of my trailer, you will see the iStockPhoto purchases. I’m not sure about other companies, but once you download through iStockPhoto, you can use it in multiple trailers as long as you give credit. Their website goes over all the rules and regulations. Once again, I’m not promoting them, just telling you where I purchased my audio.

For my second trailer, The Zombie Next Door, I used the same sounds I’d purchased already and recorded some of my own such as the wolf howling. This goes back to my advice of keeping the camcorder handy. I actually got lucky with the howling wolf. I visited a wolf sanctuary, and an emergency vehicle passed by sirens blaring. That will set the wolves off every time. I used Audacity software to extract the howling from the video so that it could be added to the creepy moon scene.

Whatever Works Part II

Audio makes a huge difference toward the quality of the trailer. I actually purchased the pirate laugh and the candle noise at the end of my video. My camcorder didn’t pick up any candle crackle, so I added the sound for effect. Although the movie editing software cuts out a lot of background noise, music or sounds cover any that is left. In Turbo’s scene, the music covered over the noise of the vacuum cleaner. Turbo doesn’t attack on command, but he does attack the vacuum every single time it’s on. I needed him in attack mode, so I fired up the vacuum. Whatever works.

I have to admit, I learned a lot making the trailers, and I had a great time doing it. I’m still learning. Of course, I like doing creative, artsy stuff. It also helps when family and friends get involved. When I filmed The Zombie Next Door, my neighbor let me film the curtain scene in his house since I don’t have curtains, and my brother-in-law videotaped some creepy graveyards for me since they have a huge selection where he’s from. Just be sure to give whoever helps proper credit in your credits at the end of the trailer. In my next blog, I’ll tell you how I put the video, audio, and .jpgs together with Movie Maker software.

Creating a Low-Budget Book Trailer: Getting the Footage You Need

With my rough sketch of my book trailer in hand, I grabbed my camera, camcorder, and tripod and got down to business. Let me just make it clear that I do not own professional video equipment. My digital camera is a nice point-and-shoot Sony Cyber-shot, and my digital camcorder is a Sony Handy-cam. I borrowed the tripod from my daughter, who is an aspiring photographer. I used Movie Maker software, which I’d never used before making the book trailer. It’s easy to figure out and worked well for my needs. As with any software, you get faster with it and learn tricks as you go. I am not selling any product, just telling you what I used.
My first challenge—my book, Pirates Off the Deep End, is set mainly on a boat in the ocean or in South American ports. I live in a desert. It could have been a potential problem, but I made it work.

Making Do
I could have driven four hours to the ocean, but I didn’t. I would have loved to, but a beach trip costs time and money. I went down to the local lake and videotaped scenes of different boats and the marina. A tripod helped tremendously, especially after a cup of coffee, to get non-shaky video. I zoomed in and out, filmed from different directions, and took some random fish video. You never know. I did have to drive 30 minutes, so I made the most of my time.
The rest of my trailer except for the sunset and full moon is shot inside my home. By showing a boat in the first scene, it gives the illusion (or is meant to) that the rest of the action takes place on a boat.

Video Tips from an Amateur
I kept the video under 20 seconds. Short videos download faster, are easier to crop, and take up less space on your computer. If you’re only using 10 seconds of video per scene, shooting 20 seconds should give you plenty to work with. The tripod is really worthwhile. To acquire one cheaply, borrow one, buy one used online or seek out one at a garage sale. Get one if you plan on making more than one trailer. Try to limit the background noise, if possible.

Keep Your Camcorder Handy
Buying footage can be expensive, so I learned fast to shoot random video and save it. The old proverb about ‘saving for a rainy day’ really works when you live in the desert and only see rain every three months. After a huge summer rain, I ran for my camcorder. Clouds make for a beautiful sunset and great moon shots. I got lucky with the sunset video and creepy full moon. I actually used the moon in my other book trailer, too. Recycling footage and audio saves money.

Whatever Works Part I
The $12 hourglass I purchased does not glow. It only shifts sand back and forth. I needed a glowing hourglass because that’s what in my story. It’s actually a huge part of the story. To get the hourglass to glow green, I set the camcorder on the tripod and turned it on. I held a green translucent paper over a flashlight and pointed it at the hourglass. By the way, the candle and hourglass were sitting on a hamper in my hallway—far from any boat. Yep, whatever works.

If you’re still following along, go shoot some video and make sure to have a clear .jpg of your book cover. Also, you may find some free video you can use at Vidsplay. I used on of their beach videos as my opening scene for my Zombie Next Door book trailer. Don’t forget to write down the information to give them credit if you do use their video. In my next blog, I’ll cover audio.

Creating a Low-Budget Book Trailer: The First Steps

The first thing I did in the process of making the book trailer for Pirates Off the Deep End was to decide what are the key points of my book. Pirates is a middle grade, ages 8 to 12, adventure with some tense moments, but it has a funny side—after all it involves three brothers ages 10, 12 and 13 and the trouble they get into. The main character and narrator is the middle brother, Tommy. Another main character is 400-year-old ghost pirate, Francois l’Olonnais. If the name sounds familiar, he was a real pirate in the 1600s. As the main characters, Tommy and l’Olonnais had to be mentioned in the trailer.

Set the Mood
Since my book has adventure and comedy, I wanted to have at least one ‘tense’ scene appropriate for the book’s age range and a funny scene. Cute dogs and babies always score points with people, but I don’t have any babies in my book. I do have a scene with a dog. Fortunately, I have four dogs of my own to choose from to star in the video. Turbo just happened to fit the bill. Much of the story takes place on a boat, so I need to let the viewer get the feel that the video is shot on a boat. Two huge problems for me—I don’t own a boat, and I live in the desert. Most problems have solutions, and I’ll get to mine later.

Actors or Not?
I have two reasons why I didn’t want any actors other than Turbo. I like my readers to create their own image of my characters in their mind, so I never describe my characters in great detail. I certainly don’t want to put their image in a video…unless a producer wants to make a movie of the book. That would be an exception. Otherwise, it’s my personal preference as a writer to let the reader get creative. Another huge reason to avoid actors in a low-budget book trailer is that the acting probably will be less than stellar if you recruit your child, a friend, or a neighbor. For good acting, you’re going to have to pay, and that will increase the cost of your trailer.

Use Your Words
One more thing before you grab your camera is to pick out some of your favorite lines from your book or lines that tell a lot about the story in a few words. A book trailer has to hold the audience for roughly a minute and 30 seconds, so you can’t have a huge chunk of text for them to read. If you’re switching scenes like I did, they may only have 8 to 10 seconds to take in the action and read the words.

Get Your Ideas down Quick and Dirty
So, if you’ve been following along and you want to try my method, you should pick out a few key scenes, main characters, and lines from your book. I figured that if my book trailer was a minute and 30 seconds, I’d have 10 scenes at the most. I know 13 seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it is for a trailer scene.

After I had a rough idea of what scenes I wanted to recreate, I divided a sheet of paper into 10 sections and sketched the most basic drawings of items I needed in each scene. For Pirates, I sketched a boat (the kind that looks like a banana with a sail) in one section. It’s just a placeholder for an idea, so who cares? I filled in all 10 sections with quick drawings. Next, I wrote down the lines from the book on another piece of paper. I’m a VERY visual person, and yes, I do have Photoshop and other graphic packages, but I didn’t need to spend time making it look perfect. Do you type your grocery list? Quick and dirty. Now match the lines with scenes.

My next blog will discuss filming tips and techniques, editing, and where to get the video and audio you can’t shoot on your own—all within a low budget, of course.