What’s Your Longline? (A great place to start your book trailer)
I’m a video marketing expert. I can’t help it. It’s my day job that keeps the cats from starving. I’ve also published and spent a lot of time marketing my novels, and that includes several variations of book trailers in different lengths for different audiences because, well, because I can. So naturally, when I give a workshop at writers’ conferences on how authors can create better book trailers (and most of them out there suck, frankly,) writers hit me up for advice on where to start over warmed-over coffee and stale muffins during the breaks.
Where do you find the best images? How about music? How long should it be? For DYI-ers, what editing software is best? Details, details. Don’t get ahead of yourself, I say.
My first question to you: What’s your logline?
You need a logline. What IS a logline, you ask? It’s been a staple of movie pitches since before the invention of popcorn and drive-ins. It’s a single sentence—maximum of two if they are short—that strips your story down to the core, most compelling elements. In fact, whether you write nonfiction or fiction, authors should know their logline to better understand the point of their book. If you don’t have one when you start writing, (Yes, I’m talking to you—you pantser) you certainly should be able to boil down what you’re trying to say by the end of the first draft. Steal from the best. Hollywood is a great tutor for authors even if their story isn’t destined for the silver screen:
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. (The Godfather)
A science-fiction fantasy about a naive farm boy who discovers powers he never knew he had when he teams up with a feisty princess, a mercenary space pilot, and an old wizard to lead a ragtag rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire. (Star Wars)
Six unemployed steel workers form a male striptease act to pay their bills. Their swagger and friendship are tested as the audience of women cheer them on to go for “the full monty” – total nudity. (The Full Monty)
Think of your author book trailer as a pitch with pictures. You are trying to sell your story, the viewer is your target audience, and with only a minute to convince them, a logline approach is a great format to follow. Most book trailers suffer because they lean too heavily on the blurb from the back of the book—using the description of the characters and plot, a lot of text over a slow-moving slideshow of images. A logline is much more simple and effective but….
Great log lines are not easy. They require a lot of cutting. And more cutting. And reevaluation, even if your story began as a logline-ish idea in your head before you wrote the first word. Put to use in a good book trailer, they all involve the same five elements tweaked to work as seamlessly as possible with the visuals. You have:
His or her goal
The main action that drives the story
The antagonist or obstacle to the goal
Call to action — “find out more/buy my book.”
BOOM! You’re done.
I’ve written more than a dozen versions of the log line for my novel, Déjà vu All Over Again, each one is tailored for a specific audience. This is my favorite de jour:
A romantic comedy about a washed-up screenwriter who tries to re-boot his life by writing a script for himself, using it as a guide to recreate his high school days. If he does it right, he’ll finally win over the girl he dumped forty years ago—before she marries the wrong guy. Again.
Frequently, a really good logline is all the copy you need to captivate your audience in a book trailer when it’s supported by strong matching visuals. Others may need a little padding based on your genre or target audience. But either way, a logline is the critical starting point for creating an awesome book trailer that sells and not merely describes your book. That’s the place to start.
Got a great logline of your own? Feel Free to add it to the comment section below. In the meantime, take a lesson from this excerpt of what looks like TV Guide that serves as a great log line from a well-known movie.
Or maybe not.
“Oz” meme courtesy of jokester Rick “That TV Guy” Polito. Check him out on his Facebook page.