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The making of the CHOCOLATE & VICODIN book trailer

Behold, the grand unveiling of the CHOCOLATE & VICODIN book trailer:

Yes, books are now required to have video trailers. When I say “required,” they are not actually required, you are just highly pressured into making one, like babies are for couples in their 30′s. When my first book, Half-Assed came out in April of 2008, video book trailers were just starting to become the norm, but no one told me that until after the book came out! So, I threw something together using my weight-loss progress photos that came out fairly well. (48,000 views can’t be wrong, right?)

This time around I decided to seek advice from actual publishing professionals before making my trailer. I also viewed some trailers to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Research. (Yes, spending hours on YouTube can be considered research)
Rachel Kramer Bussel is an author friend who’s done lots of (Not Safe For Work) book trailers, and she said to keep it under two minutes and to make it match the tone of your book. It also shouldn’t be an ad, since no one wants to watch an ad (unless it’s one of those creme de la creme Superbowl ads). She said, “The main point is to catch people’s attention and get them to watch the video, rather than a hard sell on the book.”

I searched YouTube for “book trailers” and came up with some very good and very bad trailers. There are a lot of awful gothic/supernatural/romance trailers that feature lots of moody establishing shots, interspersed with titles, and a melodramatic soundtracks. Thankfully there are also some good trailers. Here are some of the best I found, all of which made me want to learn more about the books they advertised:


Night of the Living Trekkies
Quark Books is a publisher most famous for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. They also clearly spend mad cash on their trailers. This looks like a trailer for an actual film, not just a book. Honestly, I think the book would be a letdown after seeing this trailer.


Leviathan
This one has great animation and gives you a good taste of the storyline without giving it all away. But like the previous trailer, it’s way outside my budget and realm of expertise.


The Happiness Project
This one looks like something I could make, the animation coordinates well with the music, it gets the point across and overall seems to express the tone of the book.


Harlot’s Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss, and Greece
This one makes hilarious use of YouTube’s captioning feature, which makes me think the book is probably pretty funny, too. The production values also seemed within my reach.

Planning (to do awful things to teddy bears)
I wrote up five script treatments for trailers, which are just short summaries of what the trailer would be. I picked the one I thought would play best visually. (You can’t really film a headache). It featured a stuffed animal undergoing various treatments that didn’t cure my headache. I had considered showing myself undergoing treatments, but that would be harder to film since I didn’t want someone sticking needles in me unless they were professionally accredited to do so. I also thought abusing a teddy bear and making it smoke pot would be wonderfully ridiculous (but I might just be twisted). I liked this approach because it didn’t require me to appear in the trailer, which would have made me feel self-conscious. I prefer not to be the center of attention.

I wrote out a full script describing what titles would flash on screen and what visuals I needed to film. Then I made a list of all the props I’d need. I purged a lot of my possessions before I moved in last July, so any stuffed animals I had left were ones that I didn’t want to maim. Instead I had to go to Toys R’ Us for the first time in I don’t know how many years. I felt like a truly depraved individual as I shuffled up and down the aisles amongst parents and their innocent lil’ children while I was thinking, “Who shall I cast in my teddy bear porno?”

Let the camera roll (and shake)
Roll cameras!

Once I had my props and a script, I set up my filming area. I taped some dark contact paper against a wall so the light-colored teddy bear would show up against the background. Then I used masking tape to bind the bear’s legs in place and to stick his butt to the table. I positioned a directional desk lamp on top of the box to give me better lighting. I set my Flip camera on top of a stack of books and taped it to the top one so it wouldn’t bounce that much when I was filming.

I went through my shot list and crossed off shots as I got them, usually doing several takes to make sure I got something usable. I ran into a few issues during filming.

  • When I dropped my big mixture of expired painkillers in front of the camera they moved so quickly that you couldn’t tell the resulting blur was made of pills. I found that tossing the pills at the bear read better on camera.
  • When I filmed the bear smoking a joint, it took me about five takes before I was able to start the lighter in one try. I’m not a smoker, so I’m unpracticed in that skill. I was also so focused on the lighter that I was mildly concerned I might set the bear on fire and burn down the apartment complex. Then when the firefighters asked me what I had been doing, my only explanation would be, “Oh, I was just shooting a book trailer.”
  • I was happy that I had a hypodermic needle for the Botox shot, but I only had it because it was in the anaphylaxis kit that came with my IV treatment kit a few years ago. It seemed appropriate that everything came full circle that way.

Post production (aka OH MY FUCKING GOD I HATE DIGITAL VIDEO!!!)
Now I had to edit the trailer, so I downloaded the videos to my computer. Well, I tried to. The FlipShare program kept crapping out on me, and then when I finally had transferred the MP4 files to my hard drive, Vista kept freaking out whenever it tried to read a file, causing an error box to appear and the Explorer window to refresh. Then, in a moment of pure stupid-a-tude, I saved one of the video files to the desktop, which caused the computer to loop in an endless cycle of error windows that kept popping up as soon as I closed them, locking me out of my computer.

It was at this point that I said, “Fuck this shit. I’m getting a new computer.” And I did.

Yes, it was my video book trailer that finally sent me over the edge to make a $1000 purchase I had been planning on making for a few months. I was going to wait until I knew how much money I had left after taxes to replace my 3-year-old laptop, but I decided to just get the damn computer now so I could finish the trailer.

Several days later, the UPS man delivered my computer and I was able to install the 30-day trial version of Adobe Premiere to do my video editing. I couldn’t use this on the old laptop because it required a 64-bit operating system. Premiere was the program I learned to use in a college video editing class, so I was familiar enough with it to get my editing done surprisingly quickly. It only took 2-3 hours.

I needed to have copyright approval to use any music in the trailer because I’d like to get my publisher to place it on my Amazon page. I didn’t want to get sued for violating someone’s copyright. I thought about using some royalty-free music which you can find via Google, but then I remembered that my friend Jenny plays bass in the band The Odyssey Favor, so they let me use one of their songs. I then exported the video in a web-friendly format. After a few friends viewed it and promised me it didn’t suck (and I hope they didn’t lie), I uploaded it for all the world to see.

I hope you guys like it! At the very least I hope it makes you want to learn more about the book (or start a coalition to protect teddy bears). Feel free to post it on your own sites, tweet the link, scream the web address from the rooftops or what have you. I assure you that no teddy bears were permanently harmed in the making of this video.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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One Trackback

Sunday Pleasures #90 « Shanna Germain · February 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm

[...] Some Really Fantastic Book Trailers compiled by PastaQueen [...]

24 Comments

Debbi • February 8, 2011 at 8:09 am

Very clever concept, and I love the music. Great job!

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H-woman • February 8, 2011 at 8:41 am

I love it!

=)

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Hunter • February 8, 2011 at 8:50 am

Good job! My favorite was the acupuncture needles. Or maybe it was the frozen veggies. Anyway, very nice!

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Lisa • February 8, 2011 at 11:02 am

I like it. I think your pacing is better than the examples you use–you keep things moving and don’t mistake your own interest level for your audience’s.

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Amy • February 8, 2011 at 11:44 am

I LOVE IT!! Fantastic job.

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Cheryl • February 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

Whoa. I’m an avid read and I had no idea book trailers existed. How weird.

You did a great job on yours! I laughed several times so I consider that an A+.

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Jen • February 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I loved it! Seeing all these ridiculous things happening to the teddy bear helped me understand how crazy you must have felt trying all these different experiments. Excellent teddy bear casting, too.

I liked the music a lot, and it really fit the mood of the video.

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Ann in NJ • February 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Great Trailer! Fits well with the book, production values are good, music works well…good job.

I never knew these existed… will have to search for some.

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jennie • February 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Another big book reader here who had no idea book trailers existed! But I loved yours, it was great. So cute, so entertaining!

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Elaine • February 8, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Well, I learned something about the world of book publishing today. Not enough that you wrote a book?? Lol. Anyway, you did a great job with this! How clever and engaging. I hope your book flies off the shelf!

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psychsarah • February 8, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I LOVE IT! It’s irreverent like your writing, and cute too :) I’m so pumped to read the book.

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WeePawsDOTorg • February 8, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I liked the trailer a lot, although I was already hooked just by the title. I received an email today from Amazon about your book because I’d bought the Paula Kamen daily headache book. I do have headaches, but fortunately not daily. On the other hand, I have chronic daily pain from Fibromyalgia and back surgery, so when I get a headache on top of it, it makes me glad I don’t own any firearms. People who haven’t suffered from bad headaches don’t realize how awful it can be.

So, two thumbs up for the book trailer (do people really need to see videos in order to know whether they want to *read* a book???), and hopefully it’ll grab the attention of the people who weren’t immediately hooked by the title and subject.

I’m looking forward to reading your book and I’m glad Amazon tracks every move I make on their website. Sometimes commercial stalking is in my own best interest.

Oh, and I’m glad that you’ve mentioned on your blog that you’ve found some relief. I was so sad when at the end of Paula Kamen’s book, she was still in as much pain as in the beginning. That reminds me, I should check her website and see if she’s found something to help. We pain sufferers need to stick together.

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Emily • February 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm

love the book trailer. very funny.

i’ve enjoyed reading your blog for years, loved your first book and am really looking forward to reading your newest book.

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Merry • February 8, 2011 at 11:05 pm

It’s not a phrase I use lightly, but your book trailer?
ROTFLMBUKROMA.
(Laughing my bunched-up knickers right off my ass)

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Rachel Kramer Bussel • February 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I love how fun this trailer is! I’ve read about 3/4 of the book so far and this trailer made me want to rush to finish it so I can get to a few of these things I haven’t encountered yet, and I love the behind the scenes details. Plus, there’s part of me that thinks it’d just be fun to inject a teddy bear with a needle.

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Lanie • February 8, 2011 at 11:54 pm

It woulda been PERFECT if only that damn bear could act. Shit, he didn’t even look a LITTLE uncomfortable. His performance wasn’t believable. He’s obviously an amateur.

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Keri • February 10, 2011 at 1:34 am

That was awesome! I read and loved your first book, but wasn’t thinking about your second book because it doesn’t apply to me, but your book trailer actually made me really interested in reading it! So Bravo on the trailer! :-)

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magnarama • February 10, 2011 at 10:27 am

Jennette, you simply must see this blog post from Susan Orlean at The New Yorker — she so nails the modern cyber-travails of the book publishing process for an author:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/susanorlean/2011/01/publish-or-perish.html

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wyn • February 10, 2011 at 11:46 am

Book trailers, what a new-fangled thing! I liked yours, really displays your style and tone that we’ve come to know from reading your blog (or previous book as well, in my case).

I wasn’t so fond of the of the Trekkie trailer. It left nothing to the imagination for how the characters look and act–perhaps that is not the important part of the novel. Still, I wasn’t a fan.

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Deb K • February 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I haven’t yet watched the trailer because I thought I read the blog first. After I recover from hysterical laughter from the description of making the trailer i will watch the trailer. U’m quite certain that the insights from the blog will enrich my viewing experience. I’m so prepared to be entertained. Oh, I usually make my technology purchases following some incident that was an epic fail of technology (and usually after spending way too much talking to help desk people whose native language is definitely not English). Congratulations on the publishing and release of your second book!

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Lydia C • February 10, 2011 at 10:38 pm

VERY cute and funny. Loved it right from the first second.

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Bright Angel • February 12, 2011 at 7:46 am

I loved your trailer. It was the first video I embedded in my new website. I’ve been following you for years, and in fact your example is what motivated me to get a Blog myself. Dieting as a Hobby is the Concept I’m going to be blogging about. I recently purchased a new Domain named DietHobby.com and have just started a website. It just went up this week and my web designer is still working on the final construction details. I’ve already posted an Amazon link to both your books …I know your new one will be great even though I haven’t yet it and I’ve pre-ordered it… I also posted a link to your blog. I didn’t mean this post to be rude self-promotion, and Thanks again, for letting me share your book trailer.

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rose • February 26, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Loved this trailor and the music is also fabulous :)

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

Man looking into telescope

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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The Making of CHOCOLATE & VICODIN
Lick the Produce: Odd things I've put in my mouth
Half-Marathon: Less fun than it looks
European Vacation

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