Monday, April 30, 2007

Minions at Work video trailer

According to some on-line discussions I've been following, it seems to be the hot thing for authors (or publishers, or publicists) to create video trailers for their books and place them on the web. Here's one from my old-pal Virgina Baker, here's an author-produced on from P.R. Frost and here's one for a mystery anthology featuring my friend Kris Rusch. Here's a fancier professionally produced version for science fiction writer Greg Bear's novel Eon.

When publishers do these they're great, but apparently, some authors are spending many thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to have these things produced for them. What do I think of this? Well, like most extreme self-publicity efforts, I think it's usually at best futile, at worst, counter-productive.

My theory of author publicity is still that it should be free and take none of the author's time. Money should flow into an author's pockets, not the other way, and publicity time shouldn't cut into a writer's writing time. (Which means "no-time" makes it okay to post on a blog, if it's something you enjoy enough to consider recreation.)

Which is why I think author produced video trailers can be just fine. The tools to make them are pretty much free (both Macs and PCs have free video editing software that will do the job), and most of the materials for a basic trailer are generally already at hand (cover shots, cover art, cover copy, pull-quotes, author photos, etc.) Yes, you could get original music, professional voice talent, original art, fancy animation. Yes, you could actually hire actors and dramatize scenes from the book. But to my mind, that's the sort of stuff a publisher should do, only if they see it as being cost-effective. Authors should keep it simple. I believe that you can get most of the bang for very few of the bucks.

Given all this, I decided to put my toes in the water. Lacking a new release to promote, I instead did a video trailer for my weekly web comic, Minions at Work. To view the trailer directly in the blog, click on the linked image in the sidebar to your left.

This was produced using all free software. Video editing and effects were done using Microsoft Movie Maker. It's simple, but easy to use and it does the job. I did my own music (yeah, most people will NOT go this route) using a freeware Midi sequencer called Anvil Studio. Finally, I used an nifty open-source sound recorder/mixer/editor called Audacity (also available for Mac and Unix/Linux) to save my music as a MP3 file that Movie Maker could understand and to so some mixing and editing. (This is also a good tool for creating your own voice or narration tracks.)

So, we have tools - free, source material: all stuff existing on my hard disk, time - a few hours of (for me) fun-time. It could be slicker. It could be better. But it isn't bad, and when I do get around to doing a trailer for a book, it will be far better yet...

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