Tag Archives: Rule of Knowledge

THIS WRITING LIFE: Creating Book Trailers That Buzz!

GenreCon, recently held in Brisbane, was fantastic in so many ways but one session that fascinated me was Rule of Knowledge author Scott Baker’s workshop on book trailers.

I must admit, I’m very much a sceptic when it comes to book trailers. Most I’ve seen are shockers and, really, who looks at these things besides curious authors? But Scott’s workshop left me a little bit swayed.

Not because I’ll ever be able to produce anything like his Rule of Knowledge Trailer, which is pretty gobsmacking (much like the book itself which I’ve just finished):



But because I might now be able to produce, in a humble way, something like this Jackie Collins effort:



Or, perhaps with time and a lot of swearing, even a teaser like this from thriller author James Rollins:





Not every trailer needs to be cinematic. Trailers can come in all sorts of forms and lengths. Teasers, for example, are short, 15 to 30 seconds maximum with high visual impact, and typically pose a question that captures the reader’s attention. They keep to one key message and end with the important stuff like the book’s title, author, cover, release date and website.

Check out Scott’s Rule of Knowledge teaser for a demonstration or watch this one for The Thirteenth Tale author Diane Setterfield’s new release Bellman & Black (The Thirteenth Tale was brilliant, by the way. Very excited about reading Bellman & Black.)



Author Talks

Can be short and impactful like the Jackie Collins one above, or longer and more involved, like this seriously slick one from Iain McCalman, author of The Reef: A Passionate History.



Or this one from Kate Morton, promoting her excellent book The Forgotten Garden.



Scott says the main criteria with these trailers is to get the fundamentals right, and that means the high quality sound and steady hand on the camera. Keep it short. Know when to stop. And always be aware that personality is key. If an author comes across like a complete prat, no one’s going get enthused about his or her book, no matter how good.



Ooh, there are a lot of these about and most of them aren’t great. Why? Because the images were bought on the cheap or don’t suit, the text isn’t readable or not written in a way that hooks, the music doesn’t match or the sound is poor, or the whole thing just screams amateur production.

And, as Scott pointed out in his workshop, an amateurish trailer can do more harm than good. It’s harsh, but if you see a dodgy trailer then there’s a good chance you’re not going to have positive feelings toward the book.

So what’s a good photo/text trailer? Scott showed several, ranging from awful to good, like this one for Water For Elephants.



But check out this one for Pantheon by Sam Bourne.



Great, isn’t it?

The whole idea is to create a hook, like cinema trailers do, and back it up with great visuals that resonate with the viewer and tell more about the story than an author talk or short trailer can. How? By using cinematic language. In other words, colour and sound and all those other communication tools that have a greater psychological impact than straight text or talk. Consider things like what colour your genre is. What feeling do you want to convey? Romance? Crime? Fantasy? Then make the visuals reflect that. A black and white background with flashed images of blood red claw marks or yellow crime scene stickers reveals more in a split second than any words could.

Remember the film The Holiday, where Cameron Diaz’s character keeps constructing movie trailer voiceovers in her head but about her own life? That’s what you’re aiming for, but told with text and using only a few words instead of a voiceover, and using photos to show a bigger story in a short timeframe.

To demonstrate, Scott gave us an exercise. We had to break our story down into five elements…

1/. The world

2/. Hero

3/. Task

4/. Problem

5/. Twist

…and turn that into a tight, hooky blurb.

Then we were to imagine 5 photos or images to match those elements that could be used to communicate all the other aspects of the book.

From there it’s a matter of looking at all the other stuff, like which font would best represent the book, what colours would clarify genre, what music would give the most psychological impact, and so on. Thinking on these things before you start mucking around on the computer will not only help you make a better trailer but save you a lot of time because you’ll have key words to plug into searches.

Thinking about these 5 elements made me recall Alexandra Sokoloff’s excellent book, Screenwriting Tricks For Authors. It has a section on creating high concept premises/tags which might also be useful here. She reaches the same end but does so by posing slightly different questions. I find these work really well for me when I’m working on premises. Check Alexandra’s blog for an article on developing premises (and lots of other handy stuff), but I think the book, which is very reasonably priced, is worth the money.


Motion Graphics

These trailers use moving photoshop layers and other technical type stuff that makes my brain melt. But they can rock, bigtime when done well. Don’t believe me? Check out Chuck Wendig’s trailer for Blackbirds, Mockingbird. Awesome.



Or this teaser for Kristie Clements’s upcoming release Tongue In Chic.




Film Style

Okay, I know people can and have produced film-style trailers for their books that have turned out great, but the way I see it these are for clever-trousers like Scott, or authors and publishers with the funbucks to finance it. Either way we’re talking a lot of expense or expertise, and that’s not your average author. It’s certainly not me!

Cinema-style trailers can be cool though. Like really cool, and Scott says they’re a great way to get a producer to “see” your book as a film. Plus do it right and your trailer could go viral, reaching into places you never imagined and being picked up by mainstream media outlets.

Here are another couple of trailers that I just love. Mo Hayder’s Gone, which is amazing and never loses its impact no matter how many times I watch it.



And this one for Australian author Honey Brown’s Dark Horse (brilliant book!)




Still keen to create your own trailer? There are loads of resources out there. Google and ye shall find, but I came across a really cool You Tube channel run by James Wedmore which has a great range of how-to videos. Think topics like How to Add Text To Your Videos, Royalty Free Music and Video Editing (For Non-Editors). Perfect for techno-numpties like me.

Joanna Penn has a handy post called How To Create A Book Trailer, with loads of resources links, on her The Creative Penn site.

If you prefer to pay someone to do all the hard work then there are plenty of places to choose from. But it’s also worth visiting these business sites and checking out their samples to see how great a trailer can look when done professionally. Awesomebooktrailers.com, for example, have some fab examples of their work.

And here’s one for your diaries. Scott Baker will be conducting a session on book trailers at the Sydney Writers Festival in May. Yes, your chance to learn from the guru in person. Not to be missed!






I’m a terrible sucker for things like this. Marketing and all its related subjects was my favourite topic when I was studying business management. I can get completely absorbed in reading blog posts, listening to podcasts or watching videos on the subject because I find it so fascinating. Alas, like my golf game, I’m a keen student but not so good at implementation.

I remember spending hours creating a book trailer for the first book I had published (under a pen name and not a rural romance, and, no, I’m not telling you any more about it), and it was frustrating, fun and satisfying all at the same time. Did it sell more books? I doubt it. Would I have been better off channelling my energies into writing? You bet, but I did have fun and it added a nice bit of content to my alter-ego’s website.

But… book trailers are a time suck. A really big time suck, especially for someone like me with limited computer skills, and I have to ask myself whether it’s worth it. Surely all my readers really care about is the next book? Far more important to write, hmm?

If I was going to do anything it would most likely be an interview style trailer, like the Jackie Collins one embedded above. I reckon I could manage that. My phone seems to take surprisingly high quality video and I’ve even figured out how to download the files (a small victory!), plus I really like the idea of being able to talk to readers personally and tell them about my book(s). And thanks to Scott’s GenreCon workshop I have at least an inkling of what I need to concentrate on, and what not to do.

So perhaps one day when I’m not editing or plotting or writing, I’ll make a video. Then again, I might just leave book trailers to the wouldn’t-it-be-nice pile, concentrate on writing a bazillion copy selling book and then my publisher will make the trailer for me.

Ha! Now that’s what I call a plan…




Ahh, Brissy, what a warm and friendly city. And made even better by the staging a few weekends ago of GenreCon, the conference designed for that most excellent of authorly species, Genre Writers. I’ve been a quite a few Romance Writers of Australia conferences now and GenreCon was a lot like one of those, except it had men. A lively, lovely lot of them too. It also had, thanks to the irrepressible Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services, karaoke, an event from which my voice didn’t recover for a week. A week of gravel-throat and I didn’t even get to sing Dancing Queen or Paradise by the Dashboard Light. Although I did get hear editor and writer Patrick O’Duffy do the most amazing deep-voiced version of Total Eclipse of the Heart imaginable.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…


Friday: The Start of Sleep Deprivation


Before karaoke and the conference proper, there was lunch on Friday at GOMA Restaurant with romance authors Amy Andrews, Anna Campbell, Keziah Hill, Rachael Johns, Bronwyn Parry, Helene Young and myself where much prosecco was drunk, rabbit terrines savoured, desserts drooled over, and happy birthday and Frocktober ditties sung. There may have also been unsubtle mention of the Penis Beaker Debate and He of the Mighty Wang (Amy Andrews’s fault). Personally, I think we added a nice splash of colour and noise to the restaurant although I’m not sure the staff would agree, but at least they were good sports about our rowdiness.

GOMA lunch ladies, left to right: Anna Campbell, Helene Young, Rachael Johns, me, Bronwyn Parry, Keziah Hill and Amy Andrews

L to R: Anna Campbell, Helene Young, Rachael Johns, me,  birthday girl Bronwyn Parry, Keziah Hill and Amy Andrews

Friday night was the opening night reception on the State Library of Queensland’s aptly named Queensland Terrace. Fantastic venue, partially open to the sub-tropical air and a great area in which to mingle, sip wine and eat naughty things.

Anne Gracie and Alex Adsett

Best-selling Regency romance author Anne Gracie and Alex Adsett

Anna Campbell, Lea Scott and Sandy Curtis

Regency romance superstar Anna Campbell with crime and thriller authors Lea Scott and Sandy Curtis

Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock

Good buddy and fellow rural romance author Rachael Johns with women’s fiction author and lovely lady Dianne Blacklock. Best-selling babes!

Amy Andrews and Sandy Curtis

Romance author Amy Andrews (and Penis Beaker Debate enabler) with Sandy Curtis

This was followed by a trek back to the bar at Rydges South Bank, the official conference hotel, then cabs into town to Fat Louie’s for some karaoke where so much silliness was had that this may become tradition. I hope so, although if next time anyone tries to make me sing Summer of ’69 again there will be reckoning…

Chuck Wendig in full karaoke throttle

Author and Terrible Minds blogger Chuck Wendig in full karaoke throttle. I have no idea what he was singing but by that time of night I’m not sure anyone did!

Saturday: Brain Awakenings


Saturday opened with the Power of Genre Fiction, featuring speeches by Anne Gracie, Kathryn Fox and John Birmingham to well and truly put us in the mood. I then attended Rule of Knowledge author Scott Baker’s Worth A Thousand Words workshop which I found brilliant. Scott has spent the last year working with Peter Jackson on the Hobbit films and was also a consultant in the film industry as well as lecturing at the Australian National University in digital video. How well he knows his stuff was shown in the booktrailers he made which are nothing like I’ve ever seen and, quite frankly, amazing.

Scott Baker

Rule of Knowledge author and booktrailer guru Scott Baker

In fact, this was such an interesting session that I’m considering writing a separate post on it, so stay tuned! After lunch I attended the Writing Fast workshop with Anne Gracie, Charlotte Nash and Anita Heiss, hosted by Denise Rossetti. Thank goodness for Anne making me feel semi-normal over my painful writing process, because Charlotte Nash’s super speedy production levels just left me feeling completely inadequate and even more depressed about my output. But you know what? We all have our processes. I’m slow and horribly pedantic, but I get there in the end. Time to stop beating myself up about it.

Denise Rossetti and Charlotte Nash

Award winning erotic romance author Denise Rossetti and Ryders Ridge author Charlotte Nash

Writing Fast was followed by What Writers Get Wrong with Helene Young, Kathryn Fox and Deborah Burrows. My take away from this was that if you don’t know something, then ask. People tend to be fascinated by this strange writing business and are usually delighted to help.

Helene Young

Award-winning romantic suspense author Helene Young, looking lovely as usual.

John Connolly In Conversation was the last Saturday session and it was funny and fascinating, with the auditorium completely charmed and engaged. One point John made that struck me enough to write down was: In genre fiction, it’s the characters the readers care about, and authors can and do make a living off this affection and investment in character. An important thing to remember when writing.

John Connolly in conversation

Internationally best-selling Irish author John Connolly in conversation

Dinner at Rydges was a great night with crackup author and Terrible Minds blogger Chuck Wendig entertaining the crowd with his 25 Reasons Why I F**king Love Genre Fiction followed by a Q&A with Escape Publishing’s Kate Cuthbert. And then, surprise-surprise, another, even later night gasbagging in the bar.

Listening to Chuck Wendig

Some of the rapt dinner crowd listening to Chuck Wendig


Sunday: Can We Do It Again?


Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services and karaoke organiser

Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services and karaoke organiser

Sunday’s Plenery Session was The Future of Genre Fiction, featuring agent and contract lawyer Alex Adsett, Leanpub’s Peter Armstrong, and author and academic Anita Heiss. Alex, seemingly unharmed and in good voice despite Friday night’s  karaoke-ing, gave a great overview of industry changes (including a handy tip about reversion clauses on print rights with digital deals), while Anita’s discussion about targetting her audience was equally thought-provoking.

Anita Heiss

Author and academic Anita Heiss

Peter Armstrong of Leanpub

Peter Armstrong of Leanpub

But it was Peter’s rundown of the history of genre fiction and serialisation which had my mind a-spinning and triggered an excellent discussion with good buddy and GenreCon roomie Rachael Johns as we headed back to the hotel to check out, and which so caught us up that we missed the next workshop. A bummer because by all accounts Beyond Rippling Muscles and Uzi 9mms was a hoot.

Amy Andrews, Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock looking mighty fine for a Sunday lunchtime.

Amy Andrews, Rachael Johns and Dianne Blacklock looking mighty fine for a Sunday lunchtime.

Post another excellent lunch (the food was fabulous at GenreCon!) I attended the Thinking Like A Pro workshop with John Connolly, Valerie Parv and Keri Arthur, followed by Know Thine Enemy with Chuck Wendig, PM Newton and Kathryn Fox. The fact that I stayed awake throughout both after an extremely late night proves how entertaining they were.

Thinking Like A Pro Workshop. L to R: Aimee Lindorff (Chair), Keri Arthur. John Connolly and Valerie Parv

Thinking Like A Pro Workshop. L to R: Aimee Lindorff (Chair), New York Times best-selling paranormal and urban fantasy author Keri Arthur, John Connolly and romance queen Valerie Parv

The Great Debate: Genre Just Wants To Have Fun was a blast. John Birmingham opened strongly with a story about a certain literary author’s pillow problems that had everyone laughing, only to be neatly countered by Anne Gracie with her “Paris” jibe.

And a new nickname is born: Anne Gracie giving John Birmingham her "Paris" dig

And a new nickname is born: Anne Gracie giving John Birmingham her “Paris” dig

Lindy Cameron and Dianne Blacklock (gorgeous lady!) put in sterling efforts but the negative side, with their brilliant goblin story and Scott Baker’s clever revisioning of The Raven, were just too strong. And so it was proven that genre doesn’t just want to have fun. Which could be said for all GenreCon attendees, I think. We had fling your arms in the air and sing it out, loud and proud fun, certainly. We had karaoke, great food, met lovely old friends and made gorgeous new ones, but thanks to a fantastic program, excellent speakers and plenty of opportunity to network, we also learned an enormous amount. And for that I can’t thank Peter Ball, Meg Vann and their team of ninjas enough.

A wonderful conference. I’ll be back in 2015 with bells on.