My Book Trailer Experiment

Ever since my first book was published I’ve been wanted to try creating a book trailer. My motivation wasn’t because I thought it would increase my sales, because everything that I had read said it wouldn’t. But when I got my cover for my upcoming release of Forever in My Heart, I decided it would be a fun way to tell about the story and reveal the cover.

So I took an online course sponsored by RWA, and looked at trailers from fellow romance authors. Here are some key takeaways I learned.

  1. Script – start with your blurb, and create a script of approximately 20-25 short phrases.
    • Focus only on the main conflict between the hero and heroine
    • Capture the essence of their goals and the conflict that’s preventing them from achieving the goals
    • Write short and engaging phrases that will entice the reader to want your book
  2. Fonts – use the same font throughout the trailer. If you keep changing it, the viewer will start to focus on the changing fonts and not the words. Here are some sites I looked at for free fonts:

http://www.1001fonts.com/    – I like this site because I was able to look up fonts by category. It helped me narrow my focus.

http://www.fonts.com/FindFonts/freefonts.htm

http://www.dafont.com/

  1. Music – choose music that reflects the tone of your book. For me, I found this difficult since my story is a Contemporary with a Romantic Suspense element. Here are a few sites you can check out. There are lots of others if you do a Google search.

http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/

http://vimeo.com/musicstore

http://www.partnersinrhyme.com/

  1. Photos – I really struggled with this because searching for photos takes time and often costs money. I opted to use clips from my book cover and slowly reveal the entire cover at the end. Not the most sophisticated approach, but my goal was (a) to share a version of my blurb and (b) reveal the cover. So I felt I’d accomplished this. Regardless of your approach, make sure you use photos that are of the highest quality (300 dpi or more). And in my opinion, more pictures aren’t necessarily better. Here are some sites you can look at for photos:

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

http://www.pdphoto.org/

http://www.istockphoto.com/

http://www.depositphoto.com

http://www.dreamstime.com/

  1. Putting it together. I used Microsoft PowerPoint to build my initial slideshow. I put each phrase on a page using the font I’d purchased along with the pictures. I added transitions from slide-to-slide. When I was comfortable with this, I uploaded the slides to Windows Movie Maker and finished the editing.
    • Make sure there’s enough time on each slide to read the words. I set three seconds per slide. In some cases, I had to adjust the words on a slide because it couldn’t be read. Going through this exercise forces you to be concise!
    • Movie Maker has some different transitions that PowerPoint didn’t have and I experimented. But be careful to not have too much motion and jerky transitions.
    • Make sure you end with your book cover, your website, buy links (if available), or release date (or coming soon)
    • My trailer is just over 30 seconds. I’d suggest not going more than 90 seconds for fear of losing viewer attention.
  2. Get opinions. I showed draft versions of what I did and got feedback. This was especially helpful in understanding if it was going too fast.
  3. It’s a wrap! When I was finished, I created a channel on YouTube and uploaded it. Make sure you change the settings to public before you start sharing the link. Don’t forget to add it to your website and post a link on Facebook.

Here’s a link to my finished product. Let me know what you think.

Hopefully you got some helpful tips. Please share if you have other resources you found helpful.

Hugs and best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season!

Maria

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Recap of RWA 2014

RWA photo

Last week, I attended Romance Writer of America’s (RWA) conference in San Antonio, TX. It wasn’t my first National conference and it certainly won’t be my last. For the most part, writing is a solitary job. Authors keep their characters and their stories in their head, sharing with critique partners and beta readers. Attending a conference with approximately 2,000 other writers, agents, and editors is an amazing and inspiring opportunity to break out of that shell and network.

Here’s a highlight from a few of the fabulous workshops I attended:

I was surprised and excited by the number of workshops geared towards the romantic suspense genre. There was one on Guns for Writers where I learned the different classifications of guns and the correct stance for holding a gun. There was another for Writing a Believable Police Hero, Practical Self Defense (which, sadly, I missed), and Homicide Investigation 101. In case you didn’t guess, the hero in my WIP is a cop.

Cindy Ratzlaff gave an engaging talk about social book marketing strategy. Catch the Animoto video I created at the end. Totally cool!

Kristan Higgins, Alyssa Day, and Elizabeth Hoyt gave a fun workshop on Beyond the Alpha Male and Spunky Heroine. They challenged us to get deep into our hero’s character, including things such as knowing their weaknesses, how they’ve suffered, and deepest fears. What don’t they want the heroine to know?

For the heroine, there is a fine line between a strong heroine and a bitch. Be careful not to make her too bitchy and unlikeable, unless, of course, that’s your intent. What are her ambitions and desires that define her? What is her low point and why is the hero the worst person for her? How does he bring her back to that low point? How does she find her own inner strength to overcome it?

“Writers today must be both a writer and an entrepreneur.”Sylvia Day

“Each happy ending is a brand new beginning.”Karen Rose

Random highlights

  • Riverwalk boat tour with Michele Mannon
  • Meeting Joan Johnston in the elevator and gaining some interesting career advice
  • Meeting Nora Roberts and getting my own signed copy of her RITA® nominated book, Whiskey Beach
  • Signing at my first RWA Literacy signing
  • Cheering my fellow NJRW chapter mates, Nancy Herkness, Beth Ciotta, and Marnee Bailey on at the RITA® and Golden Heart® award ceremony
  • Books – I got way more books than I intended. Look for a giveaway soon on my author Facebook Page (Maria K Alexander – Author)
  • Getting my headshot taken at the trade show
  • Cowboys – you’ll have to watch the video link below for details
  • Meeting new friends, including another early riser and co-swag queen, Anabelle Bryant
  • Meeting wonderful Wild Rose Press authors, including editor and freelance designer, Diana Carlile, who designed the cover art for Untangle My Heart
  • Meeting Julie James, whose FBI/US Attorney series covers inspired Untangle My Heart. I even gave her a bookmark!

While I’m back to the grind and the day job today, I’m re-energized to jump back into edits for Forever In My Heart and my WIP.

Check out the video below which I made with pictures from the conference.

Hugs,

Maria

 

Gift Ideas for Writers

If you’re like me, you’re still scrambling for holiday gifts. Need ideas for that special wordsmith in your life? Or are you a writer and you need to buy yourself a little something for under the tree? Here are a few fun things I’ve found.

Mugs

Nearly every writer drinks coffee or tea to keep the brain juices flowing. And when I say “drink,” I mean CONSUME MASSIVE QUANTITIES OF. If you know a writer, these make great gifts:

General Purpose Mug

Buy here.

For the History Lover

Buy here.
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Ways to overcome hitting the proverbial brick wall

Before I begin this week’s blog, I’d like to welcome Diana Quincy, who has officially joined The Violet Femmes. This busy author juggles family, a day job, and writing. Her first book, Seducing Charlotte, is available now. And we can look forward to reading the sequel, Tempting Bella, which will be available September 9th. Click the “Our Books” tab for links to Diana’s books, and catch up with Diana and her latest releases at http://dianaquincy.com. Welcome, Diana, and we look forward to reading your posts!

Rejection, low contest scores, plot or conflict issues, negative feedback on your WIP? Sound familiar to anyone? Or should I say, does this sound familiar to EVERYONE! Like most of us who’ve embarked on this writing journey, you can identify with one or all of these. All can negatively impact our confidence and weaken our desire to continue to pursue our dream.

Generally, I’m a positive person and work hard to accomplish any goal that’s important to me. But I’d be lying if I said I never succumbed to feeling like I’ve hit a wall and can’t figure out a way to get to the other side.

A few months ago, I listened to a motivational speaker from my day job who spoke about accomplishing goals. Her name’s Vernice Armour (http://vernicearmour.com/), and she’s the United States Marine Corps’ first African American female pilot. I found her words very inspiring and applicable to any aspect of your life. Here are some key takeaways and how I related them to writing.

“Acknowledge obstacles but don’t give them power.” Vernice Armour

We’re told when we first started writing that it’s a hard business to break into. It’s a hard realization to understand until you’re there. And once you are, you have two choices: you can put that manuscript and your laptop away or you can keep going. Start a new project or revise your WIP, applying lessons you’ve learned along the way. Keep working to perfect your craft and to make your writing the best it can be. Continue to pitch your stories and seek alternative forms of publication.
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Final Thoughts RWA 2013

My apologies for highjacking RoseAnn’s week… but I wanted to wrap up my RWA 2013 posts. As Jaye so kindly posted, I was fortunate enough to win the 2013 Golden Heart® for Best Historical manuscript.

I still can’t quite believe it.

But I guess it happened because I have the video of the speech to prove it:


Thanks to Michele Mannon for the recording.

I honestly didn’t think I had a shot at winning, which was fine. To be nominated was a thrill and a half. I never expected to ever get THAT, let alone a win. This manuscript was a challenge from the word “go” and a bit of a different tone than what I normally write. I questioned it every step of the way. So I feel very humbled by the recognition.

My amazing critique partners went one step further. Little did I know that they were all colluding to present me with the most amazing memento that any RWA conference attendee could ever hope for. Michele and Diana ran around the conference with the matte from a frame and gathered signatures on it. These range from Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Sabrina Jeffries, Courtney Milan, Susan Elizabeth Phillips (!), Nora (!!), Jude Deveraux (!!!), and so many other wonderful authors and friends.
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RWA 2013: Atlanta Day 3

The conference officially began today. Loads of workshops and speakers were scheduled, including the lunch with key note speaker, Cathy Maxwell.

The jam-packed ballroom.

The jam-packed ballroom.

Cathy’s powerful speech had us all laughing and crying. The theme was, “You ARE good enough.” That, as writers, we all doubt ourselves and whether we’re good enough for this business. (Even Susan Elizabeth Phillips still feels fear, believe it or not, according to her presentation at TGN Retreat.) But Cathy’s message was to push on through the fear and self-doubt.
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RWA 2013: 1 Day Until Atlanta

krlqqghz Tomorrow we leave for RWA 2013 in Atlanta. Yes, my head is spinning.

Today saw a flurry of emails with burning questions back and forth between me and my roommates. Are we taking the MARTA in to the hotel? (Answer: No.) Who’s bringing a hair dryer? (Answer: Michele.) What does one wear to High Tea at the Ritz? (Answer: A thong.)

In between all that, I had to wrap up at the day job, pack, dinner, get the kids ready for camp, laundry, post office, and bank.
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RWA 2013: 2 Days Until Atlanta

This week begins RWA’s 2013 annual conference in Atlanta.

krlqqghz

I hadn’t originally planned to attend this year, but I was fortunate to final in the Historical category of the Golden Heart® contest. A plane ticket was booked in record time, let me tell you.

Coincidentally, it’s my week to blog on the Femmes so I thought I would write a daily #RWA13 journal of my conference experience. Sadly not all the Femmes are able to join us in Atlanta. We’ll miss them, but hopefully my posts will help them (and anyone else not attending) feel a bit more connected to the conference goings-on.

The conference looks to be JAM packed. In addition to the regular workshops, meals, and hubbub, you’ll get a front-row seat to all the Golden Heart festivities.

So check back each day to see what happens when New Jersey marches on Atlanta!

Ingredients Of A Great First Line

Golden Heart necklace2A special CONGRATULATIONS to our very own Femme, Joanna Shupe, whose historical manuscript, Drawn to the Earl, finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest! We’re all thrilled for her and wish her good luck in Atlanta!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve agonized over the first line in every one of my manuscripts. We’ve been told we only have a few lines, a paragraph, or maybe a page to draw the attention of an agent or editor. Talk about pressure. I recently attended a workshop on writing a fabulous first line, given by the wonderful Sarah MacLean. Let me share some of the ingredients Ms. MacLean shared to help writing your first line a little easier. I found them helpful and I hope you will, too.
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Preparing for a Conference

You’ve registered for a conference. Hopefully its NJRW’s Put Your Heart In A Book Conference. Now what?

If you’re like me, it’s been months since you registered. Life moves on and you forget. Suddenly, you look at the calendar and realize it’s almost here. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a conference.

Finish that manuscript!

Are you 90% done with your book and haven’t found the time to finish or edit it? Maybe your kids were home all summer and you couldn’t find ten minutes, let alone an hour, to put two intelligent sentences together. Sound familiar, anyone? Or maybe your day job was so crazed you fell into bed exhausted each night (this one is really familiar to me). Whatever the reason, now is the time to push to get that manuscript as complete as possible.

This year, NJRW is sponsoring a first ever “Push to Pro” event. Over the course of six-weeks, members will work to achieve a writing goal they’ve established to get that manuscript pitch (and PRO) ready. Kudos to NJRW PRO Liason, Marlo Berliner, for coming up with and running with such a great idea. May all of you who entered meet your goal!

Agent/Editor Appointments

Be sure to look at the chapter’s website and see which agents and editors will be taking pitches. Do your research to know which are most suitable for what you write. SIGN UP! Don’t forget to register for the pitch sessions and provide your list of agents and editors you want to meet. If you haven’t already, read Femme Michele’s post on “Writing the Perfect Pitch” to help you prepare.

Business Cards

Regardless of your publishing status, get business cards. You can print them yourself or get them fairly inexpensively at Vistaprint. If you find it difficult to initiate a conversation with people you don’t know, they’re great ice breakers. People naturally look at your card and will ask questions about what you write, whether or not you’re represented by an agent or are published. It’s a great way to network.

What to include? People have varying opinions on this. I try to keep it simple so I don’t have to keep getting them printed. Here’s what I have on mine: Name, Pseudonym, “Writer” (although some people have Contemporary or Historical Writer, etc), email (please make sure it’s a professional email), website or blog (if you have one). I get cards without the shiny coating so I can write on the back if I want to give out my phone number or share any other information.

What to Bring/Wear?

My favorite topic…clothes! I love clothes and shoes. I love getting dressed up. Not every day, mind you, but I like putting aside my yoga pants to put on something that makes me feel feminine and well…sexy! Why not? We’re writing romance novels, many of which are sexy, so why not feel it? I feel confident when I’m a little more dressed up. I may not be published yet, but I’m going to act and project the image of what I desire to be…PUBLISHED.

That being said, pack practical. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Most conferences are business casual, meaning slacks and a nice shirt or a skirt or a dress. Wear layers in case the workshop rooms are warm or cold. When pitching, you don’t need to wear a suit, but I’d wear something appropriate for a job interview. First impressions are important and do you really want to make your first one while wearing a stained NY Giants sweatshirt and ripped jeans?

Some conferences, like Nationals and NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book, have an award ceremony that’s dressier. Personally, I’d go along the lines of fancy party/wedding attire, although I’ve certainly seen people wearing more casual clothes. A dressy pant suit is nice, too. For PYHIAB, prior to the ceremony there’s a cocktail hour where you can and should network. Another great ice-breaker is to compliment someone’s attire.

If you haven’t done so, registration for NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book conference has been extended until September 30th. You can register by going to http://njromancewriters.org/index.php?/conference/put_your_heart_in_a_book_conference/.

It will be a great conference. Stop by and say “hi” to the Femmes. We’d love to see you. Be sure to check out the goody area, where we’ll have some special treats for you.

In case you hadn’t noticed, you no longer have to enter ‘wordpress’ as part of the URL. You can reach us directly at http://thevioletfemmes.com. As our 1-year anniversary nears, we’ll be sharing some more exciting news and have a special contest. Come to the conference and stay tuned to the website for details!

Hope to see you at the NJRW conference in October!

Maria
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