Making the book into a short film

I had an idea, after making a book trailer, that I should develop the trailer into a short film in order to promote the book story a bit more but also just to have a good time spent with friends while making it.

Having no idea whatsoever how to make a short film, I started out by watching a few on youtube to see how the story structure differed from full length films, how they looked (of course that varied from picture to picture) and then what sort of reaction tehy’d had from the comments posted by viewers.

I then went about writing the screenplay, albeit an adapted one to suit the length of the film which I judged to be around ten minutes long, once compelted, so as to ensure I put over the bulk of the idea behind the story without revealing everything but also without boring the viewers to death.

I already had a camera but it wasn’t good enough for what I wanted to achieve. It was a canon 450d which has no filming capability unless attached to a computer with specific software. This proved a bit of a pain when filiming my original book trailer so bought a 650d to replace it and also invested in a basic LED light, a tripod, and two lenses to improve the look of the film.

The thing is, when you’re learning as you go along, you’re going to make mistakes and just do what you can to make thing look as fluid and clean as possible in look. This included props and locations.

The book itself is based in a newspaper office so I was lucky enough to get permission to film at an accountancy firm in Helsinki (where I live). To make it look as much like a newspaper office as possible, I made some mock up papers and printed them out (I used this site, it’s really easy to use:
I also made some fake memo’s to leave around the desks and planned to film as late in teh day as possible so it looked like it was early in the morning.
Another scene was to be filmed on the metro so I obtained filming permission from the city for this, I also got permission to film in a bar for a party scene and planned to mock up my own apartment as a mortuary for another.

All in all it’s been hard work and taken time but I hope the end product will be worth it. At the beginning of September I’m going to the US on holiday and will take loads of hard copies of my book and also plan to take a number of USB sticks holding a copy of the short film, the book trailer, a txt and doc copy of my book, plus a small promotional cv of who I am and what I’m hoping for.

I have absoltuely no idea if any of this will pay off, but if you don’t try, you don’t and will never know if you could have done.
I’ve kept my budget incredibly low, if anyone needs advice on how I did this, feel free to ask 🙂

Here goes nothing, yikes!

Book Trailer fun

Most of my posts, if not all of them, have been about my ill-conceived and badly carried out plans on how to produce a book and then go about marketing it; this post will be no exception.

I previously posted a link to the book trailer I made to promote my book, The Dead Famous. It wasn’t made too seriously (as I think was obvious from the clip) but it was fun to make and taught me, if nothing else, at least how to use iMovie for mac. It also taught me a couple of other things:

1) Cemetery workers are really suspicious of people walking around with cameras.
2) Cemetery workers are realy suspicious of people walking around with spades.
3) Cemetery workers are really suspicious of people walking around with balaclavas.

It took about two days to film, edit, and finalise the video before finally uploading it to youtube. The problem is that, once uploaded, it’s very difficult to get viewings without paid promotion. Nevertheless, I quickly gained a large number of views within the first few days and I also submitted it to the International Movie Trailers Festival (which has a “book trailers” section) which also seems to have generated a good deal of the attention I needed for it.

Lastly, I ensured that everywhere either my book or my author profile was featured throughout the internet, a link to or embedded version of the video was featured (for example Amazon allow authors to create their own pages with accompanying media)

It’s hard work, and I have complete respect for anyone that has not only made a trailer but also made a success of it. I can’t say that my sales have risen significantly, but it’s been a fun learning curve as has this whole writing experience so far 🙂

Enjoy! :

Making a book trailer

In response to a link posted by @SandyAppleyard on Twitter, I decided to make my own book trailer for The Dead Famous using what little film making skill I have (i.e. none). 

My first step was to read through the post describing what a trailer should contain adn what structure it might take. I then went on to youtube to see what other trailers looked like and wa not exactly surprised, but was curious at the varying quality of clips that were out there. Some such as the one for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters looked as if it had been fun to make, got me a little interested in the book (even though I was already aware of it) and it gave me all the information I needed to know about the book. It told me that it was a book that was not to be taken seriously, was tongue in cheek and was now available to buy from all good etc etc.
The link for it can be found here:
I would only criticise one element of it, that the credits at the end were hardly necessary and, if anything, distracted from the trailer’s point, that it was an advert for a book adn not a film for film’s sake…on the other hand it has so far received over 370,000 views so judge from that what you will.

On the other side of the trailer spectrum, we have Secrets of Surrender. I have to be honest, the music sounds like it’s stolen from a 1980’s tv movie and the trailer made with Windows movie maker BUT it has still received over 17,000 views and the comments are very complimentary. It can be viewed here:

So, what I have learned:

Know your target market; if you’re writing a romance book and think your audience spend all their spare time watching the Hallmark Channel or generic tv movies, make a trailer to suit.

Keep the information brief and to the point: Book Title, Author, plot premise, where to buy the book and when it might be available. I can only suggest that any other information is fluff and probably not necessary (if you can think of anything else that should be included, please respond to the blog, I usually am wrong about most things and happily accept criticism).

Keep it short or, at least, if it is going to be more than about 1 minute, then make sure it holds the viewer’s attention for that time. Go in, give your message, get out.

I’ll end by saying that the trailer I amde was with a camera and a mac book and looks very home made, it is also probably too long and was amde with iMovie rather than movie amker (probably not a giant leap forwards!) but it was a great deadl of fun making it and, after I’ve hacked it to pieces, I’ll post it to youtube for someone to criticise and rip to pieces. That person probably, I don’t know, has a blog or something and just spends their time ripping on other people’s work while creating nothing but literary poop on toast themselves anyway.

Don’t you just hate that?

Originality in plot

I read, quite some time ago, a claim that William Shakespeare had managed to encapsulate most story types within his works. He had been so successful at doing this that now, as a result, people tend to refer to the story types via his writings rather than any works created before him even if the structures had been around for millennia.

Knowing that he perhaps had acheived this feat, a writer might be justifiably be daunted by the prospect that there might be no story structure available for their brain to conjure up without having someone having beaten them there first.
This needn’t be a problem. I personally think that dwelling on the structure of the story is soemthing that is certain to doom the writer to failure before even starting out.
I’m not aware of anyone that came up with the idea of a book and said that the premise should be this or that structure, it’s nearly always the character or the basic plot of the story that has been birthed, developed, grown and created rather than the structure, and that being the case, it seems to me entirely acceptable to ignore the structure almost completely until at least the first draft has been completed. At that stage, it would then deem wise to start thinking about whether the character developments are satisfying, the story has a flow, the events have a natural progression, and so on.
If, after those things have been analysed, you find that the story does indeed have the structure of Romeo and Juliet or Othello then you can take it as happy coincidence, and if it has no resemblance to any accepted structure then, who knows, maybe you are the next Shakespeare, and I bow down to you.

An idea source for stories

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, I had nothing to say for a while so didn’t want to fill the page with rubbish “just because”.

There are a good few stories about people having dreams which they then turn into books, for better or worse. I suppose the most famous is the story of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which did come in a dream to Robert Louis Stevenson and went on to do quite well in sales, although whether or not he’d appreciate the numerous film versions made since, I’m not quite so sure (the only decent version is the 1920 film starring John Barrymore where he actually dislocates his jaw to get the grotesque features required of the role, needs to be seen to be believed).

I’ve dreamt a good few stories in the past and do wonder where the ideas come from, the story structure, and so on. I know that most claim that dreams are a combination of troubles that might’ve been on your mind at a subconscious level anyway, added with things you see during your normal day but don’t fully acknowledge, plus some sort of personification of anything else that might be on your mind at the moment such as a tv programmme or film, you get the idea.

So, I thought I’d write down here the dream I’ve just had as it was so structured it seemed as if it really should at least be noted.

“For some reason this dream took place in the US, in a small town not far from a major city and near the coast. A friend of mine (we’ll call him Cedric, there was no name in the dream) had been having less and less contact with me over the years since he’d had a number of personal problems and had started acting in a more and more distant manner until I rarely saw him at all. The only times I did see him were when he was in a cafe showing pieces of paper to two friends, one boy and one girl, they’d paw over them looking concerned and very serious, if anyone came to near to their table they’d clear the papers away, finish their drinks, and leave.

Sometimes I’d be in the cafe at the time, it was the only major hangout in town that wasn’t a dive bar or stripjoint. As Cedric left I would try and get his attention but he always rushed out before really seeing me.

I managed to stop him in the street later, asked how he was, he seemed evasive but then said that his problems were things I wouldn’t want to know about, I assured him I was a friend and was, if anything, a little sorry he hadn’t felt I could be spoken to in the past about these things. He gave in and said I should drop by his place later. He then rushed off down the road, dropping a couple of papers on his way and almost getting hit by a car as he fetched one from the road.

Cedric’s house was a mess, he said we should speak in his bedroom as it was the only place to talk. His room was just as filthy but it was mainly covered in blurry UFO photos and newspaper cuttings, he spoke for the next hour, quietly at first, but then building into an almost frenzy as he went on and on about how their had been signs of an impending invasion and that the government knew it but weren’t telling anyone for fear of spreading panic and also in the hope they could obtain the technology to use against non-friendly nations.
I’d heard it all before and was frankly a little bored and felt sorry for him. He’d met these other people in an internet chat room and they met from time to time to share evidence and plan what they should do once the invasion started.
I wished him luck and left, nothing really to say to him, he had problems beyond my skills as a friend and really didn’t know what to think next.
I went home to sleep, but was woken by a noise across my room. Looking around and seeing nothing, I then saw the distinct figure of what I thought was a burglar but it had far too large a head to be human and I feared it to be some goblin or other such creature. I blinked and it was gone. Lights on, nothing was in the apartment. I called Cedric. He said that this was happening all over but that only a few people were reporting it as it actually was, visitations but early invasion scouting groups. I asked him how the hell it had got into my apartment but he told me not to overanalyse that as it didn’t change the fact that I had been visited.
The next day I was cutting across a field and, as I trod on a particular piece of grass, the ground acted bizarrely… a line lit up through the grass and then as I trod on it again, a humming sound came from it. I stood back and then the rest of the ground lit and shook as a distinct rectangular shape formed in the grass and then suddenly rose out of the ground: a complete 1950’s diner… The building was empty, no people, it was seemingly abandoned. My shock subsided a little as I walked around the building gazing inside, but one window was dark, tinted, I couldn’t see in without pushing my face against the glass but, as I did so, a face slammed back at me through the glass which I knew not to be human. I fell back on the grass and ran off in panic to tell Cedric.

He wasn’t at all shocked and packed his bag with torches, a small axe, other bits I didn’t recognise and he made calls to his friends to meet at the field I’d described.
As we got there, they said I should wait outside. They found a door, went in, I heard nothing.

Suddenly, there were voices, the shouting, then nothing again. I breathed in increasing panic as I tried to decide what, if anything I should do. The decision was made for me as a loud bang broke the silence and the tainted window suddenly cracked. Rushing forward to look inside, Cedric’s male friend was lying on the floor, the goblin creature from the previous night was holding Cedric in the air by his throat and, as he struggled to be dropped down, his other friend came behind the creature and brought the axe down on his head again and again.

I’d never been so frightened. They ran out the building and I followed as I asked maybe too many questions in panic. What was the creature?Where was it from? Were we going back for his friend? They weren’t listening and, as we got to Cedric’s place, a large light suddenly split the sky, emanating from the fake diner straight up to the clouds. Whatever the light was, I instinctively knew that I didn’t want to stick around to find out what might happen next, we piled into Cedric’s car, he through some pre-prepared bags into the trunk and the three of us sped off down the road. Behind us we could see people slowly leaving their houses to stare at the sky in wonder as what I could only think was some space craft, slowly descended from the sky and moved closer to the planet’s surface. We weren’t going to stop to see whether they came in peace.”

As I say, I dreamt this and only woke up about an hour ago so the structure isn’t great and many elements are generic, but that’s not my point, my point is that dreams can be a great untapped resource for ideas, and that if you write it down every time something catches your imagination in the morning, well, that might help with different viewpoints on how you should write in the future. Maybe it can give new story ideas, but ultimately I think it keeps your options open as to what kind of stories you might write. I would like to develop this alien story more, I never had any interest in alien invasion lit at all, but now I might change that view. That’s my point 🙂

New Year, New goals

Apologies to those who might have expected a quicker update since my last blog. My recent plans have been involved in how to promote my current book, The Dead Famous, and also how to motivate myself to edit my second book to a publishable standard.

Plans and mice and men and all that, well things of course don’t always go the way you’d wish them to. My first book was found to have a number of spelling problems, not a great amount, but enough to annoy me after I’d spent so much time going over it with a fine word comb. A little more frustrating was that I had ordered twenty paperback copies of the book before realising the errors and wasn’t able to cancel the order before it shipped, so somewhere in the mid-atlantic right now is a box with a load of illiterate rubbish in it… but enough about E L James, my book’s probably there too.

Being unrepresented, promotion is a bit of a headache. It’s not that I don’t have ideas to get myself attention, the problem is that you have to choose your promotion method and make sure that enough people pay attention that one agent might actually sign you, but part of their job and also the publisher’s is to promote you as well and if you’ve already done some of that, the wrong message might have been sent and that might not be so easy to undo.

I have no real answers here, only problems like everyone else, all I can do is get on with editing and keep making contacts in the hope that one of them will pay dividends somehow. Fingers crossed…

Encouraging the masses

After my book was made available to the public, I enjoyed a brief period of it doing quite well, in fact better than I expected to be honest. It’s now been downloaded over 550 times and went into the Kindle top 20 humour charts. All very good, I thought, something to be sustained, I thought… but how? I knew as soon as people stopped being able to get the book for free, interest would drop significantly, and drop it did. 

Now comes the waiting part. We’re in a period where people have no time to read, there’s Christmas and the new year to deal with, I realistically don’t expect the majority of people to get around to reading it until well into January. This poses a tiny problem. As are hosting the book, I rely on reviews to pique people’s interest in it, but if no-one’s read it, they can’t review it, and with no reviews, no-one reads it; cue stomach acid level problems.

In the meanwhile I’ve busied myself with reviewing proofs of the paper version of the book and approved it for print, this means that anyone who preferred to have a hard copy of he book, can now obtain one. According to my sales figures, those three people will be very happy. Probably.

This is where I fall back to cliches told to me or overheard being said to others when young: disappointment brings character, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, good things come to… nope, I still don’t believe it and remain defiantly convinced that cliches are codswallop. 

Only one thing to do: go back to editing my second book, know the other book will take time to grow and a watched pot gathers no moss, and remember that I just want to write, sales are nice, but getting the stories written down are the most important element of this whole “adventure”, that and developing a tingling ache in my right wrist which I suspect to be early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Not achieved from writing books, mind, but from hitting cmd + R to view my sales figures, it’s so addictive, you wouldn’t believe.

A paperback version of the book is here:

Strangely, it doesn’t seem to show up on amazon’s search thingy. I’m growing ever more suspicious of this whole internet fad, I look forward to the day when I can grow fat eating chocolates while dictating my next masterpiece to a hired hand. God help my bedframe, Ikea can only put so much quality into each bed and I’m pretty sure that bloating to a size that would make Jerry Springer want to interview me via skype isn’t the best way forwards. Salad it is then.

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