Dummies and Prairies

YA for Dummies and Prairie Storms

What sounds does a ground hog make? An earless lizard? A burrowing owl? Six months ago, I had no idea!

Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattison
August, 2011 Release
When I decided to create a book trailer for my forthcoming book, PRAIRIE STORMS, I knew I wanted something fun and useful for kids, parents and educators. We know the sounds of dogs, cats, horses, cows and goats. But do we know the sounds made by other common creatures? Skunks? For this trailer, I decided to focus on the sounds made by each animal in PRAIRIE STORMS. This post is about how I created that video.

But it’s also a celebration of a second book launch, Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, which includes my sidebar, “Darcy Pattison talks Book Trailers”.

Written by Deborah Halverson, founder of the writer’s advice website DearEditor.com, it has great advice on writing and publishing a teen novel. Deborah edited young adult and children’s fiction with Harcourt Children’s Books before picking up a pen to write the award-winning teen novels Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth.

The book is filled with great features, including:

  • tips for targeting an audience, finding an angle that’ll make the story stand out, and writing a killer hook
  • an extensive chapter on self-marketing to help writers move boldly into the realm of self-promotion–including book trailers
  • techniques and exercises to shape plot, create teen-friendly characters, develop a convincingly youthful voice, write natural dialogue, and use setting to illuminate characters and plot
  • 13 National Book Award winners and finalists, Newbery medalists and honorees, and other award-winning luminaries sharing their insights
  • self-editing tools to transform a first draft into a strong submission-ready final draft
  • insider tips for finding the right agent and/or editor and preparing a stand-out submission package
  • answers to common book contract questions
  • advice on self-publishing for YA writers

Read more at DearEditor.com

Finding Audio for a Book Trailer

To anticipate the release of Prairie Storms and celebrate the release of Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, I’m debuting the Prairie Storms book trailer here today.

As the author of The Book Trailer Manual, I had some simple ideas on where to find public domain sounds and inexpensive audio tracks.

Sound Track. First, I knew that I wanted a sound track to back up the animal sounds. Jeremy Doss, my nephew, is a talented film composer with experience in creating the musical moods needed to accompany and enhance images. A graduate of Film Score program an University of Southern California, he also writes music for video games and other uses.

We talked about what sort of music I needed and Jeremy was fantastic to work with. Contact him at jersam1995@sbcglobal.net

Animal Sounds – FREE. Second, I needed audio of the sounds made by each animal. Any time I need audio or video for animals in the United States, I start at the Fish and Wildlife Multimedia Library. The government agency provides public domain multimedia, free for public use. Here, I found great audio for the American Bison and the Bald Eagle. However, none of the other animals had sound tracks.

Animal Sounds – Inexpensive. My next stop was www.SoundDogs.com, a site which has a wide variety of audio clips. Amazingly, they had every other sound I needed, except the ground hog. For these clips, I looked for short audio clips with clear sounds of the animal involved. You can sort by the length of a clip and I was looking for the shortest possible: I knew I wanted the whole video about one minute in length, so I would only need a 4-5 second sound clip for any one animal. I searched and listened to clips and made decisions. One disappointment was that the earless lizard had no sound; indeed, most lizards don’t make any sounds. I finally decided to go with a clip of a lizard running on wood as the most likely option.

After I put all the sounds into the shopping cart, I was a bit afraid to look at the total. It was a pleasant surprise to see that I had only spent about $20.

Ask Permission from Private Party. Then, there was that pesky ground hog. Fortunately, I found www.hoghaven.com, a site specifically about ground hogs, and they had a dozen sound clips of ground hogs. I wrote the site owner, explained the project and asked permission to use one of the sounds. They were gracious enough to give permission. That gave me the last sound that I needed.

Creating the Book Trailer for Prairie Storms

With Kathleen Rietz’s (www.kathleenrietz.com) watercolor images from the Prairie Storm book and the sounds, I set to work. I use Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum (http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/moviestudiope) to edit my video. No, it’s not a free program like PhotoStory, it has lots of flexibility and options. I searched and searched for a program when I started doing book trailers, until I came to Vegas. Here’s what sold me on this program: they have extensive tutorials right at your fingertips, built into the main screen. The learning curve for this program was minimal compared to anything else I tried, an hour instead of four or five.

To create this trailer, I made some decisions:
The trailer would run about one minute.
With twelve animals that meant about 4 seconds per animal, with the remaining time going to the opening screen and credits.

I set up the program with markers every four seconds and added the images on one track, the animal sounds on a second and the sound track on a third. Then, I went through and added to a fourth track the text that appears on the video. Vegas has the capability to scan across an image or zoom in and out, so I adjusted this. Initially, the images were full page, but the text of the book interfered, so I zoomed in on each animal, then panned across to create movement. Static images are weaker than moving images in a trailer, you lose the viewer’s attention.

After previewing it a number of times and getting feedback, I took my husband’s suggestion to create a bit of a splash at the end with the book cover. After the American Bison at the end, there’s actually a half second of nothing except the music track. This is followed by a thunder clap and the front cover of the book. To find the right thunder clap, I went back to www.SoundDogs.com and searched through their extensive offering of storm sounds.

The video ends quickly with credits to the publisher, Sylvan Dell, the film composer Jeremy Doss and thanks to hoghaven.com for the groundhog sounds.

Working with a publisher, I was careful to run drafts of the video past the editor, publicity director and publisher. Jeremy Doss approved the trailer, as did Kathleen Rietz, the illustrator. When all approvals were in, I uploaded it to YouTube. And waited. It was ready early June, but I knew that I didn’t want to show it until after I spoke at the American Library Association, where the trailer would have its debut. And now, here’s the debut on this site:


TEACHERS: If your school blocks video through your server, please email me (darcy at darcypattison dot com) for a copy of the file to show to your class.

AUTHORS: Need more on how-to create book trailers? See my sister site www.booktrailermanual.com

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