‘Building an Animated Book Trailer’
Lynne Howard, author of Dylan Dover: Into the Vortex series, is a writer, lawyer, and teacher. Passionate about serving her community and dedicated to social justice, she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, Andrew, their children, Matthew, Jessie, and Dylan, and their two dogs, Halle and Oliver. Regardless of your preferred social media platform, you can find the animated trailer of the novel here on… Youtube, Instagram, Facebook and/or TikTok! Now, about the process of actually designing and developing the book trailer…
When I sat down a few years ago to begin writing the first novel in the Dylan Dover series, I had an idea, a laptop and a carved out workspace in my bedroom. I did not have a game plan, or in this case, chapter outlines. I did not have a plot summary, I did not have any idea of what I would write beyond the first chapter. Fortunately, I quickly discovered that my long-buried interest in creative writing which began when I was child, immediately returned. I found the words flowed easily from my mind onto the computer screen. Sure; there were times when I was stuck or grappling with internal dilemmas about where to go next, but for the most part, writing was pure, unadulterated joy. I was also fortunate to have the support of my family who gave me the time to write without interruptions and who managed to figure out meals and carpools without me! The first draft of Dylan Dover: Into the Vortex was finished in just a few months, and then I began editing.
Finally, I felt it was ready for an audience.
Then the hard work began.
As most aspiring authors know, finding an agent can be daunting and incredibly humbling. You think you have the next bestseller but finding an agent to even look at your manuscript can be extremely difficult. It took me about a year before I found mine. From there, the agent had to find a publisher willing to take the risk to publish the book. Another extraordinarily difficult task, that also took a lot of time… and a lot of rejections. But after approximately two and a half years after beginning to look for an agent and publisher, we were in business. We had a publisher, a contract, and we were ready to go.
The next hurdle to surpass was how to market the book. After all, there is little point in having the book published if nobody except me is going to read it! On the advice of my agent, I hired a private publicist. In my view, it would be well worth the money to have an expert help me navigate the world of social media, of bloggers and influencers, vendors, school boards, and librarians. When it comes to marketing, I am not just a “fish out of water…” that would be far too generous a description. It is more like I’m a fish on an alien planet somewhere in the universe that doesn’t even have water at all.
So I hired my publicist. She has been amazing, patiently walking me through the labyrinth of Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and more. It was Roxy’s recommendation to have an animated trailer created to promote the book. I thought that was a great idea… the targeted age group for my novel would likely love watching an animated teaser of the novel, and the prospect of seeing these characters come to life was exciting to me as well.
Finding an animator to do the work was difficult. I needed to find someone who was talented and could do the animation at a professional level, but I was also working on a tight budget. I had already paid money for professional editing, the publicist, and now an animator, without seeing any return on my investment. But I also realized that the trailer could be a very effective marketing strategy and sometimes, you have to make a personal investment whether that be time or money or both in order to reap the rewards later.
So I started asking around. I asked colleagues, friends, friends of friends, relatives, anyone who could possibly refer me to an animator who would have the time and the skills to take on this job. I was so lucky to have found Samantha Duckworth who was referred to me by an artist friend of mine.
Of course, Samantha’s first question after I provided her with the general idea that I wanted her to create an animated trailer for my soon-to-be published fantasy fiction novel, was what specifically did I want the trailer to include?
Once again, I found myself floundering in a sea of hopeless uncertainty. I knew that the trailer was only going to be one minute maximum in length. I knew the target audience. I knew the purpose of the trailer was to spark potential interest, to make people excited to read the book. But how to design the actual trailer, frame by frame? Once more I found myself feeling out of my league!
So I reached out for help again. This time, I knew exactly who to contact. As a high school teacher for over 20 years, I am so fortunate to have worked with hundreds of young people who have gone off to do amazing things with their lives. One of those former students is someone who I have stayed in touch with since he graduated five or six years ago. His name is Jordan Erdman and I knew that Jordan had finished an undergraduate degree in history at university and had gone on to film school after that. I got in touch directly with Jordan and he offered to help me with this project.
Jordan and I sat at my kitchen table for hours talking about the novel. He wanted to know about the plot, the settings, the characters, the themes… I tried my best to give him the truncated version as I described in vivid detail the images that had been in mind for so long. Once Jordan had a good idea of the highlights of the book, together we started mapping out the frames one at a time that we wanted to be included in the animation. You can’t include everything in a one minute trailer, so we had to focus on what we thought was most important to highlight for prospective readers. Jordan created a chart that provided specific details for Samantha to work from, including the visual aspects of each frame and the text that should be included as well. We even included photographs of people and places, even colors, that we thought would help translate our vision to the screen.
Once the chart was completed, I sent it to Samantha, who replied with more questions and comments. Some ideas we had originally envisioned were not feasible, and so we came up with alternatives. Working with someone who understood the process of filmmaking was extremely helpful. Jordan knew exactly how to map out each second of the animated trailer, considering all aspects such as timing, graphics, and sound.
Our amazing animator Samantha kept me informed each step of the way. First, she sent me sketches of the characters that would be included for my comments and approval. I think she appreciated all the details we had sent to her, and I know that I appreciated her ability to create images that matched precisely the descriptions I had provided. Any frame that was not exactly as I wanted it, Samantha was willing to change until after a few weeks, we had the final animated trailer… almost.
Samantha’s job was done, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled! But next, it needed sound. Jordan again stepped up. He found the music, and the sound effects, all of which had to be free to download without copywriting restrictions. I asked a colleague from work to do the narration, and he emailed his voice recording to Jordan. From there, Jordan had to make all the sounds line up with the visuals. I don’t know how he did this, but the end result was absolutely amazing!
In total, it probably took about six weeks for the trailer to be fully completed and ready to share. As an author, seeing characters who have lived in my mind for several years suddenly come to life through the magic of animation is an experience that defies words. I literally cried tears of joy the first dozen times that I watched it. I kept the file on my cell phone and would show everyone that I met, at work, at the grocery store, at the bank…
All that being said, the animated characters perfectly match how I envision these characters to look, but that is not necessarily how other readers may see them in their own mind. I hope that the trailer is generic enough that people will still be able to use their own imagination as they read the novel. In my mind, Dylan Dover looks exactly like my youngest son, also named Dylan (no coincidence) and the animated trailer truly made my son into a cartoon, which is awesome for me! But I’m sure that people who read the novel will picture a different face for that character, and I would not want the animation to detract from that aspect of reading the book.
For other authors who may be thinking of following this path, I would absolutely recommend it, so long as you are working with the right people. You have to have great communication with your animator and others on your team, and you have to have realistic expectations about what can be accomplished working within your budget of money and time. Then you have to know what to do with the finished product…or if you’re like me, you have someone you trust and can rely upon who knows what to do with the finished product!
Will I ever make back the money I spent to have the animated trailer created? I have no idea. Time will tell, but I know that this was a risk that I was willing to take and do not regret. Because at the end of the day, I know that I have done absolutely everything I could to effectively share Dylan Dover with the world.
About the Novel
Dylan believes he is a typical twelve-year-old until he stumbles into a vortex that miraculously transports him to the immortal dimension, a parallel universe. Dylan not only learns that he is a warlock, but he also discovers a twin brother, extraordinary powers, and a secret prophecy that seems to have Dylan and his family at its crux.
Dylan, along with his brother and their new-found wizard friend Thea, begin to unravel the mystery that surrounds their birth and the danger that threatens immortals and humans alike.