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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Janie Franz

Finding Music for Your Book Trailer

At a writers conference a few years ago, writers were abuzz about a new marketing tool: Book Trailers. They have become a hot item that is a tech-smart addition to anyone’s virtual book tour or other marketing plan. And, everyone is doing them—from the debut author to multi-million dollar bestselling ones.

Since book trailers can be put together on home computers, authors have been doing them themselves. Today, though, many book publicists and PR companies are adding book trailers to their list of services. In fact, some book trailer production companies have sprung up to capture this market.

Fees for this service vary as much as the quality. Some are quite reasonable and offer the author 2-4 minutes of text, visuals, and music. Some companies offer the same quality as the budget service for exorbitant amounts of cash—even charging as much as $5,000 to $10,000 for a book trailer. The results, most often, aren’t Hollywood quality though the fee might be.

Back when this all burst on the publishing scene, the only option for music for book trailers were—cringe!—midi formats. And, frankly, they were awful.

As the technology for mp3s became more widespread and music on the internet became an entity unto itself, authors started expanding their search for suitable book trailer soundtracks. Some authors wanted to rip music they found on the internet or in their music libraries, layering their favorite Christina Aguilera song or the soundtrack from a movie underneath their book trailer.

At that writers conference years ago, I jumped into this discussion since I’ve been a music journalist for sometime. Ripping songs for commercial use such as in a book trailer has profound legal consequences. This is a big NO-NO. Copyright and fair use laws apply.

Some writers assume that because they hear Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” in a soft drink commercial or a hear a new band’s track at a moment in CSI that they are free to use materials like this. All of the uses of music in commercials, television shows, and movies are licensed. That means that the music artist is paid a fee for either a one-time use or royalties every time the commercial runs. In addition, all of the music, even streaming live radio, that you hear in restaurants, bars, grocery stores, shopping malls, etc. is playing because of fees paid by the establishment to BMI and ASCAP for using the music. This protects musicians and songwriters as much as the copyrights on our books.

So, if you cannot use music you have on hand or find on the internet, where do you find music for your book trailers? Some of the book trailer producers are offering original music in their packages. That is often the reason for the more elaborate fees. However, much of this music is synthesizer based—and, frankly, a lot of it sounds much the same.

What I suggested to authors at that writers conference was to look at your local community or those you know. Seek out local musicians and songwriters. Go to university music composition instructors, as well as guitar and piano teachers and choir directors. If you have connections with musical artists outside of your city or town, those are good options, too.

There is a lot of music that is traditional or public domain material that is free to use. Original music is always a bonus. Sometimes, an artist already has a piece of material that is suitable and it would not take any effort to use it.

The song should be recorded in a format that you can use. That may mean that it is done in a studio or on a modest home recording system or a computer.

What you can offer to these musical artists is either a flat fee for the song outright or for its use in the book trailer. In lieu of money, you can also trade in-kind services such as writing the band’s next press release or a story about the artist in a local paper or some other service. You can also share your marketing efforts in the promotion of the book trailer, making it a sweet deal for both of you.

Make sure that you offer full credit to the artist for the soundtrack that is written for your book trailer. Identify the name of the track you use, the artist, the artist’s website if he or she has one. And, when you market your book trailer, promote the artist as much as possible.

While I was putting together the first book trailer for The Bowdancer Saga, I boldly asked Chris O’Brien, the frontman from the Minneapolis band, Enchanted Ape, if he would consider writing some music for it. He agreed and collaborated with Matthew Probst, an electric cello player, to produce a thoughtful piece of guitar-cello music that shaped the book trailer. Chris was so excited about the project he wants to do more. This worked out very well for both of us because his music will be marketed to a book reading audience and my book will be circulated among music fans. It’s a win-win.

As you put your book trailers together, look around you at what local resources you have. Step boldly and don’t be afraid to approach musical artists. They are just creative people like you.

© Janie Franz 2010 all rights reserved

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