Make Yourself A Movie Trailer

Imagine that your novel is a major motion picture…it’s not that hard, is it? This movie has fantastic actors, a brilliant script, breathtaking cinematography: it’s a stunner.

Now imagine the movie trailer…you’re sitting in the theater trying to ignore that kid three seats away that keeps bellowing “mmmwaaa” like a drunk lamb (it turns out that they like beer…who knew?), and alternately slipping on spilled soda and sticking on some tacky substance that releases a regular waft of tutti-frutti. The theater darkens…the room falls silent.


Except for that.

An image flickers on the screen. You gasp, dude, it’s your trailer…

“In a world gone mad…one man…one woman…one deli sandwich (extra pickle-lily no on the jalapenos)…from the people that brought you…”

The theater goes silent in anticipation.


Except for that.

That’s what your book is like if your are not…don’t have a…haven’t written a…

It probably never happened in history that some writer just sorta wrapped up a manuscript and dropped it off at a publisher’s house and went to bed to wake up the next day to find that he was a phenom and the Daily Enquirer had already saved column 1, page 1 for him. Of course not…the Enquirer is a tabloid.

All that to say that, mega publisher or no, don’t force your first book to stand on its own. Start today, right now…good heavens, you mean you haven’t started yet?!?…to build a name for yourself, make a coherent framework in your career into which the book will fit. It doesn’t have to be a huge name…the book will do that if it’s good…but it should enough oomph to fill out the dust jacket.

“Author John Reinhart lives in Ventura, CA with three dogs, four cats, five rabbits, and the ocasional sheep. He has a nifty collection of rubber bands and really likes padded socks. This is is his first novel.”

In the trailer, “from the author of nothing prior to this” just doesn’t fly. “From the publisher of Hairball dot com…” now that has something going for it.

In the good old days of Harcourt Brace, they took the nifty picture of you at the typewriter smoking a cigarette and looking authorly, and did all that behind-the-scenes Madmen stuff because they had invested a bunch of money in you.

The money’s gone, which means you, my dear, must do the Madmen stuff yourself.

“In a world gone mad…one man…one woman…one clever backstory to get you to buy my book…”


A New Cover for Phineas


The world of book publishing has changed with the advent of online publishers like Amazon and Smashwords. Those of us reared in the old school of agent/publisher/bookstore have to rethink our method of distribution.

Part of the online distribution involves attracting potential customers with an attractive, alluring book cover. Traditional book publishers have teams of artists that know what will sell, what will appeal to which audience.

When you shift the publishing burden onto your own shoulders, YOU are that team of artists.

A few caveats: first, and most important – I have every intention of getting this book published through traditional means. My sincerest hope is that one of the Big Five will like it and pick it up and one of these days I’ll be in a Barnes and Noble, and, hey, that’s ME!

Another caveat: I am no graphic artist. I’m a pretty good technical illustrator, but fine art and I are distant cousins at best.

Final caveat: this is not the final cover.

All that being said, the reason I’m presenting this cover here is to show you what can be done cheaply and on the slick. The ship is a 1/72 scale model, The Black Swan, by a Russian company called Zvezda. It’s not quite done yet. In fact, she’s the same ship as in the masthead of this site.

I lifted the ocean from a painting of an American frigate – I don’t think it was in the public domain, but I’m using so little of the painting I think the artist, who is probably long dead, would be able to identify his fine, fine artwork.

Phineas, here with longer hair than in the story, is actually my daughter. The image was lifted out of a shot of her and her mom at the Mission San Gabriel two years ago. I thought the pose was right, and, well, at ten years old, she didn’t have a female shape yet, so she could pass for a boy.

The pieces were all assembled in GIMP, a free image manipulation program available at GIMP.Org.  Once I got the image blended to where I liked it, I exported it as a JPG file. Then I opened the JPG with my old Illustrator 2.o, added the titles (which are in a font called Lithos Pro) and exported the completed file as a PNG.  I remember someone telling me that size is important in graphics, so I sized the PNG at 8 inches tall and 6 inches wide.

So, it’s not the final cover art, but it’s a good first shot. I’m hoping I won’t have to use it or its cousins because a major publisher and their team of artists will take over all of that.

Still, it’s amazing what you can do with a few easy graphic pieces, some software, and a couple of hours.