The trade paperback of Queen Hereafter is available in bookstores and online today from Random House and Broadway Books! There's a beautiful book trailer to accompany the book's release — and I'm delighted to bring you a conversation with Jim Lefter, who created the video.
A few months ago I was talking to Jim, a friend and video producer, about books and ways to promote a new release. He asked if I had ever tried a book trailer. I hadn’t, but I love them–I'm very visual and they can quickly draw me into a story and catch my interest.
Jim offered to do a video for Queen Hereafter, and I was ready to try something new — so we set out on a creative adventure. Jim Lefter is a video producer with twenty years’ experience doing video and television work for Discovery Network and A & E among other production houses. He now does freelance projects through his own company, Cosmic Stuff Media. Recently we chatted about the experience of creating Queen Margaret's video (this medieval lady has a gospel, a chapel, a reliquary, a loch, a bay, a book – and now her own video!).
But first – click here to watch it on YouTube: Queen Hereafter Book Trailer!
Susan: Hi Jim, welcome to Word Wenches! Can you tell us about the starting point for a book trailer?
Jim: The book! I like to have a good knowledge of the book and a feel for the story, so first I read the book. I love reading, so no hardship there.
Susan: Do you prefer to collaborate, or do you produce what you think works best and then run it past the client?
Jim: It’s a collaborative process if the author wants that. I certainly enjoy that. The outcome is better if the author takes part in the process.
Susan: Could you tell us about the steps involved in creating a book trailer?
Jim: We start with a script — the foundation. I prefer that the author write it for an authentic voice, though I’m open to writing it myself. The script needs to capture the essence of a story in a few sentences — and no one can get inside the story like the author can. And I like to work with a narrator. A voice reading the script carries the viewer into the story more than text onscreen can do. Video is a visual medium, and I want to paint the story in multimedia to evoke mood and tone.
Susan: Do you sometimes use text onscreen instead of narrative?
Jim: Text is appropriate sometimes. It depends on how it works with the story, whether it distracts or enhances, and what the author and I both think works best.
Susan: And after the script comes the image search.
Jim: Right. We discuss what images might work, and then scour the best stock photo houses, tailoring our ideas to what’s available. Great stock photos can be found at reasonable fees, and an image search might inspire new ideas for the trailer.
Susan: For the Queen Hereafter video, we both searched, emailing images back and forth and choosing. For example, Jim found photos of a guy in medieval armor who to me looked like a thug, but Jim liked his toughness for King Malcolm. Good point — but then we found Jimmy Thomas. He’s more a romance hero sort than the real Malcolm Canmore — but what a great stand-in for a medieval Scottish king!
Jim: When a group of stock photos popped up showing a long-haired blond woman in a medieval gown in outdoor settings, we had our Queen Margaret. A variety of images of the same model is very useful. And finding images involves going back and forth, being particular. We looked for naturalness and authenticity, and for visually interesting images. We also used some of Susan’s own photos of Scotland.
Susan: What’s the next step after the images are selected?
Jim: Recording the narration is next. I often work with my wife, Anne, who is a great narrator. The right voice and a nuanced read is essential—the narrator is an artist who portrays what we envision.
Susan: We auditioned a few narrators, but I loved Anne’s warm, rich voice and her natural reading the best! After selecting the images and recording the script with a narrator, what do you work on next?
Jim: Music – and that can be the most difficult part of the process. I want to find a sound to match the story and tone. Searching stock music clips – much of which are quite good – takes longer than image searches. Music by the original artists is not always available, but it can be a great element in a video. Susan was able to get permission from Scottish singer/songerwriter Dougie MacLean for his song “The Search," which adds a richness and elegance to the Queen Hereafter trailer.
Once the music is decided, I edit the images to fit the rhythms and pace of the song. The mood of the whole video really comes together at this point. As a producer, I do the editing and production, and I mostly act as a guide, helping to find and blend the elements to create a story. It’s important to communicate and to help the author discover what they want. Using various software, I create a rough cut and run that past the author.
Susan: The Queen Hereafter video took only a couple of weeks or so. Jim worked so efficiently and with real artistry, and has an infallible sense of what works. I was thrilled the first time I saw the rough cut!
Jim: This has been a wonderful collaborative process, with give and take and great communication. My goal as a producer is to create a visual production that is high quality and really enjoyable. And I want the client to be happy with the process as well as the result.
Susan: Even though I changed my mind a lot, you were patient, amiable, and always creative throughout. Thank you!
We had so much fun making this video that Jim and I are now collaborating on a book trailer for Lady Macbeth, and I can tell you that his work in this one is stunning. We'll debut it soon on Word Wenches!
Meanwhile, I hope you all enjoy the Queen Hereafter video -– please share, like, tweet and send to your friends! (If you are interested in talking to Jim about a book trailer of your own, you can contact him at email@example.com.)
Be sure to look for Queen Hereafter in trade paperback and ebook as well.
And speaking of multimedia … Queen Hereafter is now available in audiobook from Audible.com! Click here to listen to an audio sample.
What do you think of book trailers? Leave a comment below to be entered in a giveaway: an autographed set of paperback copies of Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter!