Thursday, October 8, 2009

My first book trailer video

Elizabeth Zelvin

My agent said we have to try it without waiting for the jury to return a verdict on whether it boosts sales. So I did. The publicist at my publisher’s said the biggest mistake people make is spending thousands of dollars on it. So I didn’t. I did everything myself except putting it together, which would have required me to master do-it-yourself video software. Janet Koch did the skillful editing and production, and yes, she's available and will do the parts I did myself as well if you want to hire a pro.

And here it is—ta-dah!
Death Will Help You Leave Him

Writing the dialogue was a terrific exercise in revision. As I pared it down to the bone so it would fit into a single minute and not overpower the visuals and the music, I realized afresh how much of what I write on the first, second, or third go-around is extraneous. I’m preparing for my book tour, to start (beginning at Bouchercon in Indianapolis) as soon as Death Will Help You Leave Him hits the stores next Tuesday. As I think about reading Page One at my launch party and maybe in the course of a talk as an example of voice, I wish it weren’t too late for one more round of editing, so I could make the printed page as punchy as the video script.

The perfect music was a gift from a friend: my favorite song by singer/songwriter Bernice Lewis. It’s worth clicking on the video just to hear part of “As Soon As It Stops Raining.” It’s from her album Isle of Spirit, and you can get a download of the whole song via a link on her website.

Shooting the visuals—I took both photos and video clips on my little digital camera—reminded me how lucky I am to live in New York. To get the clip of a rainy night seen through the windshield, I waited for it to rain and recruited my husband as chauffeur. He’s a new and cautious driver and needed some coaxing. But the glow of red and green traffic lights and the shadows of ghostly figures crossing the street came out just the way I’d envisioned it. My only beef: I wish we’d had time to wash the windshield first.

I needed a cemetery in Brooklyn. The only possible choice was Green-Wood Cemetery, founded in 1853 and now a national historic landmark. I photographed many more weeping angels than I used and discovered, among other things, that because of the risk of the West Nile virus, it’s no longer permitted to leave cut flowers in vases of water on the graves between March and November.

I shot my fictional Brooklyn bakery at Rocco’s in Greenwich Village, where the pastries in the display cases were just as glorious as I’d hoped, and the SoHo art gallery in a SoHo art gallery. The classy lingerie shop on Madison Avenue was smaller and more crowded than my fictional version—no little gilt chairs or espresso machine—but the sexy undies were even more colorful than I’d pictured them. Even more colorful were the displays of fish, fruit, and flowers in Chinatown on Canal Street. (If you come to my launch party at Partners & Crime on October 27, you'll get to taste Rocco's cannoli.)

I got everything I needed except a genuine car crash in the bumper-to-bumper traffic between Manhattan Bridge and the Holland Tunnel. I had to buy a four-second audio clip of the thud, squeal of brakes, and shattering glass. It cost me $2.96. And for the daytime taxi clip, I simply sailed out the door of my building, walked a few paces to the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 86th Street, and hit the record video button on my camera. I knew plenty of taxis would come rolling by in all directions. They always do.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It's a great trailer! Lots of images, catchy music, and just the right length. Great job!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. :)

Tina said...

Gotta tell really grabbed me. I might not have put this on the 'let's go check it out' list, but it's on there now. Great job, and good luck with your sales.

Michele Emrath said...

Good job! But I'm surprised you couldn't get your own car crash! Looking forward to the read...


Julia Buckley said...

What a fun trailer, Liz! So visually exciting and even humorous. Congrats.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Thanks, Tina. Michele, my husband agreed to be the body, but he drew the line at having a head-on collision with a taxi. ;)

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

And thanks to you too, Julia--didn't scroll down far enough there. :)

L.J. Sellers said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm inspired to make one for Secrets to Die For, even though I swore I was done "learning new things" for a while. The skills we have to develop! I admire your spirit.