Today's guests are here because a cool trailer on YouTube for a sizzling romantic suspense novel, Take Me If You Can, created so much buzz in the lair that we wanted to explore the subject in more depth. We welcome the trailer's creators, author and web designer Liz Bemis (pictured at left) and author Karen Kendall, (pictured at right) today.
To view the trailer, click on this link:
NANCY: What gave you the idea of doing this trailer?
LIZ: Uh... Karen called me and said, "Hey Liz. I need a trailer." :D (I'll actually let Karen cover this one!)
KAREN: LOL. Well, it all started with the web site, really. I had these preliminary pages for a new site geared towards the new direction I was taking in my writing career. But they weren’t quite “there” and I asked Liz for help. What she came up with was brilliant. So that was the start of our working relationship. Then we did book-marks and postcards and I wasn’t having much luck contacting the person who’d done my first and only other trailer . . . so I said, hey, how about it?
Right from the start Liz had great ideas about live actors and voice-overs, not just images with superimposed words. I was very impressed! Plus Liz was able to make me laugh while I was both on deadline and in promo hell—and that was quite an achievement!
NANCY: How did you go about putting it together?
LIZ: We had a couple of false starts, actually. We'd initially planned to do a trailer with a scene directly out of the book. Karen sent me an excerpt and I cut it down to the bare bones, and then recorded the audio. I did the part of Avy and Quinn, an incredibly gifted voice guy (and fortunately a friend) did the part of the narrator and Liam. It was... well, not very good, really. But I learned a lesson. Full scenes of dialogue don't really belong in a trailer. So we went back to the drawing board. Karen provided a different kind of script and I massaged it a bit and cut it down. We were really trying to keep the trailer to about 60 seconds. Anything longer than that and I think the message gets lost.
After that we went through about 42,847 songs trying to find the perfect one. I give Karen full props for picking the music she did! It works perfectly! Karen made suggestions for the kind of images she wanted to see and I hunted and gathered in places like istockphoto.com. Then Quinn and I recorded the new audio about a thousand times until we had exactly what we needed and I then matched the audio track to the music, and then the pictures to the audio track and... voila!
KAREN: Liz is modest—she makes it all sound so easy. And she’s also patient—not to mention non-violent. LOL. I felt like Simon Cowell when we talked about the first “false start” as she puts it. There’s nothing worse than telling someone as talented and creative as she is that, well, ah, oops, um, here’s-the-deal-but-our-visions-aren’t-gelling-here and, oh, by the way, I’m the one who probably screwed you up by sending you a terrible script which is much better read silently than aloud.
Liz handled that like a pro (me, I was almost in tears on the phone, not so pro, heh) and all she said was, “Okay. Can you explain to me more clearly what your vision is?” Wow! And she even omitted any serious cursing or threats!
So I said, hell-no, I can’t explain it—what, do you think I’m a creative or something?
Liz took a deep breath (really, I think she keeps a tank of patience right next to her desk and regularly inhales from it when dealing with idiot clients—I won’t speculate on Xanax).
LIZ: No Xanex. But there's a bottle of good Cabernet and a wine opener on hand at all times. In case of emergency... break fill glass. Repeat if necessary.
KAREN: Then she asked somewhat plaintively (can you imagine the nerve?) for just a single, solitary, flea-sized clue.
Okay, I said. Take this capsule summary of the book, this sketch of hero and heroine and go watch the trailer for the Thomas Crown Affair re-make . . . never mind that we don’t have a Hollywood budget, I know you’re brilliant. You can do this, Liz!
Even then, she didn’t come after me with a knife. Amazing. She just pulled it off. And to this day I don’t think she’s told anyone what a pain in the patooty I was—I figure that’s my job.
NANCY: Karen, Take Me If You Can is a departure from the romantic comedies that launched your career. What motivated you to move in this direction?
KAREN: I’ve been fascinated with art crime for a long time and I have an art background. But when I conceived the idea for this series, romantic comedy wasn’t doing so well in the market. And when my agent, editor and I talked about the story concept of TAKE ME IF YOU CAN, we all agreed that we didn’t want it to devolve into farce or a complete caper (though I love those old art caper movies like To Catch a Thief and How To Steal a Million). I can’t entirely repress my warped sense of humor, but art crime is a very serious subject with growing repercussions for our world. I wanted to delve into the danger of it, the suspense, and it seemed to fit.
NANCY: Will you continue to write romantic comedy, or are you taking a break from that?
KAREN: Any time I make plans, especially plans in the publishing world, God laughs and derails them, so I can’t speculate on that. There are still comic touches in these books, though.
NANCY: You have several recovery agents in Take Me If You Can. May we assume they're set up to appear in a series of such books?
KAREN: Yes! So far there will be at least three. I’m revising the sequel, Gwen’s story, right now and have written the proposal for book three. Avy, Liam, Sheila and even Sid will be back in book two, which is fun.
NANCY: Liz, how did you become interested in doing websites? What's your foremost consideration in author promotion?
LIZ: Web design is a pretty natural fit for me, actually. I've been a computer programmer since the early nineties, and before that, I did a lot of graphic design. It ties in both the creative (making it pretty) and the technical (making it work fast and have lots of bells and whistles). As for my foremost consideration, I'd have to say the author's personal brand. I want to create a site that's not only functional and visually appealing, but also one that really tells a story about who the author is and what kind of books she writes.
NANCY: When you set out to do a new website, what factors do you consider?
LIZ: First, what (visually) appeals to the client's tastes? I want to find a design that the client will love, so I make them look at a gazillion different sites and find about five that they love and five (professionally designed!) sites that they... well, don't love, and to tell me what they do and don't love about them. That gives me a really good indication of what works for that particular client.
Next, what is the author's writing style and brand? There are a lot of great sites out there that absolutely do not belong to the author whose name is at the top of the page! I never want a visitor to be confused about what kind of book an author writes when he/she hits a site that I designed.
Finally, I work with the author to develop content that will bring visitors back and then put it all together.
NANCY: Was any redesign of Karen's site necessary to launch Take Me If You Can.
LIZ: Actually, Karen's website was the first step in the promotion of Take Me If You Can, in addition to launching a new MySpace design and a lot of printed items (bookmarks, postcards, excerpt booklets, etc). Her old site worked well for her romantic comedy, but didn't really speak to her new "brand" as a writer of romantic suspense.
KAREN: Yes, as I mentioned, the new site was the first project that Liz and I worked on. Then the printed materials, the My Space site and the fabulous, high-octane trailer. I highly recommend her!
NANCY: Liz, in addition to your promotions business, you also write. Tell us a little about your work.
LIZ: I am currently in the final editing stages of the first book in a Romantic Suspense series. The entire series focuses on the Cincinnati FBI Field Office and each member of the office gets their own book. I'm pretty excited about it! This is the first true Romantic Suspense that I've ever written. It's a lot darker, deeper, and more emotional than my previous fifteen books which were all Romantic Comedy (though a few of them had light suspense-y elements). Quite hopefully, this will be the one that sells, because after sixteen books and two Golden Heart finals, I'm ready for it. :)
I've done a video trailer to my most recent book. (To continue the shameless self promotion.)
Liz Bemis is the owner and creative director of Bemis Promotions (http://www.bemispromotions.com/). She has worked in the Graphic Design and Information Technology fields for more than fifteen years and is responsible for all creative aspects of all projects produced by Bemis Promotions. Liz is also a two-time Golden Heart Finalist (http://www.elizabethbemis.com/) which gives her unique insight into the business, branding and promotional requirements of marketing books.
Karen Kendall is the author of sixteen romantic comedies and many disasters. Awards she’s received include the Maggie, the Write Touch, the Book Buyer’s Best and R.T. Magazine’s Best Blaze of 2005. She launched her romantic suspense career in April 2008 with TAKE ME IF YOU CAN, the first in a series about an agency that recovers stolen art. TAKE ME TWO TIMES (working title) will be released by Signet in April of 2009, with a third TAKE ME book to follow. Please visit http://www.karenkendall.com/ for more information or excerpts.
Karen will be giving away a copy of Take Me If You Can to one commenter chosen at random.
What do you think of these cool trailers? What kind of book promotion do you most enjoy? What sort of web page features do you like? Is there anything else you'd like to share about reading or book promotion?