Right now, there are 42,567 romance books in print format listed on Amazon. What should you do to make your book stand out from the rest? Author Candis Terry shares important marketing tips so you and your book won’t just be another face in the crowd.
Welcome to RU, Candis!
For over thirty years I’ve worked in the marketing/advertising industry as a graphic designer and copywriter. I’ve put together advertising and marketing plans for companies that range from a chain of grocery stores, to a baby announcement company, to commercial cleaning products, to one of the largest real estate agencies in my area. I’ve worked with all forms of media (newspaper, internet, magazine, radio, television) and I’ve created many high-profile (and luckily, successful) community service events. So when it comes to putting the shine on your personal and professional marketing, let’s just say I’ve had to get out the can of polish a few times.
In marketing yourself, there are actually two areas to focus on. And while you may think they’re one and the same, they’re not. However, in the end they must flow together like the music and lyrics of a song.
The first area is you, the writer. The person who puts fingers to the keyboard and creates these magical stories. Before you put yourself out there, sometimes you need to ask yourself the hard questions.
Here’s an example of what can go wrong if you don’t.
Twenty-two years ago when I first got the idea to write a book I just wanted to write the story that was in my head. I didn’t think about anything else. Not voice. Not market. Not career. Not the readers. I just wanted to write the story of my heart. That book took three years to write. It was a historical romance and it went absolutely nowhere except under the bed. I decided my next attempt would be a paranormal romance. A ghost story. I thought it was wonderful. And indeed, it did final in RWA’s Golden Heart contest. I figured it was a sure sale. Nope. After that I decided I wanted to write short series contemporary romance because that’s what I loved to read. For years I wrote several stories that got the attention of the editors and I was even asked to do revisions. I thought those stories were a sure sale. Nope.
So what was I doing wrong that took me so long to figure out?
I was just writing the stories that were in my head. I wasn’t thinking any further than that. Not how a publisher might look at it (or me) in any long-term manner. Not how the publisher might market the book. And certainly not what I’d do after that one book. I didn’t sell my first book until I looked at my writing from a marketing aspect.
How could I be the most attractive to not only a publisher, but the readers?
First of all, voice. I knew I had to stop writing stories that weren’t “me” just because the story was in my head. And I had to stop trying to sound like someone else. I had to bring me, my voice, to the work. There are certain authors I can pick up and without looking at the name on the book, know who it was written by. That’s voice.
Second, I knew I had to make that book attractive to not only an editor, but to the publisher’s marketing team. And most importantly, to the readers. So I came up with the idea for a series of three siblings who all shared the same dilemma—a backseat driving ghost mom who was still trying to meddle in her grown, professionally successful children’s lives who’d had to return home due to her death (marketability). The idea was to place the story in a small town (marketability) in a family bakery (marketability). That became my Sugar Shack series. And my first sale(s).
The other area you need to focus on is marketing the work. The easier it is for you to market, the easier it is for a publisher to market. They like that. Because after all, they are a business.
As you plan your work, think of how you could make yourself stand out on a bookshelf. Or on an internet page with fifty other books. I’m not talking about the cover, because unless you self-pub, you really have no control over that. I’m not talking about a book title, because again, very little control. What I am talking about is a vibe. Something that connects you to the reader. What sets your book apart from the one next to you? If there are three Navy SEAL books side by side, what makes yours different? Think of the publisher or the readers as the hottest guy (or girl) in the room. How would you get them to notice you? What makes you pick up one book over another? These are all things you should consider before you start chapter one.
So, to condense things, here are five tips I’ve learned over the years.
- Shine. First appearances are critical. In radio you have about two second to grab someone’s attention before they push the button for another station. Think of your book in that way. In graphic design we do conceptual layouts first so we can get an idea of not only what the final marketing piece will look like, but because it gives an opportunity to come up with Zing! Zap! Pow! headlines that grab attention. Give your work/ideas a lot of forethought before you just dive in to write the story. It may not be as important for you to write the book of your heart as much as it is to write a book with heart. When you are done, make that work shine with your own voice and original concept.
- Be Unique. Make your work incomparable. Good isn’t good enough. You don’t want to be the laundry detergent that leaves a ring around the collar. Give the editor and readers a twist. Find ways to make a one direction storyline take off like a Fourth of July skyrocket. Go outside the box of crayons to find a new color that makes your work stand out. In the same sense keep it real enough that an editor or reader can relate.
- Be Memorable. Like the unforgettable “You deserve a break today” commercial from McDonald’s, give the editor and readers something they will remember long after they’ve put away your work. Memorable doesn’t mean dressing like Madonna or dropping an F-bomb as the first word on page one. It means a storyline that takes the reader out of their own head. Characters that make the reader want to be them or want to root for them to find their happy ending. Think of your favorite books or movies. What made them memorable to you?
- Be Concise. In advertising/marketing you only have so many seconds or a small space to grab attention. Therefore you must be very crisp with the message you want to convey. A few examples: Nike. Just Do It. Or Subway. Eat Fresh. Or even Maxwell House Coffee. Good to the Last Drop.
Whether you are pitching to an agent or editor or whether you are creating an ad for RT Book Reviews, be succinct. “This is who I am. This is why you want me.” Instead of just pushing out a bunch of words, think of yourself as the juicy, sizzling burger that makes a mouth water.
- Be Desirable. Plan ahead to make yourself as desirable as possible. Offer more. It’s hard to turn down. Think of all those late night commercials that offer a set of knives for $19.99 that can cut through steel in one swipe. It might intrigue you. But hold on! If you order right now you can have two sets of knives for $19.99 plus free shipping.
You’ve all seen those, right? And you’ve been tempted to pick up the phone, right? Why? Because they’re offering you more. Even better, they’re offering you more of the same thing.
When you format your plan, think about giving the publisher and the readers more. Give them a unit of stories and characters they can fall in love with and . . . hold on! They can read more! Because you’ve given them a series of stories where they’ve gotten to know the characters as if they are old friends. And who doesn’t want to revisit old friends again and again?
Once you’ve put this all together, you are giving an editor the heartfelt or gripping story they know readers will want, and you’ve given a marketing department an easier job to do.
If you are self-publishing, all this still holds true, except you are the editor and the marketing department. So don’t forget to ask yourself for a raise.
Do you have some sure-fire ways to market yourself and your work?
Debut author Renita D’Silva joins us on Friday, June 28th.
Here’s a blurb on Candis’ latest book, ANYTHING BUT SWEET, which released on June 25, 2013.
For years Ex-Marine Reno Wilder managed to uphold his end of the Wilder Boys’ wild reputation. But the scars of war and the deaths of those he loved have flipped the switch on his point of view. Now, to keep tradition and memories alive, he’ll settle for a staid life of wash, rinse, repeat.
When the senior citizens of Sweet, Texas believe it’s time for their little town to become a destination for tourists they contact a new TV makeover show. Their community is chosen to participate and everyone is pleased–except Reno.
A woman who wants to change everything . . .
Beneath her headstrong desire to upend Reno’s peace and quiet, makeover show host and designer Charlotte Brooks has something to offer that has nothing to do with changing drapes and everything to do with showing him that change can be sexy, hot, and very, very sweet.
Face-off for a happily-ever-after . . .
Neither of them saw coming. Who will stand their ground? Who will find common ground? And who will let go of their past and grab hold of a future full of promise?
Bio: Candis Terry is the author of the “Sweet, Texas” series and the “Sugar Shack” novels—contemporary small town romances rich with memorable love stories, quirky characters, and tons of fun. Born and raised near the sunny beaches of Southern California, Candis now makes her home on an Idaho farm. She’s experienced life in such diverse ways as working in a Hollywood recording studio to chasing down wayward steers. Only one thing has remained constant: Candis’ passion for writing stories about relationships, the push and pull in the search for love, and the security one finds in their own happily ever after.
- Weekly Lecture Schedule, June 24 – June 28, 2013
- Marketing For Debut Authors by Eleanor Elliott
- Editor Lucia Macro Reveals Four Things About Avon Romance You Won’t Want to Miss
- The 7 Components of Book Marketing Strategy by Jennifer Fusco
- Editor Lucia Macro Presents: Avon Mythbusters