Posted On June 26, 2013 by Print This Post

Put the Shine on Your Personal and Professional Marketing with Candis Terry

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.

Why?

Here’s an example of what can go wrong if you don’t.

Candis TerryTwenty-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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.

  1. 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.

AnythingButSweet_mm_cA man who doesn’t like change . . . 

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.

Candis loves to chat with readers at her website www.candisterry.com, Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

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20 Responses to “Put the Shine on Your Personal and Professional Marketing with Candis Terry”

  1. Morning Candis!

    What a great post! That line Go outside the box of crayons to find a new color that makes your work stand out. really speaks to me. Excellent. And the sizzling burger? I remember I made an ad for the restaurant once with a flame-grilled burger featured….we had a guy and his family come in and he said “I wanted to eat at the place with THAT ad”….huge moment of success for me.

    Thanks for a great post!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | June 26, 2013, 9:10 am
    • Hi Carrie!

      Thinking of yourself as something new and different is key. Standing out these days is really tough which makes it even more vital.

      I’ve been told my ideas can get a little crazy, but IMHO if you come up with a vampire with cotton candy pink teeth, I’m pretty sure you’re going to be original.

      Thanks for stopping by today!

      Posted by Candis Terry | June 26, 2013, 12:40 pm
  2. Hi Candis,

    Coming up with a tagline is a challenge. For my book, All Hours Trading, I used Camelot meets Wall Street. Something short and tantalizing, just like an ad.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | June 26, 2013, 9:28 am
  3. This is a great post! Love the marketing tips. I have a question, though. I’ve heard that writing a series when you’re a new author is a bad idea, that publishers want a stand alone book from you first. Is that the case, or are publishers looking for series?

    Posted by Jessica Flory | June 26, 2013, 9:47 am
    • Hi Jessica.

      I don’t know where you heard that writing a series when you’re new author is bad but I can tell you that’s how I sold my first book to Avon Impulse.

      When I first pitched the book to my now editor Amanda Bergeron at Avon Books, I told her I had a series in mind. When I sent her the manuscript I gave her a brief summary of the 2 other books I had in mind for the series. When she offered me a contract it was for the series. When I completed that series, I submitted a proposal for another series. The first book in that series ANYTHING BUT SWEET just came out in mass market yesterday.

      I think the most important thing is to make each book in the series a stand alone book. Leave no cliffhangers. And always give enough info in each book so that the readers know it is a part of the series but that there’s no guessing involved about what happened before. It might be a bit of a spoiler to the previous book, so you just want to give them enough to tweak their interest to pick up the previous book too. Does that make sense?

      Posted by Candis Terry | June 26, 2013, 12:48 pm
  4. 42, 567?? That makes me happy as a reader, but as a writer, it petrifies me!

    I wrote one story that appealed to me – a paranormal I had a lot of fun writing. Unfortunately, it featured wolves and apparently I missed the boat on wolves in paranormal. I’ve been told “wolf lit” is done, so apparently that story is done, too.

    Thanks for the excellent advice here – I’ll do my best to remember it!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 26, 2013, 10:35 am
    • Hi Becke!

      As a writer I can tell you you are not alone in being petrified about marketing yourself.

      I can also tell you that you are not alone in writing a book that missed the boat or the trend. My RWA Golden Heart finalist book was a ghost story. At the time it did not qualify as a “paranormal”. It was a cool original story but because it didn’t fall into the “trend” no one wanted to touch it.

      It’s impossible to tell what’s going to be popular at any given time. So write the story that best exemplifies you and your voice. It may not sell today, but it might sell tomorrow. No book is a waste of time. You learn and grow with each book you write.

      And never ever ever give up that dream!

      Posted by Candis Terry | June 26, 2013, 12:52 pm
  5. Hi Candis,

    Any thoughts on how someone who wishes to remain anonymous – pen name, no photograph – would fare in marketing her work/being marketed?

    I’ve see bios like: Cleopatra spends her days floating up the Nile and her nights with the barge boys … you know what I mean.

    What’s your take on those? Any tips on a good route for such a writer?

    Thanks for your insightful blog.

    Posted by Jenn | June 26, 2013, 11:20 am
    • Hi Jenn! Boy that’s a tough one. Because readers really want to connect with the author these days. However, I also know that there are some day jobs that aren’t so understanding when you write romance. We’ve all seen the headlines of teachers being fired, etc. So sometimes that need for privacy is important.

      I’m always up for a challenge and I say use the anonymity to your best ability and write the best danged book you can. You can use the “secrecy” as a marketing tool. Make people curious to who you are. That just might be even more intriguing. You would need to find a way to connect with those readers while remaining anonymous. Because that is important. I know there was once an editor who had a blog and she did it anonymously. Not sure anyone ever found out who he/she was, but I do know a lot of people went to the blog.

      I think the important thing would be the “tie-in” to the secrecy. What kind of books do you write? If its self-help books it wouldn’t work because people want to know who’s giving them advice. But if you write mysteries or romantic suspense? Bingo!

      The thing is to find a way to make it work. Think outside the crayon box. Brainstorm with friends and see what they come up with. It might be a challenge, but I’m pretty sure if you’re writing books that connect, it can be done.

      I wish you much success!

      Posted by Candis Terry | June 26, 2013, 1:01 pm
  6. Great advice, Candis, thank you. Of course, now you have raised my Doubting Thomas alter ego and I’m questioning my story all over again. Yikes!
    Was planning a series but now I’m wondering if it’s unique enough. *sigh* So goes the fragile writer ego, huh? ; )

    Posted by Amy Valentini | June 26, 2013, 1:12 pm
    • Ahhh Amy. You are not alone. My Doubting Thomas alter ego had me pinned to the mat for a long time. He still emerges much to my dismay.

      Well, smack that little devil right down to the ground and take charge. There is something unique in every story. It’s just that we, as the writer, are usually much too close to see what it is.

      This is when you call in the peeps you trust (I know you have them and I know who they are!) ;)

      Ask them for “marketing” feedback on your manuscript after they’ve read it. Ask them what they would say what makes it stand out. Do NOT compare your work to anyone else’s. This only defeats the purpose. People who want to see you succeed will help you see what you cannot. But then it’s up to you to figure out how to make that special “something” shine. Remember, you are a juicy, sizzling burger. You are not a frozen patty.

      You can do it!

      Posted by Candis Terry | June 26, 2013, 2:32 pm
  7. This is such great advice, thank you so much for sharing it with us! My question is this: If you didn’t start out writing with a pen name, but you have an on-line presence with your real name, do you see a big problem switching, or does it not matter No actual book is published, just a hypothetical.

    Posted by NancyS.Goodman | June 26, 2013, 1:26 pm
    • Hi Nancy!

      The name change game is a popular one these days. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s helpful when switching genres so as not to confuse your readers. You just have to make sure that the people you are trying to reach connect you to both names.

      Nora Roberts is also J.D. Robb. Sharon Sala is also Dinah McCall. Heather Graham is also Shannon Drake. Their alter egos are no secret. What matters is that those they are trying to reach (their readers) know who they are.

      There are a dozen reasons for choosing a pen name. Just make sure that those connecting with your on-line presence are aware that you are both.

      Posted by Candis Terry | June 26, 2013, 2:42 pm
  8. Hi Candis!

    So great to have you here with us! I love this post. You should write a marketing column for writers. I latched onto your point about creating memorable characters that readers grow attached to and want to revisit. Maybe that’s because I prefer character-driven stories, like SEP’s books or Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

    Thanks so much for blogging with RU today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 26, 2013, 6:23 pm
  9. I struggle with this – I tend to write traditional stories along the lines of Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs – I think I’ve developed my own voice now and I do lend a touch of humor but I don’t have any outlandish situations and it sounds like that’s what you need these days to stand out. I’ll work on it!

    Posted by Maria | June 26, 2013, 8:19 pm
    • Hi Maria. Sorry I wrote this earlier but the internet ate my homework. But your comment was important so I wanted to respond.

      You just mentioned 2 of the most amazing authors and neither of them writes outlandish situations in their stories. They write heart. Heart is something everyone can relate to. You don’t want to try to write something other than what you should be writing because then you aren’t true to yourself and your voice.

      Which brings me to yay you for finding your own voice and sense of humor! That’s sometimes a huge obstacle. Believe me, I know. And I’m sure you write with heart if Ms. Macomber and Ms. Wiggs are role models. So stop thinking “outlandish” and start thinking about what is in your stories that you can pull from? How many manuscripts have you written? Do they all have the same flavor? If it’s difficult for you to pick them apart and figure it out, find two or three trusted friends (either writers or non-writers doesn’t really matter). Ask them to read one or more of your manuscripts. Then ask them what they think is unique about your writing. Is it your voice, the characters, the storyline? There’s something there and I’ll bet they will be able to help you pinpoint it.

      It took my editor to finally point out to me what I did. Before that I had no clue. I just know that the first book I sold was really the only one out of about six other completed manuscripts where I just wrote what I thought might be interesting to read. I stopped writing because it might be a trend, or because someone said they were looking for something specific. I stopped “trying” and just wrote. And I’ll admit, when I handed that manuscript off to my editor I figured my characters were just a bit too quirky. Lucky for me, quirky turned out to be endearing.

      So just be you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and understanding but always stay true to yourself.

      Posted by Candis Terry | June 27, 2013, 5:54 pm

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