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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Repackaging

Out with the old and in with the new
As usual, I'm in a hurry as I fly down the frozen food aisle, jerking my grocery buggy to a halt in front of the familiar glass case from which I've plucked my low-calorie lunch of choice a thousand times before.

Intending to grab a few of my favorite flavors and run, my hand freezes in mid-air.

Wait. Whoa, Nellie. What's this? In place of the white boxes with the orange curly-cue logo I've been purchasing for the past few years, there's a stack of strange brown logo-less boxes I don't recognize.

Grrrr. Who moved my cheese?

But upon further inspection, I see that this is, after all, the very same product I'm seeking. Same only different.

The food looks the same and has the same nutritional listings. But it's in a new box. With a completely new look. About 180 degrees from the way it used to look.

So why do companies repackage products? Even tried and true products?

A few obvious reasons include a desire to:
  • Revamp their image
  • Attract a new or wider audience
  • Update their look 

A recent example is the Motorola cell phone, which after years on the market was redesigned to appear more like a fashion statement. Indeed, sort of like a  piece of jewelry. Why? Because women are their proven primary market and women, as you know, are interested in fashion.

(Hey, why don't they think chocolate here? I'd buy a new cell phone if it looked and smelled like a Cadbury bar.)

Similarly, Johnson & Johnson felt that Rembrandt toothpaste needed a cleaner, fresher look, so they simplified, using the same tube but changing the packaging from a word-cluttered, color-splashed spectacle to a plain white box that opens from the top like a gift. A gift to yourself.

Have these changes made a difference in sales? The jury's still out, but early indicators are quite positive.

Books do the same thing for the same reasons. 

I've made a game out of  looking up a certain historical romance each time I've enter a bookstore for the past few years because the gal on the book cover has on a different colored dress every time I see her. That chick has the most extensive wardrobe of any one-dimensional woman I know.

Because of a simple change - same dress, different color - that book has had as many lives as a Manx. Other books may come and go from bookstore shelves within three months, six months, one year, but that one's taken up residence and doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon.

I understand the red dress has been the hands-down bestselller. Hmm. Not really hard to guess why.

Last year the publisher of three of my early books decided on repackaging for the same reasons listed above. You  may have already seen the remakes of my historical novels, The Distant Shore and Billowing Sails, but the finalized cover for Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers has recently been released.

I'd love to share it with you now (see above).

I think repackaging is generally a good idea and an effective marketing tool, but some argue that occasionally it causes confusion and consumer irritation ("Why change a good thing?" "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.")

So what do you think? I'd love to hear your feedback.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Misconceptions

Pearls from my Oyster
As I was leaving a local home improvement store yesterday, I was approached in the parking lot by a smiling man. Not creepy smiling. Pleasantly smiling.

Here's our memorable exchange:

Man: Hey, you're Debora Coty, aren't you? [He eyes the bag in my hand] So authors actually do their own shopping?

Me: Authors not only do their own shopping, they scrub their own toilets. And then they scrub other people's toilets too.

If you're an author, you're nodding your head and chortling right now. Because you probably clean houses to support your writing habit.

The public perception of the lucrative and lavish life enjoyed by published authors always cracks me up. As if being published is the genie in the lamp. If I had a quarter for every person whose eyebrows plowed into their hairline while their pupils disturbingly dilated when they learn I write books, I might be able to have my roots touched up more often so I don't have to wear so many hats.

(Oops - now you know my secret; and you thought I just liked hats!)

The next sentence out of the cheeky conversant's mouth is usually, "You're an AUTHOR? Wow - you must be really pulling in the dough, right?"

After squelching the impulse to respond with, "And that's business of yours, how?" I ever-so-patiently explain that, well, no, only 2% of all authors (counting the high end J.K. Rowlings and Jerry Jenkinses) make enough to quit their day jobs. I can tell by their dubious expression that they're not buying.

At this point I usually remember that I left the stove on and flee to head off the fire department. But sometimes, if I sense this is a sincerely-inquisitive-but-obviously-ignorant person, I'll explain further that the publishing industry has drastically changed in the past twenty years and although some big mainstream authors still get six-figure advances and royalty checks fat enough to insulate an attic, the vast majority of authors these days - especially authors writing for the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) - um, don't.

I've had my share of royalty checks for $2.56 and I know plenty others who have too.

Most folks, even aspiring authors at writer's conferences, seem surprised when I mention that it took ten years for me to make it into the black. Long-suffering Spouse, who prepares our taxes, kept telling me every April for an entire decade that the IRS was eventually going to wonder why this crazy person (me) didn't switch hobbies (because it certainly couldn't be a profession when you lose money every single year).

This from the guy who once asked me why I was staring at a red-headed woodpecker hammering away at our backyard oak. When I wondered aloud, "Why would anyone repeatedly bash their head against a tree?" he answered, "For the same reason some people become writers."

I love that man.

Okay, so back to the point. Don't write to get rich. It won't happen.

Write because you can't not write. And then maybe one day, if you scrub enough toilets, your unsightly roots will be a thing of the past and you can wear hats simply because you want to.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Something Special is Simmering!

3 Cheers for the Barbour artist who created this adorable cover!

I'm so excited! I just received the final draft of my Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook cover, so it's one step closer to becoming a reality!

For those of you who have never written a cookbook, here's the process in 15 easy steps:

1. Brainstorm idea at 2 a.m.one cold, dark night.
2. Present idea in query form to publisher (via agent if you have one) and pray that they ask for a proposal.
3. Do happy dance when they finally do ask for a proposal.
4. Spend several weeks writing, editing, and fine-tuning a 10-page proposal for something you cannot for the life of you envision.
5. Pester every prominent person you've ever met who is remotely related to cooking to obtain their promise for an endorsement. Include in proposal.
5. Bathe that sucker in prayer and send it in.
6. Many moons pass. Keep praying.
7. Receive contract offer (via agent). Sign. Return.
8. Collect all recipes from family and friends that meet your criteria (prep time for this stress-free cookbook must be 20 minutes or less). Start cooking like mad to test every recipe that may potentially be included.
9. Create a slush pile for rejects (because they either take too long to make, don't taste incredible enough, require too much clean-up, aren't simple enough, or the ingredients are too hard to find.)
10. Complete first draft. Edit. Then reread with a gnat strainer and re-edit six times.
11. Submit completed manuscript.
12. Console distraught family and neighbors who are standing by holding empty plates; the cascade of awesome food samples has dried up. Discover you must go on a diet because you've gained 7-lbs writing your cookbook and can no longer button your pants (The chocolate section was a killer.)
13. Receive first draft of cookbook cover (where I am today). Suggest minor changes. Receive the final draft - Yay! It's marvelous and perky and adorable!
14. Several months later, receive final edits from publishing house.
15. Brand new cookbook releases October 1. Now the hardest part: Selling it!

Never thought I'd see the day that I'd write a cookbook, but it was SO much fun and I loved every minute of it. (Especially testing the chocolate section.) Plus, I know these simple, terrific recipes and menu suggestions (complete with grocery lists!) will help lots of women care for their fams without feeling like they're drowning in the stress-pool of life.

So tell me, what kind of a cookbook would YOU write if you ever decide to write one?



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Buying the Person Behind the Product, Not Just the Product

Me excited to find my book at Cracker Barrel
I've been looking for a change. Without going into too much hairy detail, I've recently decided it's time to look for a new publicist.

And in shopping around, I've learned a few things that I believe are key marketing principles.

First of all, let me say that I'm a firm believer in the power of a good publicist to get word of your book out there to places you can't, and therefore drive sales.

I learned this lesson with my first few books which were published by a small press. All marketing and publicity was up to me. Me and only me. Sales were meager and each and every sale was hard-fought.

Then came my first traditionally published book, Mom NEEDS Chocolate, which was contracted in 2007, the year every industry in America - including the publishing industry - was hit hard by the recession and had to tighten their belts or go under. During the two years between the time I signed the contract and the actual release date in 2009, the publisher's publicity department shrank from 14 people to one.

There was no way that one poor overworked gal would be able to make the splash I yearned for my book to make while trying to promote the other dozen books releasing in the same quarter. So without any significant research, I hired the first outside PR firm I came across to create more ripples. The problem with that firm was that it was comprised of only one woman who had just had a baby (a bit distracting, right?) and turned out to be quite expensive for the services I received.

Live and learn. The price for not doing your homework and leaping before you look.  

Then came my "Take On Life" series with Barbour Books (a different publisher than my previous book). When the first book in the series was ready for release (Too Blessed to be Stressed, 2011), I had heard the 90/10 rule, that 90 percent of new authors share a mere 10 percent of the PR department's attention (the majority of funds and efforts go toward the best selling titles and authors). So after doing more research this time, I hired a highly recommended publicity firm (a different one) to work alongside the Barbour publicity team in order to cover all the bases.

The success of Too Blessed to be Stressed (over 60k copies sold and still counting) plus the spawning of 10 Baby Blessings (books and book product offspring of the original book) indicate that it was a good idea.

So with the publicity campaigns of More Beauty, Less Beast (2012), Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate (2013), and Too Loved to be Lost (2014), I continued to use the same publicist with pretty good results.

But lately, with the upcoming 2015 release of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, I began to itch for something more in a publicity campaign. Something different. Something with a little more pizzazz. So began my publicist shopping expedition.

And here's where the real marketing lesson began.

I came up with a list of 15 publicity firms that are generally associated with Christian publishing. Not that they don't deal with secular markets as well, but primarily their clients are Christian authors of inspirational books. I began e-mailing queries, explaining briefly who I am, where I am on my writing journey, and where I'd like to end up, ending with, "Would you be interested in representing me?"

The first five responses were less than heart-warming. I was greeted with tepid enthusiasm and instructed to fill out a form. Afterward, they would get back to me. Maybe. When they had time. And Jupiter aligned with Uranus.

It reminded me of the oblivious store clerk chatting on her phone with a  friend when you're in a hurry to check out. She may or may not acknowledge your presence, then turns her back to you as if you're a pest and annoying inconvenience and continues gabbing away.

You feel:
1. Unwanted.
2. That your business is unappreciated.
3. You are unimportant, insignificant, and invisible.

The sixth query response, in contrast, launched fireworks lighting up my sky.

"I'm was so excited to receive your query yesterday," the warm-voiced gal gushed over the phone (she had requested an immediate phone conversation when she got my e-mail query). "Of course I've heard of you and I love your work. I love your brand. I love the concept of this cookbook and I've been bubbling over with ideas about how to market it to a wider secular audience as well as the Christian market."

Oh yeah? Well, I love you too, sister!

I suddenly felt:
1. Wanted.
2. That my business is valuable and greatly appreciated.
3. That I'm visible to this gal and she thinks she can make me visible to the rest of the world.

So who do you think I'm more inclined to hand over my hard-earned dollars to? I don't know if this self-marketing-savvy woman really did know my work before she received my query and perused my website, but because of her enthusiasm and the way she presented herself, it really doesn't matter to me. She knows me now, and she's willing to put her enthusiasm to work for me.

She knew that by selling herself to me, I would be buying the person behind the product, not just the product. That's POWERFUL marketing.

And if she can do it to me, she can do it for me.  

Something to remember in my own future self-marketing forays. And you too, author buddy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New Book Giveaway!

This is what I'm wearing to work on Valentine's Day
During this Valentine season, discover the kind of love that is never too lost or too late.

From Feb 1-14, register for the drawing to be held on Valentine's Day for 3 copies of my book about unconditional love, Too Loved to be Lost. 

I'm hosting a simultaneous giveaway on Goodreads so you actually have a dandy chance of winning a book one way or the other!

I hope you're feeling the love I'm sending your way and will take a moment and click HERE to register.  (If for some reason the link won't work, hop over to my website www.DeboraCoty.com and click on Too Love to be Lost giveaway under "contests").

Remember, Papa God loves us just the way we are - broken. But he also loves us enough not to leave us that way!  "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

Friday, January 23, 2015

Winning Isn't Everything But It Sure Is Something

If Adele can do it, so can you!
During a discussion about the importance of entering writing contests last night at my *local writer's meeting, a dignified, silver-haired fellow named Lou spoke up.

In all earnestness (and with a telltale twinkle in his eye), Lou posed the following scenario: "I won a chicken sandwich gift card in the **Fla Inspirational Writers Retreat story contest last fall; can I now call myself an award-winning author?"

The vote was unanimous: Absolutely!

So why is it such a big deal? Who really cares if you have that little phrase after your name ... award-winning author?

You care. And yes, it is a big deal.

That powerful little phrase is not only an eye-opener, it's a door-opener. When people - especially prospective publishers looking at your new manuscript, and perusing readers considering whether to invest precious hours of their time in your book - see that three-word-proof of the excellent quality of your work, they'll be changed by it. They'll suddenly see the words you've written through a lens of respect and high expectations. Your work has become elevated in their perception to that of other award-winners: Dickens, Fitzgerald, Patterson.

But even more importantly, your own standard is raised. You begin perceiving yourself as a real writer, and tackle your next project with a new confidence. A new level of professionalism. And it shows. Editors will notice. Readers will notice. Your work will improve and keep on improving. The sky's the limit!

So keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep entering contests. A chicken sandwich gift card is only the beginning, my friend! Your next award might be silver and shiny with your name engraved on it.



*If you live in the Tampa area, we'd love to have you join us for our monthly Brandon Christian Writers group. We're about 25 of the friendliest, encouraging, chocolate-loving folks you'll ever meet. All experience levels and genres of inspirational writing are represented: fiction, non-fiction, adult, YA, children's writers, humor, fantasy, women's books, devotionals, self-help ... you name it. More info, meeting time and location here:  https://brandonchristianwriters.wordpress.com/

**If you'd like to try your hand at winning your very own chicken sandwich (Chick-fil-a, YUM!), seriously consider attending the Fla Inspirational Writer's Retreat this year on Oct 3 in Lithia, Fl (I'm co-director). It's very affordable but scholarships are available if that's an issue for you. More info here: http://deboracoty.com/writing-workshops/florida-inspirational-writers-retreat/


Monday, January 12, 2015

New Adventures

Chasing the sunrise on an exciting adventure
The past week has been one chockfull of good news. This, of course, happens far too rarely, that I receive word even one exciting twist has torqued in my writing journey, much less two.

What a red letter week!

The first tiding of great joy was the official notification that my book, Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate, won an Illumination Book Award for Exemplary Christian Books.

One response sums that up: Hallelujah!

The next splendid news was that there will be a Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner to follow the 2014 and 2015 planners already published. Yay, God! Yay, Barbour! Yay, editors with foresight! Now I have something positive to say to the fine folks who have been contacting me, frustrated that they missed out on the 2015 Planner that was sold out before the year ... hold tight! Another will be coming down the chute soon (early fall, I think), and this one will have lots of new encouragement and scriptures from my other books in the "Take On Life" series, as well as from Too Blessed to be Stressed. 

Oh, and one other tidbit that thrilled me to my socks, although it happened about two weeks before my red letter week. My editor informed me that Too Loved to be Lost, my newest book in the series, will be turned into a hardcover journal like the Too Blessed to be Stressed Journal that's now being carried by Cracker Barrel and Barnes and Noble.

I can't believe how popular journals are right now - I walked into a B & N the other day and was stunned to see three walls completely full of journals. Mama mia. I guess lots of people have lots of introspection to document. That's gotta be a good thing, right?

So I'm starting the new year in a purple haze of gratitude. I am so deeply thankful for these new writing adventures opening up before me and pray that I'll do Papa God proud for entrusting me with these unexpected blessings.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my good news with you, dear writerly friend. And please feel free to reciprocate when you receive your own good news - Ill be more than happy to rejoice with you!