Saturday, May 16, 2015


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


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.