Sunday, February 21, 2010



Seems that’s the question being asked all across Publishland, doesn’t it?

It’s really no great surprise, really. Thanks to buy-outs, mergers, and take-overs, there are fewer publishing companies now than there were a decade or two ago. At the same time—thanks to the sagging economy—the number of people lining up for writing jobs doubles every day.

At least, that’s how it feels as we struggle to stay afloat in these stormy publishing seas.

Those of us who’ve taken The Great Leap (and quit our day jobs to write full time) stand toe-to-toe with serious competition every time we aim a query or cover letter toward an editor’s desk. And even those of us who’ve adopted Great Expectations by signing with an agent cringe and wring our hands, hoping our idea will stand out from the hundreds of others in the slush pile.

The advice for separating yourself from the herd? Wading through it is a little like trying to cross the Times Square intersection. Against the light. During rush hour. Information whizzes past us at an alarming rate of speed. So fast that we barely have time to make sense of it… if we get a glimpse at all:

“Create a web presence, so editors can ‘check you out.’” Yeah. Like they have time while digging through the massive stacks of stuff on their desks. Nevertheless, like most of you, I’m doin’ my darnedest to “be everywhere” online. Not an easy feat while meeting multiple deadlines and trying to live a somewhat normal life.

“Teach classes, give speeches, arrange book signings, get your press kit to TV and radio stations.” And do it in such a way that the show hosts don’t see you as a self-centered, addicted to shameless-self-promotional jerk.

“Develop a web site, where editors can ‘learn more about you’ when deliberating whether or not to issue you a contract.” Uh-huh. I can see editors now, visiting the web sites of every author with a proposal on their desks.

“Come up with a one-word title that will tell the world what your book is about, while providing editors with a ‘hook’ to help sell your books.” When I hear ‘hook’, I see the long-handled staff stagehands used to pull annoying Vaudeville acts off the stage.

“Develop a back cover blurb that’ll tell editors (and hopefully, someday, readers) that your book is “…fascinating!” “Riveting!” “A must-read!” Provided they read both of your carefully-crafted paragraphs, that is.

“You need a platform!” Really? As in ‘soap box’? I’m pretty handy with every tool in the shed, but build one of those? On my budget?

“You need a Brand!” When I hear that tidbit, I see the company logos, like Nike and Campbell’s and Ford. Yet this advice, say the marketing gurus, is probably the thing that’ll make the most difference. Those glowing-hot iron things pressed into horses’ withers and cattle behinds. Or maybe a tattoo. (But which design? And where-o-where to put it?)

The big question pinging in my empty head was “What is branding, anyway?”

And near as I could figure, it’s like fly paper in that Your Brand grabs readers and doesn’t let ‘em go. And then, once you’ve got ‘em, Your Brand is what holds onto ‘em.

Okay. That makes sense. Sorta. But how to come up a one-of-a-kind brand that’s unique to you and your books? Especially if, like me, you write in more than one genre? What buzz word(s) = YOU? And how do you choose words that, like fly paper, will continue to hold as your career develops?

I banged my head against the Branding Wall for months. Then one morning while organizing my files… letters from reader in This folder, reviews in That one, something jumped off the pages: Almost every one of the thousands of letters from my readers said, “Loree, (this or that) element of your story changed my life!” Likewise, most of the  hundreds of reviews I’d accumulated consistently stated, “Loree Lough stories touch readers hearts.”

Changing lives. Touching hearts.

Whoa. Could it really be that simple?

In a word, yes.

And I’ve been using the phrase as My Brand ever since. It’s on my web site. My social networking “walls.” Every video book trailer produced to help hawk my books.

“Touching hearts, changing lives.”

It tells editors and readers that whether the Loree Lough novel they’re reading has a contemporary or historical setting, a comical or serious plot, a storyline interwoven with suspense and intrigue, a romance or a gritty cop story, their hearts are gonna be touched and the message in the story will somehow change their lives. Hopefully for the better.

My dilemma now? What ‘font’ to use when I have it tattooed on my….

Okay. So I have two dilemmas. But thankfully, I’ve got My Brand and I’m stickin’ to it, ‘cause it’ll be just as valid in ten years as it is now.

Hoping you'll have more fun than I did, firing up the bellows for Your Brand!

Have a super writing week, y'all.
Big warm hugs,