Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ho Ho Ho - Happy Holidays

I went to my fav Xmas party Friday night. West Houston RWA has an annual pot luck and white elephant gift exchange. Returns and hilarious dud gifts are encouraged. This year, I reluctantly returned the reindeer antlers with lights. My entire family modeled those antlers for photos last year. My daughter Amber Rose may never forgive me - that's her in the above photo.

Since the year is almost over, I thought I'd post once more. 2008 has been a wild year with exciting writing news. First, I finaled and won several contests. But, the most exciting thing happened in October when three agents offered to represent me. I'm so elated to have signed with Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency!

I'm no longer traveling for business. My last Euro trip in January 2008 was a great way to end it, though. I spent six days in Paris and visited Versailles, Notre Dame, and the Musee D'Orsay where the Impressionist paintings are located. I walked to the Eiffel Tower to see the lights at night, too. Then it was off to London where I took an out of city tour to Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Warwick Castle. While I'm happy to give up my flying days, I saw some incredible monuments while traveling these last three years.

I am thankful in these difficult economic times to be employed and to have so many wonderful friends and family. May the magic romance fairies be with all of us in 2009.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sensuality and Sensibility: Marketing to Generations

On one of my writer loops, I came across an interesting discussion about preferences for sensuality in historical romances. As I read the posts, one aspect jumped out at me. Writers from earlier generations sometimes find it objectionable when early 19th century heroines engage too readily in premarital sex . They made the point that prior to the Sexual Revolution, ignorance about sex wasn't at all unusual, even into the late teens.

This got me to thinking that preferences and attitudes towards sensuality in romances, particularly historical romances, may be highly influenced by the reader's generation. That thought reminded me of Generational Marketing. So what is Generational Marketing and what does that mean to writers of romance?

GEN Marketing targets consumers based on the era in which they were born and grew up. Messages are crafted to appeal to particular generations based upon shared values, attitudes, and beliefs. These values, attitudes, and beliefs are thought to derive from the collective experiences of a particular era (e.g., 9/11 is a collective experience). Below are brief descriptions of the modern generations. What generation do you belong to? Do you think that it influences your preferences and expectations for sensuality in a romance novel? Is my analysis spot on or am I missing something?
  1. Mature or Silent Generation - born prior to 1946. Formative influences include the Great Depression and WWII. Values: Believe in established institutions, hard work, and self-discipline. Buying behavior: Conservative, frugal , and brand loyal. Self-sacrifice is a hallmark of this generation. Slow to adopt new products because they grew up in a time of economic hardship. Many, however, are rewarding themselves in retirement for their years of hard work. They prefer tradition in their entertainment and are turned off by controversy. My Analysis: Readers of the Mature Generation are more likely to identify with heroines who are virtuous and embrace traditional values.
  2. Boomers - born between 1946-1964. Formative influences: Early boomers (1st decade) - Vietnam War, the Pill, Free Love. Later boomers (2nd decade) - Watergate, the Women's Movement, Disco, More Free Love. Values: Self-expression not self-sacrifice, Personal Identity - the Me Generation. Think L'Oreal's original slogan: "I'm worth it." Sense of entitlement comes from growing up during prosperous times. They question the "establishment." Buying behavior: Prefer products and services that appeal to their individuality and need for self-fulfillment. Unlike the Mature Generation, they are nontraditional and are probably more likely to embrace new products or product categories. My Analysis: Boomer readers are more likely to think the heroine is entitled to sexual experimentation and think she should question established mores, particularly if it leads to greater self-fulfillment.
  3. GEN X - born between 1965 - 1978. Formative influences: Cold War (Reagan Era), divorce (latch-key kids), AIDs, tumultuous economic times. The PC Generation. Values: Savvy Entrepreneurs. Hard workers. Seek balance not stability. Close-knit family is a high priority (as a result of divorced parents). Technology is a given. Buying behavior: They are skeptical and cynical towards slick marketing pitches (the savvy thing). Prefer marketing messages that are frank, fun, and practical. Their preference is for interactive entertainment. My Analysis: GEN X readers' pragmatism, perhaps even their cynicism (e.g, sex sells), might lead them to expect sensuality in the books. However, focus on family and marriage is likely to have great appeal to them.
  4. GEN Y (Echo Boomers) - born between 1979 and 1991. Formative influences: Electronic everything - iPOD, Blackberry, Cell Phone, Instant Messaging, Text Messaging -- these are all hallmarks of the multi-tasking Millennium Generation. Other influences include presidential scandals, 9/11, and school shootings. There are an estimated 70 million of them, of which 34% are minorities. They are the creation of their boomer parents. Pampered, Over-scheduled with activities, gregarious, high-maintenance, and have a high degree of self-worth. They value creativity and independent thinking, and they search for meaningfulness. Buying behavior: To reach them, you must go where they go (e.g., My Space/Facebook). They are thought to like promotions and contests with free prizes. They are concerned with social issues. In a survey conducted in 2000, Cone/Roper found that 91% of GEN Y youth are attracted to companies and products that support "good causes." Viral marketing (a fancy term for word of mouth recommendations, primarily via the web) appeals to them. Conclusion: Hmmm ... It must be odd for this generation to envision a world without electronics, but as a 2nd decade Boomer teen , I adored Victoria Holt along with TV, my Mustang, and my pink princess phone (no, I'm not joking!). Since GEN Y has been exposed to far more sexuality than other generations, they probably wouldn't object to the proverbial romp in the hay. But it might have more impact if it was a) recommended by a friend, b) all for a good cause, and/or c) meaningful. ;-)

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you.

J. Walker Smith/Ann S. Clurman, "Rocking the Ages: The Yankelovich Report on Generational Marketing," 1997
Nadira A. Hira, "GEN Y at Work: Attracting the Twentysomething Worker," Fortune, May 2007
Zell Center for Risk Research, "The Risk of Misreading Generation Y: The Need for New Marketing Strategies," 2002
Joanna L. Krotz, "Tough Customers: How to Reach GEN Y," Microsoft Small Business Center online (No date published)
Stephanie Armour, "Generation Y: They've arrived at work with a new attitude," USA Today, 2005

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Marketing 101

Most writers equate marketing with promotion, but promotion is only 1/4 of the equation. Say what? Let's start with the basics: the 4 Ps. That's Price, Place, Promotion, and Product. So how many of those 4 Ps does a writer have control over? To at least some degree, writers have control over 3 of the Ps. Since writers have no control over price, let's skip that one.

Place. Once you've signed a contract with a publisher, you have no control over where the book is distributed. However, you do have some say as to where you place your book -- meaning where you decide to submit the manuscript. Let's suppose all your dream publishers, let's call them the Tier 1 publishers, reject your manuscript. You now have the choice of sending it to Tier 2 publishers. It's your product, and you get to make the call. Before you leap, do your homework . Think carefully about how selling to any publisher aligns with your long-term goals.

Promotion. No, you don't have control over a publisher's promotional efforts. Yes, you do have control over what you decide to do promotion-wise, given your budget. I won't touch the specifics of any particular promotional efforts. However, I will correct the misconception that the goal of promotion is to increase sales. It's not that simple. Your first goal is to increase Awareness. In large corporations such as the one I work for, market researchers conduct trend studies to determine a product's (or brand's) purchasing strength with customers. The flow looks like this: Awareness, Consideration, and Preference. As a writer, you can influence awareness. It's a saturated market out there, so what can you do that will be effective? The old adage that word of mouth is the best advertising is true. Unless you can score a spot on Oprah, the best buzz arises out of ... the product itself.

Product. As a writer, you have quite a bit of control over the story ~ at least until you get a revision letter (one that hopefully makes your story even better). To create buzz about your story, you need a high concept (a plot that is immediately apparent to the editor/agent/reviewer) and a unique twist on a tried and true plot. Does having a high concept with a unique plot really work? True story: at a recent regional conference, I sat next to an agent at dinner who asked me about my book. I gave her the tag line and she gave me her card on the spot.

A high concept plot is only part of the story. Now you have to grab readers with compelling characters with whom they can relate. Make your reader care, laugh, cry, and gasp. And deliver on your promises. Easier said than done, but think about those books on your keeper shelf and ask yourself what differentiated them from all the hundreds of other books you've read.

All of the 4 Ps of marketing matter, but Product matters the most. The story is the most valuable marketing tool you've got.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lucky Charms

Are all writers superstitious or is it just me?

I forgot it was St. Patrick's day when I mailed THE DUCHESS COMPETITION to one of the requesting literary agents this morning. In my defense, I am somewhat fuzzy headed due to sleep deprivation. But this morning, the fog in my head was especially thick, a result of no Coke Zero, my caffeinated bev of choice. My brain was not firing on all cylinders. Actually, it was in idle - a scary thought considering I drove to the post office.

What really frightens me, however, is that I forgot a talisman. Some kind of lucky charm. Something that would bring me the luck of the Irish! I wasn't even wearing green. Sure, I have no green clothes, but I could have cut out a four-leaf clover out of construction paper & pinned it on my shirt. Granted, the other postal patrons might think me a bit odd, but this is My dream. My book. My writing career! I didn't even bother to choose a lucky song. Why, I could have stuck my pet rabbit in the cat carrier and stroked her foot as I drove.

Smacking my head. With my first book, I played Pachelbel's Canon in D over and over (you know, the song played at all the weddings) as I drove contest entries and agent/editor submissions to the post office. I would not allow myself to get out of the car until the song finished. On one memorable occasion, my friend Kristi and I drove our submissions to the post office together & I made her sit in the car until the song finished. Oops, that reminds me, both those submissions got rejected. Not long afterwards, Kristi gave me a CD with about 20 different versions of the Canon. I think she was hinting I needed a little variety.

OK, so maybe superstitious charms and songs don't work. But at the very least, I should have commemorated this glorious day, so I would always recall it fondly after I: a) sold the book in the fiercest bidding war in publishing history, b) made the NYT list, c) rode in a parade in Times Square, waving to all my adoring fans. Hey, it's my fantasy, I can be outrageous if I want to. ;-)

Happy St. Patrick's Day. May your day be charmed and your beer green. And the luck of the Irish be with you!