Thursday, February 17, 2011

WHAT'S IN A LABEL?


Current Project: A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE
Status: Planning a release booksigning!

Thanks to Paty for her statement in Wednesday's blog that triggered the idea for this post. She said, "My struggle is trying to promote my books when they are several subgenres."

Is labeling a book with a specific subgenre a great marketing tool that lets readers know exactly what they are picking up? Or does labeling do a disservice to both our book and potential readers?


I could argue both sides of that question.


Perhaps you've heard of studies where young students were randomly divided into groups labeled "smart" and "slow." The labels had nothing to do with the intelligence or knowledge of the students, that's just the label the teachers were given. Lo and behold, by the end of the school year, the "smart" students were performing above grade level, and the "slow" students had fallen below standards. Seems the labels "smart" and "slow" set up expectations of these students, and they lived up (or down) to these labels.


At this point, you might be thinking we SHOULD label our books as "smart," "hot," "action-packed," or whatever is the latest trend is to attract more readers.


On the other hand, maybe we shouldn't try to label our books down to the subgenre of the subgenre, as this may turn away some readers. Maybe we should promote our work under a broad genre and let readers take their own journey of discovery.


Doing this can bring some surprises, as I discovered. One of my books I considered an action romance was purchased by an editor who saw it as a "feel good Christmas story." Later on, this same book was picked up by an erotica reviewer. She loved it and nominated it for best erotic cover. Though I was delighted the subject matter of the story resonated deeply with her, I was also a little baffled she labeled it "erotica" as there was no love scene until near the end of the story and a teddy bear graced the cover. Each of us brought our own life experiences and made our own journey of discovery through the pages of that book.


So should we try to label our books or not? You can see that's a trick question--there isn't one answer.


Most of us will write our own query letters or pitches or do our own marketing. But don't worry about a label to the point where you freeze on writing your story because it won't "fit" somewhere. Write that fantastic book and then look for a unique angle to approach an agent or editor, or to launch a marketing campaign.


Your creative mind can write three hundred pages of a story. It can also come up with a few brilliantly descriptive sentences to bring that story to readers. That's part of the fun!


Want to try it? Come up with two or three marketing angles for your work in progress or a favorite book by someone else.


I'll give you my example in a comment…

8 comments:

Genene Valleau said...

Here's my example:

My next release is part of A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE. The back cover heading is, "Feuds, Faeries and a Malfunctioning Time Machine." It's going to be labeled a fantasy because of the faeries and time machine, but could probably fit other subgenres as well.

The three of us who wrote the connected parts of this story are planning a booksigning at a local "pub" that will be serving traditional Irish food on St. Patrick's Day. Don't know if they will have green beer, but I think our faerie wings will fit right in with the celebration!

Since our story also features a time machine, we could also come up with a game to put on our Web sites that allows readers to "travel" to the different times and settings of the story.

Alice Sharpe said...

Genene -- Your pub engagement sounds like great fun as does your book. Hope it's a blast!

Paty Jager said...

Great post Genene. Glad I could help. ;)

Okay the home work part of this. I'm currently writing the third book of the spirit trilogy, which to my way of thinking, is a historical western but it has also been categorized as a fantasy because of the spirit element.

The fantasy element and no cowboys has kept the Love Western Romance review site from reading it. Because it has Native American cover models on the cover the paranormal fantasy reviewers aren't picking it up to review. I've had to beg for reviews. Yet my loyal readers have all liked the first book and can't wait for the second one.

I had a very nice book signing in my home town but then it is the home of the Nez Perce in the book and the setting for the book.

When I get the third book finished and have a cover for it I'm going to try a book trailer to garner some attention but we'll see.

Hi Alice!

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Alice! So glad you stopped by!

I'm really looking forward to this booksigning. This is a new owner who has been so supportive. It's a joy to plan events with this type of cooperation!

Genene Valleau said...

Gosh, Paty, I'm baffled (or ignorant?) that you are struggling to get reviews. I loved the first Spirit book and can't wait for the other two.

Since you had good luck in the heart of Nez Perce country, maybe you should hit up the casinos as a venue for booksignings or see if they would carry these books if they have a gift shop. Perhaps one of their celebrity guests would give you a quote for these books? Or someone in the tribes?

There must be a broader audience for these. Bet these stories will make an awesome book trailer!

Alice Sharpe said...

Everyone -- thanks for the "Hi." I've missed you guys. Paty -- I'm stunned you're having problems getting reviews. I have a more mainstream market but often don't get a fraction of the reviews you get -- I've been envious! I hope it all settles and people realize you are you, your voice is your voice, and if they loved what came before they will love what comes next.

Sarah Raplee said...

Genene, Thanks for the great post! You gave me lots of food for thought. Be sure to keep me posted for your booksigning on St. Patrick's Day! Can't wait to see the fairy wings. :-)

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Sarah! Glad this post gave you some things to think about.

I enjoy discussions that look at an idea from different perspectives. It gives us more information to decide where we fit in the ever-changing world of publishing.

And I'll share more info on the booksigning in my blog post on March 5. Thanks for asking!