The MacGregor Legacy - From Scotland to the Carolinas

(Book 1 - For Love or Loyalty) (Book 2 - For Love or Country) (Book 3 - For Love or Liberty)

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Awakened Redemption (Inspirational Regency)

1815 England - A story that pierces the heart and captures the Regency era.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Choosing An Author Brand

I once had an agent say to me, “I don’t think you know what you want to write. And you need to decide that or I can’t market you.”

I was stunned. What did she mean? I wanted to write historical romances and that’s what I’d been writing. Was she crazy?

Let me clarify the broad range of what I had written: a Civil War novel, a Regency, a Scottish Medieval, an Irish historical, and a prairie romance.

Not exactly one brand with one readership in mind was it? Yes, you could say that I was a historical romance writer, but how did that narrow me down from all the other hundreds of historical romance writers? What would be different about me and my books? Pick a number and get in line. That’s essentially what I was doing to myself.

Choosing an author brand is sort of like choosing a career. It’s a very personal and individual decision. Regardless of how you came to be a writer, if you intend to sell your work, you need to be promoting it and thinking of how you want to be known.

When you hear the names Steven King, Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Rick Warren, or Jannette Oke, what comes to mind?

I think of the following:
Steven King – Horror thrillers
Nicholas Sparks – Love Stories/Drama
Nora Roberts – Romance/Women’s fiction
John Grisham – Court Dramas/Suspense
Rick Warren – Self-help Religion
Jannette Oke – Historical Christian fiction

What do you want people to think of you when they hear your name? It can’t be a long, drawn out paragraph that distinctly describes your writing like a company mission statement. It should be short and categorical, because that’s how your book will be shelved in the stores and listed online. Where do you think people will go to buy the kind of books you’re writing? This is important as you think about your author brand.

Next, what do you like to write? If you’re a new writer, what do you like to read? If you can narrow this down to 2 or 3 genres, consider which one you could write about for thirty years without getting tired of it. Then consider the other subgenres as elements in your books.

I’ll use myself as an example. In addition to writing, I research family history. I had been to half the counties in the Carolinas researching the historical archives. I’ve lived in the Carolinas my whole life, and traveled extensively throughout the region. My family roots go back 250+ years. I know the historical culture here, the changes that have evolved, and I know how it is in the Carolinas today. I know the kinds of families and ethnic backgrounds that immigrated here. I know the land, the climate, cities, towns and rural areas. I know the slang language of old of today. The architecture of the buildings today and back then are implanted in my brain.

God has shown me that what I thought was boring because I was so used to it, may not be boring and old to people elsewhere. God gives us our experiences as a testimony to others. He has given me the gift of writing and a love for the history and culture here in the Carolinas. I can make the history of the Carolinas come alive again, and I can bring the Carolinas of today, to someone that may never get a chance to visit this wonderful place that I’ve come to love so much.

This way I’m not limited to a time period. I can include the elements of romance, suspense, mystery, and most importantly, my faith. The Carolinas are known as part of the Bible belt. I can also include pieces of Europe with its history and culture as my characters immigrate to the Carolinas.

My new author brand is: Historical & Contemporary Fiction in the Carolinas

Check out my new website at: http://www.authorjenniferhudsontaylor.com/.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Guest Blogger on The Seekers Blog

Today I'm guest blogging on The Seekers Blog. Come join us and read about my writing journey and how finaling in last year's ACFW Genesis contest affected my self-esteem as a writer and motivated me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Author Branding - Will It Help Sell More Books?

What is author branding?
It's the reputation you build in the publishing community and to your readers of what kind of stories to expect when they see your name on the cover of a book. 


Is author branding necessary?
If you want to build readership, yes. If you want to sell more books, yes. Readers who like westerns aren't typically interested in a science fiction book. For this reason, so many authors have had to create pen names for various subgenres. People work hard for their money and they can chose to spend it on a number of things. You don't want them to be disappointed if they take a chance and spend it on your book. If that happens, most likely they won't spend more money on anything else with your name on it, nor will they encourage others to do so.


Author branding is another way of target marketing. If you are promoting your book based on the book's contents, you are going to appeal to those who would like that particular book. Marketing and advertising is expensive. You don't want to waste your time and money trying to appeal to an audience who won't like what you write. You aren't likely to sell many books that way, and it doesn't make sense. So why wouldn't you create an author brand for yourself? 


If you're like me, you might be hesitant to build a label around yourself because you don't want to be limited to writing one kind of book. I've already mentioned pen names as one way to get around this. Another way is to write the same subgenre for a decade or two and then rebuild your image. Lots of authors do this, and if you do it well, you won't lose readers, in fact you may gain more. 

For instance, a contemporary romance author may chose to brand him/herself as a romantic suspense author. That way you aren't losing readers who like romance and contemporaries, you're just giving them a new element to read along with what they already read. Keep the subgenres similar, but give readers more. This will ultimately lead to more readers, which will lead to more sells.


Do unpublished authors need an author brand?
Yes. Before you can sell books on a store shelf, you first have to sell to a publisher. You need to stand out among the masses of other writers. There isn't enough shelf space for all the wanna-be writers in the world, so you've got to find a way to stay out of the slush piles. There are a lot of good writers who sit in the slush piles year after year. Their works are good enough to be on the shelf of a bookstore. The difference is, their marketing proposals may not be unique enough or stand out and get noticed. 


At one time I believe it was true that good writing would get noticed. But with the competition the way it is today, the demand so buoyant, and the hectic schedule of the publishing industry, I no longer believe that's true. You still have to get someone to read your work in order for it to be noticed. That can only happen if you stand out in promoting yourself and your work. You must make a good impression in your proposal and presentation of your work before an editor or agent actually sits down to read your work. If your impression in your proposal doesn't stand out, they'll never turn to the first page of your manuscript. 


Remember, an unpublished writer is selling to an agent or editor. These folks are looking for specific markets where they know they can sell something. While good writing has to go along with it, if an author has written something that's great, but the story isn't right for an open spot, then it still won't sell. Don't waste their time or yours. 

Sometimes a quick rejection is a good thing. It will give you a chance to get that manuscript where it belongs much faster than wasting time on an editor's desk where it isn't going anywhere. By building an author brand, you will be letting them know upfront what they are getting from you. This will help you appeal to the right agents and editors. Target market to the right publishers and you will sell more faster.


Plus, publishers have less in their marketing budgets for new authors and mid-list authors. They reserve most of their budgets for the BIG name authors where they know their investment will pay off. Therefore, a new author will have to do so much more of their own marketing. 

By showing you are ahead of the game in your promotion and author branding, an editor will feel more comfortable taking a chance on you. This means if it comes down to your good writing as opposed to another author's good writing for one publication spot, you might have the edge since you have self-marketing potential. Editors are looking for authors they can build into careers for a long investment, not one-time book wonders.


Later this week I'll talk about choosing an author brand.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Kind of Coffee Are You?

When I first married into the Taylor family, I hated coffee. Now I drink coffee nearly everyday. It doesn't matter if it's regular or decaff. I'll drink both just as long as I have my Splenda or sugar and a little cream (preferrably French Vanilla). My husband tells me I'm a full Taylor now.

My friend Christy introduced this little coffee test on the F.A.I.T.H. Blog and I wanted to share it here with you. Below are my test results and they seem pretty accurate. I love this as an idea for creating characters in our books.


You Are a Cappuccino!

You're fun, outgoing, and you love to try anything new.
However, you tend to have strong opinions on what you like.
You are a total girly girly at heart - and prefer your coffee with good conversation.
You're the type that seems complex to outsiders, but in reality, you are easy to please




Friday, January 11, 2008

And the Winner Is.....

Thank you to all the ladies that entered the contest for a free autographed copy of Cheryl Wyatt's book, A Soldier's Promise.

And the winner is: Rachel!

Congratulations!

Please email me at jt4novels@yahoo.com with your postal mailing address.

Thanks,

Jennifer

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Author Interview - Cheryl Wyatt


Today Author Cheryl Wyatt is on my blog for an interview. Cheryl's debut novel is A Soldier's Promise, published through Steeple Hill's Love Inspired division. I have a heart for historicals, but I couldn't put this book down. The characters are riveting and you continue to think about them long after you finish the story. I loved this book!


Each person who leaves a comment today will be going into a drawing for a free autographed copy of Cheryl's book.


Q: When you wrote "A Soldier's Promise" did you have a publisher in mind with guidelines or did you just let the story carrying your writing?<br>

Cheryl: I defintely had a publisher in mind. I targeted Steeple Hill from the onset of writing romance fiction. I had their guidelines in mind while writing the story. Also, after submitting it the first time, it was a romantic suspense. But my sort of suspense is more action-driven than danger-driven. So they asked me to revise it to either make the suspense stronger, or strip the suspense and aim for Love Inspired rather than Love Inspires Suspense. I stripped the suspense and strengthened the romance arc as well as deepened emotion and followed their suggestions explicitly. The revised version sold.


Q. Do you or any of your family members have any background in the miliary?


Cheryl: My dad was in the Marines. I was born on a military base in San Diego on Valentines Day in the middle of the Vietnam war era. So I'm convinced that has me writing military romance. LOL!


My dad was wounded in Vietnam during the most intense offensive at Da Nang in 1968, in addition to getting malaria. He wanted to stay and fight but he had to recover in a hospital in Japan. He got out of the military when I was young. I still have extended family on my husband's side who are currently serving. There is a long list of my family and my husband's family who have served in every branch, men and women. We both come from very patriotic familes who support the troops with our words and with prayer.

My husband's paternal grandfather was involved in the then-secretive SOCO division during WWII and still talks about his experiences. His maternal grandfather worked on planes with radar. My husband's two cousins are serving as well. One went through SEAL training but changed tracks and now flies F18s. His female cousin has recently been promoted to Lt. Colonel in the Army. Uncle Jimmy on my husband's side flew helicopters in WWII and has a silver star. His son is also a military helicoptor pilot. My paternal grandfather served in the Army. My maternal grandfather was involved in CC camps during the depression. Bob was in National Guard. Most of my uncles have served. There are more, tons more. We've had family deployed in every war in history I think. LOL!


Q. What do you like most about writing?


Cheryl: I love everything about it. I love the research aspect and character development best. Actually what I like best is when I've finished my mess draft and can start layering and deepening and fleshing out scenes. I love the challenge of finding plot-specific metaphors, analogies, etc.


Q. Do you have a faith theme message that seems to be popping up in your stories?


Cheryl: Mostly aspects of God's character in as far as how He relates to us in our brokenness. Emotional and spiritual healing seems to be cropping up frequently. Or healing of wrong thinking or distorted views we have about God as He really is, or distorted views of ourselves as He sees us. I guess seeing God and ourselves and our situations rightly is also a common theme.


Q. What would your readers like to know about you that they may not see on your website, blog or bio?


Cheryl: I am very God and family-oriented. Yet, I love and accept people whether they have a relationship with God or not. I have a heart to serve and mentor. My greatest gift is intercessory prayer and I look at my readership as an opportunity to have more people to pray for. I love to worship God more than anything. I feel so thankful that He receives my writing as worship, and that my words mean something to Him. I also have a heart for orphans, widows and outcasts. I love to laugh and have fun. I love music and often accompany my husband on sound gigs. He runs sound for nearly every major Chistian band out there and some secular bands. We love NASCAR and are often co-conspirators in practical joke tactical maneauvers. LOL!


Cheryl, thank you for being on my blog today. I'm really looking forward to reading your next book. The cover on your postcard looks great.


If you'd like to order A soldier's Promise, here's a link:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0373874669


Also, you can find out more about Cheryl on her website.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Writing Devotion - Continue Earnestly

This is the time of year that I like to reflect on my prayers and refocus on what I should be concentrating on. A while back I got in the habit of writing in a prayer journal so I could be diligent on what I'm praying and believing God for. And then I reserve those heartfelt prayers for when the Holy Spirit moves me to pray about other things that God has laid on my heart.

Three of my main prayers have been:
1. To be a better writer.
2. To receive a publishing contract.
3. To change lives and inspire people with my writing. (This is where a publishing contract would help me. Someone else would have to read my work besides my computer's hard drive.)

Sometimes when we keep hoping, praying, and waiting, we grow weary. I've been there. Days turn into weeks, into months, and then before you know it, years have gone by. And still, we wait. When this happens, all I know to do is keep going, keep trying, and not give up. But the temptation to give up is strong. What if we are praying for something that isn't God's will? It's worse than beating our heads against the wall.

This morning I was encouraged--again. I was reading Colossians and it said, "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving." Sometimes, God only wants us to persevere. Since we can't see the whole picture, we have to trust Him to know that His timing is perfect.

If you are believing God for something, and the wait seems to be wearing you down, hold on a little while longer. One thing that has helped me is adjusting my schedule, refocusing my concentration, and bearing my frustration to God. He's not only our heavenly Father. He's also our friend and He listens and his Holy Spirit will guide us and give us comfort through those difficult days and nights.

For me, I simply needed a break from writing and I took it over the holidays. Now I feel refreshed, motivated, and I have new ideas. Sometimes all God wants is for us to relax and rest so we can hear Him better. Don't be afraid to take a break. It isn't the same thing as quitting. It's recharging your mind, body, and spirit.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

January 2008 Schedule

Another year is gone and today is my first blog post for 2008! I have to admit, 2007 was a wonderful year for me as a writer and for my family as a whole. It was a year of restoration for us on many levels. Now I'm looking forward to God's promises for 2008!

As I have done for several years, I'm hoping for a contract offer on one of my books.

This year I'm starting something new. I'm going to be posting a schedule of writing related events or opportunities at the beginning of each month. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to stop by and enter contests, win a few goodies, and connect with some of your favorite authors.

Saturday, January 5th
At the Carolina Christian Writers' meeting I will give a presentation on Great Beginnings, which will include various approaches authors have used to engage readers and keep them turning the pages. Bring the first page of your manuscript. (Location: China Grove, NC)

Thursday, January 10th
Interview with debut Author Cheryl Wyatt. I just finished reading Cheryl's book, A Soldier's Promise, and it is absolutely wonderful! It's one of those gripping stories where the characters are branded on your heart and you cheer for them to overcome their obstacles throughout the book. Cheryl writes contemporary Christian romance for Steeple Hill and her new book, A Soldier's Family will be out in March. I'll post the interview on my blog and the F.A.I.T.H. blog.

Saturday, January 19th
Christian Romantic Suspense Author Lynette Eason will be a guest blogger on my blog and on the F.A.I.T.H. blog. I'm reading Lethal Deception, Lynette's first book and it will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. Lynette has a new book coming out in February from Steeple Hill. At the Carolina Christian Writers' meeting on Saturday, February 2nd, Lynette will give a presentation and sign books.

Week of January 21st
This week the Faith ladies will be celebrating our one year anniversary on the F.A.I.T.H. blog. We'll be giving away prizes and lots of goodies. Be sure to stop by our blog this week and leave a comment to enter our contests and drawings.

Week of January 28th
This week we'll be having a "Book Party" on the F.A.I.T.H. blog for debut Author Missy Tippens, our very on Faith lady! Her first book, Her Unlikely Family, will be released in February from Steeple Hill. We'll be giving away contest prizes and entering names for drawings, so please drop by and leave a comment on our blog.

Wednesday, January 30th
I'm thrilled that Author Mary Connealy invited me to be a guest blogger on The Seeker's blog. This blog is dedicated to the value of entering writing contests. Please stop by and leave a comment. This blog provides great insight and lots of helpful information for writers seeking publication.