Everything Changes, For Better or Worse

I actually posted this awhile back but I caught an episode of Shark Tank and I had to find it to reblog.

They say change is good.  Perhaps it is, in the long run.  But in the short-term, it is just plain scary, primarily because it forces us into the unknown. Always daunting.  Change can be exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time.  It can force us into positions where we need to take risks we were never before ready to face.  Comfort zones are eliminated, and new challenges may arise.

A few months ago, a friend and I went to see Barbara Corcoran speak at a local college.  She arrived an hour and a half LATE but I forgave her because her presentation was pretty entertaining and she left me with a quote I continue to use because it is SO TRUE – PERCEPTION BECOMES REALITY.

Courtesy of www.abc.com

Courtesy of http://www.abc.com

Early on in her career, before she became a real estate mogul, Barbara had a business partner/boyfriend who loaned her money to start a real estate business.  Long story short, he hooked up with the office secretary (also her best friend) and broke Barbara’s heart.  After some time went by, the couple unceremoniously announced that they were getting married.  Poor Barbara became the third wheel and finally decided that she needed to go out on her own.  Her ex told her she’d never be able to make it without him.  HA! Who’s laughing now, Ramone Simone???

Anyway, back to my point…

She did go out on her own…and for anyone who watches Shark Tank, you know that she is a monumental success in her field and a millionaire over and over.  Change, though unwelcome at first, forced her into this place. It backed her up against a wall and made her choose her next move, a highly lucrative one as it turned out.

Wrestling with change does not always yield such profitable results, but entrepreneurial spirit welcomes the prospect of an alternate reality – not like in Star Trek; I’m talking about a clean slate and a brand-new plan of action.  Who says you can’t end up like Barbara???

Please Brand Me Now!!!!

Branding.

Argh.  Sooo challenging…and so permanent.  It needs to be just right.

Identifying your “brand” is kind of like going to college, where the goal is trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life.  But at eighteen, who really knows THAT?

You have to pick a major but what are the odds that in a few years you’ll even be interested in pursuing a career in the field?  Your scope of interests expands, you identify and refine your skill sets, you grow as a person. So at the end of the four years, are you where you thought you’d eventually end up?

Haha, not me!

I started out pre-law then decided to become a biology major with grandiose plans of becoming a patent lawyer.  That didn’t work too well, so I tried psychology next, then political science.  Finally, I landed on accounting.  Never used my degree, and the extent of my accounting knowledge is limited to distinguishing a debit from a credit.

The point is, we aren’t the same people at 18 as we are at 25 and then at 40.  We develop and expand our horizons.  So while it’s important to figure out how you’re going to differentiate yourself from the competition, you don’t always know out of the gate who and what you will ultimately become.  The reality may be vastly different than what you imagined.  And that impacts your branding.

I can tell you from personal experience I’ve branded and rebranded myself many times over the years, trying to figure out how I want the world to know me.  This became even more challenging for me as an author because at the end of the day, I write romance novels.  But I am much more multi-faceted – how can I reflect that in my platform?  I finally figured it out, but it was a journey.

I first did an exercise where I created a word cloud.  I wrote down every single interest and skill I have.  It became a little unwieldy, so I narrowed it down.  Way too much for a tagline and nothing of real value popped out.

More introspection followed.

Courtesy of melodyhossaini.com

Courtesy of melodyhossaini.com

I’ve blogged for years, primarily about the trials and tribulations of being a working mother with three kids.  Maybe that would be a good platform.  But what’s the hook?  How does that differentiate me from other romance authors?  I’m not the only one with kids and a lot of angst.

It may make me relatable but…it doesn’t set me apart.

I consulted with the experts, read books and articles, searching for inspiration.  I created a bunch of different taglines using the thesaurus app on my phone.  I blogged some more.  I made notes about themes from my books.  Nothing, nothing, NOTHING.

Fast forward a few months.

As I prepared for my upcoming book launch, I realized I needed business cards….and a tagline.  Darn it!  Back to the drawing board.  There was no way I was ordering business cards without a logo from Fiverr.  That site rocks!  And I couldn’t get a logo unless I established a BRAND!

So how can I tie my interests to my books?  I write romance…set in Silicon Valley.  Think venture capitalists, startup CEOs and IPOs…

And now I blog about innovation and entrepreneurship and…IDEAS!  My own personal business experiences combined with interesting startup concepts.

The rest, as they say, is history.  I finally figured myself out.  I am “The Idea Mama, Vogue Entrepreneur and Author.”

It was a good day…and my business cards look fabulous!

What’s In It For Me?

Let’s face it, contemporary romance novels are ubiquitous.  So how can you differentiate yours from the rest?  This is a big part of the value prop for an author but you don’t always get an opportunity to deliver a full Power Point presentation complete with charts and Smart Art explaining why your novel commands attention.  All the elements of value prop are essential in crafting your message but here’s the deal…you need an elevator speech to convince people on the spot that you’re book is worthy of their time and money.

I’m always challenged by the 30-second spiel.  By nature, I’m very long-winded so trying to whittle down my delivery into one or two sentences throws me into a major tailspin.  Luckily, I’ve learned to tailor my writing style with the help of a very patient editor.  But summing up my fabulous manuscript into so few words?  Impossible!

The problem is, if you can’t be proactive and distinguish yourself quickly, people will automatically assume you’ve written the next Fifty Shades.  At least, that’s the assumption I’m faced with most often.

Here’s how the dialogue usually goes:

“Kristen, you wrote a book, how fantastic!  What’s it about?”

“It’s a contemporary romance novel.”

(The knowing smile and head nod)  “Oh, so it’s another Fifty Shades?”

“Haha, no.  Actually mine is much hotter.  In fact, it’s so intense that steam will rise from the screen of your e-reader and peel the paint off your walls.”

Well, there’s a very convincing value prop!  But I’ve found that it’s not exactly proper as a description for my eighty year-old aunt or my son’s preschool teacher.  So I made some changes.  I’m still working on variations but this is the latest:

“It’s an emotional tale about an unlikely romance that develops between two people and is ultimately threatened by the heroine’s risqué past.”

I typically leave out any sexual references unless specifically asked.  Not everyone would appreciate that granular a description.

The key is to generate enough interest with your elevator pitch so that it drives the potential reader directly to the Kindle e-bookstore to buy your novel.  Not an easy feat, but that’s why the value prop is so important.  Once you’ve identified all the fabulous elements of your book, you can shrink them into a meaningful sound byte, kind of like creating a tiny URL.

 

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