Sunday, July 22, 2007

Taglines & other marketing stuff

I read an article the other day that said a small business, of which writing is one, should complete 3-5 tasks a day to bring visibility to the business. Some of the tasks could be big things like writing a newsletter that would take a whole day. Other tasks could be small, like updating an address book, making it possible to complete more than the suggested five tasks a day.

One of the tasks suggested was something I've been considering for a while now. A business needs a simple tagline to identify the product the business sells. Several years ago Karen Kingsbury trademarked her tagline of LIFE CHANGING FICTION. Simple yet brilliant. That got me thinking.

Before creating a tagline, I need to decide what I write. Karen writes fiction that has the power to change lives. Okay, what does my writing do that sets it apart from every other writer who claims to do the same?

If I were a butterfly perched on a shopper's shoulder when she entered a bookstore and that shopper picked up one of my books, what would I whisper in said shopper's ear? "Buy this book. It's awesome," sounds a little too obvious. Not to mention pushy and vague. I should give it a little more thought.

What do I want a reader to know about me????????? Not just about the book; she can read the back to find that out. What do I want her, or him, to know about me?

First off, dear reader, I'm not Karen Kingsbury. You might not have even heard of me. But if you'll only take the chance on the book in your hands, it's my belief and earnest hope, you'll come back for more.

You're right, you're right. Not a very catchy tagline. Let's try again.

What I really want you to know is that I strive to incorporate a little mystery, a little romance, and a little humor into each of my books. My desire is to touch your heart through fiction by putting you into a situation you can relate to.

There. That's better. Now you know a little more about the books Teresa Slack writes. But still not catchy as taglines go. Certainly not simple or easy to remember.

I have a few ideas. I've been jotting notes and studying other writers' taglines all weekend. I have a pretty good one in mind that I'll run past my publisher before the grand unveiling. It isn't as short as Ms. Kingsbury, but it says who I am. That's the whole point, isn't it? I can't sit on the shoulders of every shopper who enters every bookstore or library in the country. But I can try to let those shoppers know ahead of time who I am and what I believe my mission is for writing what I write.

Happy reading. Oh, and if you happen to find yourself in a bookstore or library in the near future and you pick up one of my books...Oh that's right, you already know what I'm going to say.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Flannery O'Conner

Well, I'm off to Atlanta this week for the International Christian Retail Show. After the convention we are taking a detour into Tennessee for some much needed R&R. What better place to do it in!

While I'm gone, I thought you might enjoy this piece on Flannery O'Conner, courtesy of Chuck Colson. I hope to run into him at the show. If I do I'll tell him you said hi. See you on the 16th.

The Fiction of Flannery O'Connor
For 20 years the letters sat in sealed boxes in a library at Emory University. But in mid-May, the seals were broken. Lovers of great fiction are now reading hundreds of private letters penned by the celebrated Christian writer, Flannery O’Connor.

O’Connor wrote the letters to her friend, Elizabeth Hester, who donated the letters to Emory on condition they remain closed to the public—until now.

The correspondence sheds light on the private musings of a writer whose novels and short stories provide one of the undisputed bright spots in twentieth-century fiction.

Flannery O’Connor was born in 1924, in Savannah, Georgia. After spending two years at the famous Iowa Writers Workshop, she returned to Georgia, where she wrote short stories and raised peacocks. Although she died young—at age 39—she produced some of the most powerful fiction with Christian themes ever written.

O’Connor represents the tail end of the Southern Literary Renaissance that included William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, and Robert Penn Warren. But she differed from them in that she was, above all, a Christian writer. According to critic Dorothy Walters, O’Connor’s “bizarre narratives of absurdly comic Southerners are governed by the stern purity of a rigidly Christian view.”

O’Connor knew her Christian faith was an anomaly in a world grown complacent, materialistic, and secular. So to reach the prosperous, comfortable folk who made up the bulk of her readers, O’Connor used jarring, comic situations and grotesque, unsophisticated characters. She intended to shock her readers out of their entrenched complacency, especially in matters of faith.

The genius of O’Connor was that she could portray religion in an up-close and unfiltered way she knew many readers would find uncomfortable. For example, in her novel, The Violent Bear It Away, a sophisticated schoolteacher named Rayber dismisses faith as irrational. But then he stumbles upon a little girl evangelist. Her sermon on God’s love hits him like a punch in the stomach. “Do you know who Jesus is?” the little girl asks. “Jesus is the Word of God and Jesus is love. The Word of God is love and do you know what love is, you people? If you don’t know what love is you won’t know Jesus when He comes. You won’t be ready.”

Well, you won’t find that kind of talk in many other 20th-century novels. O’Connor knew her audience would identify with the schoolteacher and would be as disturbed and affected as he was by the powerful words coming from the mouth of an innocent little girl.

Much of O’Connor’s fiction had this effect on its readers as it has had on me. There is something in her writing that haunts the reader so that he cannot easily dismiss it.

You may not have a chance to visit Emory University and read Flannery O’Connor’s private correspondence. But if you’ve never read O’Connor’s fiction, tuck one of her novels or books of short stories into your beach bag this summer. And then, the next time you encounter a sophisticated, modern secularist—one who sneers at religious faith—ask him if he’s read any Flannery O’Connor.

Her writing just might be the instrument God uses to open his or her eyes to the truth.
Today's BreakPoint Offer

Check out the 2007 Summer Reading List from Chuck Colson and The Point bloggers.
For Further Reading and Information
Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988).
Flannery O’Connor, The Violent Bear It Away (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1960).
Dorie Turner, “O’Connor Letters Draw Biographers, Fans,” Associated Press, 5 June 2007.
Paul Gray, “Letters Off Flannery O’Connor,” Time, 5 March 1979.
Lawrence Downs, “In Search of Flannery O’Connor,” New York Times, 4 February 2007.
Eric Knickerbocker, “Flannery O’Connor: Heaven Suffereth Violence,” Mr. Renaissance, 20 April 2002.
Katherine Lundquist, “A Proper Scaring,” GodSpy, 25 September 2006.
Kim Moreland, “The Mystery of Being,” The Point, 13 June 2007.
Breakpoint Commentary No. 981010, “A Good Book Is Hard to Find: The Fiction of Flannery.”
Breakpoint Commentary No. 060427, “Modern-Day Renaissance: The Resurgence of Christian Fiction.”
Breakpoint Commentary No. 011219, “More Christians Reading Fiction: Becoming Better Readers.