Wednesday, January 9, 2013

GUEST BLOGGER TRACY HIGLEY: How Uncovering Your Brand Brings Peace (and GIVEAWAY!!)

JULIE HERE ... and every now and then you meet somebody pretty special who goes above and beyond in Christian kindness and when you do, they impact your life forever.

That's exactly what author Tracy Higley did for me when I was fortunate enough to meet her through the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt last fall. You see, Tracy was the author who was hosting me on that hunt, and after she learned I was Internet and blog illiterate, she took it upon herself (unbeknownst to me) to check out my website and noticed a lot of things that could cause me problems.

Turns out my blog Journal Jots (on which I would be hosting author Kristen Heitzmann) loaded reallllllllly slow, which meant a lot of people might not wait for it to open. Tracy is SO savvy technically that she was able to determine what the problem was, actually took the time to run a “load-time test” -- AGAIN, unbeknownst to me! She then looked to see what website company I was using and sent me a very detailed e-mail with links that she took the time to look up, which gave step-by-step tutorials on how to do what she said I needed to do.

Incredibly nice person, huh? No! Incredibly amazing angel who not only ended up doing it fo me, but ACTUALLY went in and fixed tons of other things as well, then offered to do whatever else I needed including adding a subscribe button to my Journal Jots blog, something I'd been trying to do FOREVER!! So, thanks to Tracy, if you want to subscribe to my blog Journal Jots and receive an e-mail whenever I post (every Friday) to keep up on what I'm doing, read my latest excerpts, or find out about giveaways, here's the link: SUBSCRIBE TO JOURNAL JOTS.

Needless to say, not only is Tracy Higley one of the kindest authors I have ever run across in this business, but one of the savviest as well, AND a wonderful author who has even been a Christy Award finalist. So, without further ado, I give you my dear friend Tracy Higley. Listen to her, people, the woman KNOWS what she's talking about!!

How Uncovering Your Brand Brings Peace 

by Tracy L. Higley

With the publishing industry in upheaval these days, writers are paying close attention to buzz words like discoverability, platform, and branding. Where and when is a writer to begin? Marketing ideas and opportunities are endless, and finding time to actually write seems impossible. Posting, tweeting, commenting. Blogging, sending newsletters, updating my website, growing my email list. Ack! I’m hyperventilating!

Okay, relax, breathe, and let’s take a step backward.
I’ve watched countless writers over the years plunge headlong into various marketing and platform-building activities with little or no strategy, except to imitate what seems to be working for others. This is a sure path to burnout, discouragement and inefficiency. I’m here today to tell you that it doesn’t need to be that way for you.

Whether you are already published or working toward that goal, you are no doubt thinking about marketing. If I could encourage you with one paragraph, here it is:

You need a customized marketing plan that is especially for you. It starts with a clear understanding of who you are as a writer (your brand) and then a clear understanding of the types of marketing that flow from and support that brand. You develop a plan that perfectly suits who you are, and then let go of everything that doesn’t.

Did you hear that last part? You don’t need to do it all, and in fact, you shouldn’t. The key is to uncover who you already are as a writer and go from there. Unlock the fascinating truths about yourself and your writing, then help readers fall in love with what you write.

Fascinating? Me?

Yes! Absolutely.

It’s time to stop comparing yourself to others, cherry-picking ideas that seem to work for them, feeling guilty that you’re not doing enough or defeated in what you are doing. Instead, let’s focus on what makes you unique, and keep your efforts within the circle of that uniqueness. Let the storm of marketing craziness swirl around you, while you remain at peace in the center of your unique circle.

Space does not permit a full lesson on uncovering your brand here, but let me give you five quick starters:

1.    If you’re published and have reviews on Amazon, etc., go there and filter for ONLY your 4- and 5-star reviews. Read them all and make notes of phrases readers use to describe what they love most about your writing. Find common threads.

2.    Analyze your lifestyle – your hobbies, your personal style, how you spend free time, places you love.

3.    Focus on the sensory – what colors, images, sounds, words, texture, smells come to mind when you think about your true self, when you’re immersed in the things you love most?

4.    Brainstorm with a spouse, editor, or trusted friend to get some feedback on what you’re seeing.

5.    Distill all of this into an idea or tagline – it doesn’t need to be a forever tagline. It can grow and evolve, and it’s more for your own benefit than your readers at this point.

When your writing and your marketing flows from this idea, it’s easy and fun! I could say much more about how to use all of these discoveries to uncover your brand and then choose marketing ideas from it, but we must end.

If you get nothing else from this post, remember this: Uncovering your unique brand and letting it guide your marketing brings peace in the midst of an unsettled publishing world! My own brand involves world-travel, exotic settings and all the fascinating adventures I can bring to my novels. If you’d like to see what my brand looks like in marketing, take some time to explore my website.

And if you’d like to experience my brand in the pages of a novel, I hope you’ll escape to a Greek island with me, in my latest release, Isle of Shadows!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from those of you who are feeling overwhelmed – what are the tasks that cause you the most stress as you think about marketing your writing?  Let me know or just leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Isle of Shadows!

Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has authored ten novels, including Garden of Madness, Isle of Shadows and the upcoming So Shines the Night. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures. See her travel journals and more at

Enslaved in a World of Money and Power, Tessa Dares to be Free.
Raised as courtesan to wealthy and powerful men, Tessa of Delos serves at the whim of her current patron, the politician Glaucus. After ten years with him, Tessa has abandoned all desire for freedom or love, choosing instead to lock her heart away.

But when Glaucus meets a violent death in his own home, Tessa grasps at a fragile hope. Only she knows of his death. If she can keep it a secret long enough, she can escape.

Tessa throws herself on the mercy of the Greek god Helios, but finds instead unlikely allies in Nikos, a Greek slave, and Simeon, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant. As Simeon introduces her to a God unlike any she has ever known and Nikos begins to stir feelings she had thought long dead, Tessa fights to keep her heart protected.

As an assassination plot comes to light, Tessa must battle for her own freedom—and for those to whom she has begun to open her heart—as forces collide that shatter the island’s peace.


  1. Thank you Tracy!! I'm not published yet, but am taking to heart your advice and wisdom. I also plan to visit your website and read about your travels (sounds sooo exciting and romantic). ~ Your book sounds very intriguing (love that cover too). ~ Thanks so much for visiting and sharing with us. Since we enjoy cyber snacks here in Seekerville, please enjoy the Georgia Peach Cobbler I've baked--warm from the oven! (yes, I've been known to eat it for breakfast *wink*). Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  2. P.S. YIKES!! Just realized I'm the first commenter, so I'd better brew a pot of coffee too (even though mine won't be as tasty as Helen's coffee).

  3. Thank You! Tracy. This is just what I needed to hear. I will read this post again and again, usually I bookmark the really good ones but this one I will actually print out.And probably wear out the paper. I needed this. I guess it comes down to know yourself and be yourself, living, blogging and writing. Thanks.

    Your new book sounds wonderful, I will look for it soon.

  4. Your site is so well done!

    I also think if you don't actually like/personally use the social media you're trying to use for marketing, you shouldn't bother. People can tell if you are forcing yourself to do it, making yourself schedule a tweet every two hours or whatever, and therefore aren't interested because they can sense it.

  5. Ok Tracy, first off - what a gorgeous cover! You'll have to tell us about the Greek isles. I've always wanted to go... :)

    This is a wonderful gift to Julie, who is most deserving. Thank you for doing all this for her.

    I look forward to exploring your site to learn more!

    MMM CatMom - deee-lish!

  6. Tracy, everything about this seems overwhelming! My biggest concern is finding something I can handle time wise. Thanks for the great post. I think I'll print it out and keep it!

  7. YIKES!!! Six comments already and I haven't even put out the spread!!

    MEGA THANKS to sweet Patti Jo for the peach cobbler (my FAVE!!) AND the coffee -- you are SUCH a doll!! And since Tracy's latest book Isle of Shadows takes place in Greece, I'm setting up a Greek buffet with savory pies made with local cheese, homemade Greek fruit preserves, local sausages and cured meats, Greek cookies and bread, so ENJOY!!

    And a HUGE WELCOME to Tracy!!! Sooooo thrilled to have you here, my friend, sharing your incredible expertise!!

    KC AND MAY ... I don't know how "deserving" I am, but I sure appreciated Tracy's kindness to me and will NEVER forget it!!

    MELISSA -- you are absolutely correct, Tracy's site is AMAZING and everyone should check it out!!

    Signing off to hit the sack, but see everyone tomorrow!!


  8. Cool post! I love the covers of this series-they are so beautiful!

  9. Hi Tracy:

    I’m a big fan of ancient Greek and Roman history. If I could do it all over again, I would go to St. John’s in Santa Fe and take a four year classics degree. That school seems like paradise to me. And OMG, you should see the bookstore! Amazing.

    I am very interested in reading “Isle of Shadows”. Will you tell us what year it takes place? I’d like to know how powerful Athens was at the time. Also, I am curious, is Glaucus a Latin version of Glaucon? (Plato’s brother’s name was Glaucon.)

    BTW: Do you collect ancient coins? I like to hold coins that are from the time period I am reading about. I have a few coins from Thurii minted during the time Herodotus lived there. There were only about 5,000 people there and there is a very good chance that my coins once belonged to the Father of History! So you’d see I’d really be interested in when your story takes place.

    As far as branding goes there are really two sides to that coin. Know your brand and promote that brand in all you do and know who your best prospects are (those who enjoy your writing the most) and always be talking to them.

    Loved your website. The temple ruins remind me of Sounion where Byron carved his initials into the ruins!


  10. OOOOOOO!

    I avoid marketing at all costs- but I'll say something about that in a minute.

    OOOOOO, for the books!! Those look great! Love the covers and the concepts and that you're getting a masters in Ancient history. Score!
    I'm finding these ASAP. They look amazing.

    As for marketing. Ugh.

    But it must be done and I liket hat peace will flow from a resolution...

    "Analyze your lifestyle – your hobbies, your personal style, how you spend free time, places you love."

    Unnnnhh. Eating. slobbish, sleeping, my bed.

    There. I could start an eating and sleeping blog.

    Seriously, off to troll my Amazon reviews and see if I can pull some phrases that will give me a hint.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. This one is going to need reading more than once! thanks Julie and Tracy and I also learned about Tracy on the blog tour/scavenger hunt last year. (why am I suddenly desperate for a trip to Greece?)

    Wonderful post!

  13. Thanks Tracy for a helpful article! Heading over to your site now to learn more!

    Patti Jo - love peach cobbler!

  14. Great advice, Tracy! I read the part about not doing it all a couple times, just to remind myself it's okay to pick a few things and do them well.

    Best of luck with Isle of Shadows :)

  15. Tracy,

    I love your book cover. I'd pick your book up to read the back if I ran across it in a store.

    Thanks for sharing these great ideas.

    Patti Jo, I love peach cobbler. I'll be craving it all day now.

    Jackie L.

  16. Welcome to Seekerville, Tracy! Thanks for your savvy post and great ideas for determining our brand.

    I'm impressed with your pursuit of a degree in Ancient History and all the countries you've traveled to! Perfect preparation for writing your books. Isle of Shadows sounds wonderful!


  17. Patti Jo, you Georgia gals know how to cook! Thanks for sharing the peach cobbler!


  18. My goodness! I awoke to peach cobbler, coffee, a Greek buffet and all these comments!
    I'm glad the post seemed to be helpful for some of you. Simplicity is key!
    Vince - Isle of Shadows is set in 227 BC on the island of Rhodes. No, I don't collect ancient coins, though I do have a few replicas!
    Virginia - you seemed to feel the assignment was a challenge, so I checked out your blogs and reviews for a couple of quick minutes (I'm creepy that way). You have a warm, down-home sense of humor that makes people feel very comfortable, I'd say. Not surprising that your first book is a Christmas-themed one. That's just off the top of my head, as what comes through about you immediately to me.
    Thanks, everyone, for the kind words about my books and website!

  19. Julie and Tracy, what a great post today! I'll definitely be coming back to this one again. And again.

    Tracy, I appreciate your questions to begin figuring out my brand. I have not even come close to figuring out a tag line, much less my brand. I keep reading mixed ideas about tag lines--yes you need one. No you don't. I'd love your take on that.

    I am not published, but hope to be, and I'm trying to figure out how to write daily. Adding blogging is something I want to do, it fits with the core of who I am (my idea for a blog is for relaionships to build and to hopefully post encouraging posts). I know, it's vague. My trick is finding the time to post regularly. I'd love to hear thoughts on these things.

    I'm going to check out your website today. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Tracy!

  20. Hi Tracy,

    Thank you for your post today. I am in a similar position as Jeanne, unpublished, and trying to figure out what a blog for me would look like and to post regularly.

    A blog would be a good platform and maybe an educational space for my readers, but I am afraid that it would take away from my fiction writing time and that would not be a good thing. It is an interesting problem to wrestle with and I appreciate your input. Thanks for coming!


  21. I love this post. It makes perfect sense that the readers would know who I am through my writing. Very interesting idea. Thanks!!

  22. Tracy, welcome to Seekerville!

    Thank you so much for reinforcing the truth that we are each individual and must hold tight to that something that make us--us. I see so many marketing platforms that work for others, but in truth, they tend to meld together when I want to apply them to my own writing style.

    I'm on my to your website to experience the essence of YOU!

    Oh, and thanks for helping Julie. She has more talent in her little finger than I can even begin to imagine, but darn those technical details! LOL! I'm going to stop in and poke around her site too and marvel at the differences now!

  23. Tracy,
    A wonderful posting...thanks for sharing :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  24. Tracy,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I'm working on my first website right now and it is very overwhelming. I can't wait to browse through your website tonight (after the day job) and see how you've branded yourself.

    Happy Wednesday, Seekerville!

  25. Tracy, I love the book cover. Like Vince I'm a fan a Greek and Roman history, I'll be lurking for the answer to his question concerning the time line of the book.

    My blog is a wreck, but I'm working on it. :)

    Thanks for the useful post.

  26. Hi Tracy and welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for the wonderful post. I'm like Terri and think I'll print it.

    Love what you said "then let go of everything that doesn’t." work for you. Well hooray. And thank you. I'm so one of those who feel guilty because I don't do facebook and I'm sure when I do log on you can tell I hae no clue as Melissa said. LOL

    Love your cover. And what a wonderful thing you did for Julie.

  27. Patti Jo, Thanks for the cobbler and coffee. Yum.

    And Julie, thanks for bringing Tracy and the Greek food. yum

  28. Virginia,

    I'm w/you on the sleeping, eating, slob.
    Too funny.


    My biggest problem is I hate to write anything on the internet. On my personal facebook, I may post a silly comment once a month. I don't have a website or blog yet. I started to and then everything just sounded so stupid.

    Connie Queen

  29. I love this. Marketing is such a burden on my brain.


  30. Any business knows that the best advertizement is word of mouth...or word of blogging, in this technical age. i found it with my store, folks found that with their business. So i think it works with books (hint, hint, authors, i can't talk about it if i haven't read it!)Dear me...where IS Helen? Though you stepped right up to the plate, PattiJo, thanks. No i'm starved for Peach Cobbler.

  31. Tracy,
    great post! Thanks for emphasizing that nobody can (or has to) do it all.

    Social media take up a lot of time, and to be honest, there are so many blogs, Twitter accounts and things out there that unless you can make it stand out, nobody is going to find you!

    I've come to think it's best to participate in a group blog, like the Seekers, Pink Heart Society etc. Then you don't have to do everything by yourself, and it has a much broader appeal, making sure people come and come back.

    I see more and more authors even have a website together, like Christian authors who all do Amish books. It makes so much sense when you come to think of it!

  32. Julie,

    I said it yesterday, but not sure if you had the time to stop by and read all of the comments (this place is buzzing!):

    congrats on completing your ninth book!

  33. Piper,

    think trice about starting a blog alone. Do you really have time to post three times a week?

    Lately a lot of authors who've been blogging for years have called it quits because they just didn't have the time anymore. They're all on FB, Twitter and Pinterest now.

    That also takes up time, so you'll just have to figure out into what you'd like to invest most. Like somebody said in the comments: if you just do because you feel you have to, it'll feel insincere and people will notice.

  34. Connie,

    I'm with you on the not being funny enough: some people are so incredibly funny on Twitter! Especially the hashtags are amazing!

    But I think it depends on what you want to convey. For me, if somebody uses Twitter to share information, and they do it well, I also love to follow them.

    So you don't necessarily have to be that funny to get followers. Just focus on what you're good at!

  35. Romantic comedy...with cowboys.

    And Tina won't let us read Amazon reviews, Tracy. This is a dilemma!!!

  36. SERIOUSLY VINCE, if anyone (your wife for example) ever tells you you aren't the most interesting human being ever, they are WRONG.

    Old coins?
    Ancient civilizations?
    A degree in the classics?

    so so interesting.

    How's the prep for our class coming?
    You understand I'm not helping, right?

  37. I'm very seriously considering a face lift (oops, a LIFESTYLE LIFT) for my website.
    I really love it but I haven't changed it in a long, long time.

    Anyone (Tracy for example) have suggestions about who to get to do this?

    And no, I don't have any idea what I want. But my website is a DEAD PLACE.
    Like a business card online, and little more.
    I feel like I need to bring it to life.
    That's a marketing plan right???

  38. Here's a question, Tracy. I hunted around your website (which is gorgeous! Did you do that all yourself?)
    I don't see any BUY links.
    Is that deliberate? I felt like that was so key on my website but maybe not, huh?
    Tell me why you made that choice.

  39. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for the website compliment. Yes, I did it myself.

    My buy links are a bit buried (every book page has a "Purchase" link), and yes, this is intentional. Most of the people who visit my website have come already knowing who I am. There is a marketing term called a "call to action" which every page should have. My primary call to action on my website is to get these people to connect with me, not to get them to buy my book, because the chances are high that they've already read one, and they certainly know where to look if they haven't. Hope that makes sense!

  40. I loved your post Tracy. Do you have any ideas for unpublished authors - what part of platform/marketing/etc. should be top priority to focus on until we get to the status of published?

    Jodie Wolfe

  41. AUDRA SAID: "Oh, and thanks for helping Julie. She has more talent in her little finger than I can even begin to imagine, but darn those technical details! LOL!"

    I heard that, Auds!!! ;) But seriously, truer words ... uh, not the "talent" one, but the others ... have never been spoken.

    And, VIV, THANK YOU!!! I'm pretty excited about it and having a blast editing. I think it may be the funniest of all my books, so I'm laughing a lot. Hope my editor does too -- at the book, not me!! And I left a response to your comment yesterday because I'm a wee bit behind on my blogs ...


  42. Hi Tracy! I popped in to learn about how to uncover one's brand. I'm sure you have a lot more to say, but those five points are a good starting place. I'm rethinking my blog, which I've had for 7 years now. I love talking about books and meeting/introducing authors. I used to talk more about writing, but not so much anymore. Trying to decide what makes sense for me long term.

  43. Welcome, Tracy!! I am ready to escape to a Greek Island with you.

    Finally, a good use for reviews!! Brilliant!!!!

  44. Welcome, Tracy! Wow, after Julie's wonderful intro and Mary's comments about your website, I had to take a look.

    It's gorgeous!!!

    You make some very good points about branding and marketing. As I'm sure it is for many authors, marketing is my least favorite aspect of this business. I do all the social networking stuff, but not well. I have a personal blog that right now is just sitting there.

    I have good intentions, but after going through email and taking care of the usual busy work every morning, then devoting my afternoons to the wip, the last things I feel like messing with are blogging, Facebook, and Twitter! (Not to mention I feel like my life is too boring to blog or Tweet about anyway!)

  45. More thoughts!!

    On disliking marketing --

    So many of you in your comments are confirming to yourselves -- and I hope you're listening to yourselves :-) -- that all of the busy, busy of the conventional wisdom of marketing can be draining if it's not the right fit for you. Find marketing ideas that will be a joy to implement, not a perpetual drag on your energy.

    On "platform building" for unpubbed fiction writers --

    Be so very careful not to drain your energy and time that would be better spent on writing more fiction. My best marketing advice for unpubbed -- follow some of the steps in the article above to really get a handle on your own unique brand, and then WRITE in a way that follows along. When you do get published, you'll be ready to implement a great website, Facebook presence, blog, whatever works for you, that will complement your brand. But don't worry too much about building your platform before publication.

    And one more comment on blogging --

    If it's a good fit for you, then blogging IS: a great way to maintain contact with readers who like your work, in between books, so they don't forget about you and get excited when you have a new book out.
    But blogging IS NOT:
    the best way to build a fiction readership from folks who don't know you. Even those who find/like your blog, they may never buy/like your fiction.

  46. Viv,

    Guess my reluctance is crystal clear, huh?

    I think that your implied suggestion is more along the lines of what I have been hoping for...a group blog, then I might be able to do a blog by myself after that. Tracy points out what I've heard alot before--get comfortable with your brand first but spend the energy on getting published by writing better fiction.

    I hear and obey....


  47. Thank you, Tracy! Love your website. You are so interesting. ...

  48. hi Tracy
    i found you during the scavenger hunt and got Marduk's Tablet (awesome read, btw folks)
    for signing up for your newsletter.

    unfortunately, i haven't purchased any books is because my pleasure reading budget is on hold of late. i've also a long list of "to buy" books from authors i've been introduced to here at Seekerville (*sigh*). so many books, so little cash...

    thank you so much for the advice you've provided in today's post and comments. i'm looking forward to implementing the different steps you've presented. unpubbed writer at the moment - learning the ropes from the wise/giving ladies here at Seekerville.

  49. Great words to the unpubbed, Tracy. Thank you so much.

    I forgot to mention earlier, your book sounds wonderful! And, I too, like, LIKE the cover!

    I brought some spanakopita for lunch/snack time. One of my favorite Greek-type foods.

  50. Piper,

    I hope you didn't feel like I'm telling anyone what to do, but I think it's a shame when people jump in all enthusiastically and find out it's hard to get a blog rolling. And when not many people are reading and leaving comments, it's even harder to animate yourself to keep going.

    Another issue is what to write about all the time. You don't want yourself going crazy trying to find some subject to discuss. The advantage of a group blog is that you can spread the posts. And maybe it's also a good idea to start out by being a guest blogger on other people's blogs. I mean, there we have all of those people looking to find stuff for their blogs, and you wanting to write blog posts... I'm just saying, LOL!

    Besides, Tracy said it best: before publication you should put all of your time and energy into writing that book that will sell.

    Oh, and of course hang out on other people's blogs to meet other people just like you! :D

  51. Mary,

    I woke up this morning still thinking about the class Vince proposed for the two of you. I sort of had this vision of the other Seekers standing outside the room with tissues to councel those fleeing in tears at the mention of your output (or with a whip to drive them back in again...).

    Seriously, I've heard of the first page critique workshops where a reader reads an anonymous ms. page to three industry professionals and they push a bell or something when they'd stop reading (On a fine day... ding, ding, ding... ACK!) and people really burst into tears or walk out.

    Maybe some workshops should come with a box of tissues? Or a medal of bravery for living through it... :)

  52. Thank you, Tracy and Julie!

    Since I am unpublished, I appreciate the direction for uncovering my brand, rather than the wandering and stumbling I have been doing.

    Nice website! Love that you ask for help with your WIP..... interesting time period.

    Thanks, Patti Jo, for the peach cobbler (my favorite) and Julie, I hope we find some baklava on the dessert buffet.

    To:HALLEE BRIDGEMAN--Thank you for sending my pin! Nice to see you here.

  53. What a fantastic post!
    THank you, Julie and Tracy

    There is so much peace in defining our goals. Wow! Just being able to state it outloud or write it down, doesn't only give direction but decreases worry from the big 'what if' :-)

    I love this! Thanks so much for your insight, Tracy. Now i'm going to go and brainstorm

  54. Welcome to Seekerville, Tracy.

    Loved your blog today. Thanks for giving us permission to not do everything!

    Very freeing!

  55. Tracy-

    "But don't worry too much about building your platform before publication."

    Uh-oh, did you just contradict something I've read here at least 50 times??

    It seems the current conventional wisdow is --Everyone needs an author blog and website and facebook page... even when they haven't published yet. Especially when they haven't published yet.

    And when I look at those bright and shiny pages with twice weekly (sometimes daily!) posts and reviews... I wonder when they can write.

    I really think the writing carries the brand, whatever it is.

    As for appearing to have down-home humor and making people feel comfortable... Well, then my little scheme is working! *evil cackle*

    Back to polishing my Leboutin pumps and arranging my Miu-Miu tote bags.

  56. My brand is that I'm just a down-home country girl raised on the farm in Mississippi.

    It's not that I ever tried to hide that fact, but I just didn't think anybody would care that I spent most of my teenage years in a tractor raking hay and making up stories.

    But country life, farming, cows and calves (and puppies, of course!) seem to be one of the things that interests people.

    In the long-run, it's a lot easier to be me, because you know what they say:

    To thine own self be true...

  57. I am so late, any goodies left from that greek buffet, thanks Julie you are a doll....
    good post today with Tracy and with all this tech savyiness I sure could use you around my home, I struggle with it but still have fun...
    I would love to be in drawing for this book sounds like a great story and Vince sure makes the time period interesting.
    Paula O

  58. Virginia --

    Not sure if I've contradicted what you've heard many times, but it's possible!

    I will tell you this: Fiction is different than non-fiction. When publishers looks at a NON-FICTION writer, they want to see that the writer has a platform, a following, a group of "guaranteed sales" if you will. People who consider this writer an expert and will read/buy whatever he's writing.
    How can an unpublished, unknown fiction writer accomplish building this following -- who are guaranteed to buy their FICTION -- with a blog, or a Facebook page? He or she cannot. It doesn't translate. (Unless you are blogging your STORIES, and gaining of following that way.) Publishers know this. They are not looking for novelists with pretty websites or witty blogs. They are looking for novelists who can tell a great story.

    Sure, have a nice-looking website, start a Facebook page, even hone your skills and start to connect with people through blogging and social media. But if you're doing all those things in hopes of landing a contract, you are wasting your time, in my opinion. Become a better writer. That alone will sell your book.

    I hope I'm not stepping too hard on anyone's toes :-) But I have had many conversations with editors, publishers and publicists. They all say the same thing - give us great, impactful, fresh stories, and we will get them out into the world. Then it's up to you to cultivate and grow that readership that comes to you, through all these tools we're talking about.

    And again, all of the thoughts in this article about branding are still applicable - figure out your unique niche, because that will be very attractive to a publisher. Just don't worry about trying to garner a big following for some sort of writing that is not simply story-telling. It's nearly impossible, and not very effective.

  59. I'd say that Barbour Branded me with Western Romantic Comedy, but I was mighty suprised that they actually used a red hot iron on my backside. That seemed harsh but a new author tried to be cooperative.

  60. I will add here that there is NO GREATER MARKETING NONE NADA NOTHING GREATER, than writing a great book. That's got to be your first job, your best job, your priority.
    No amount of marketing will overcome a poorly written book, so FOCUS.

  61. Ouch, Mary!!!

    One thing I like to say about branding -- "You are not the cow. You are the cowboy!" You are branding your work, your online presence, etc., rather than waiting for someone else to come along with the aforementioned hot iron and do it for you.

    And yes, I underscore your comment. Nothing better than writing the book that sells itself.

  62. Tracy ~ Your tips for determining your brand are spot-on perfect! I wish I would have known this years ago... Here's a funny way I learned my brand needed some major work:

    I went to the ACFW Conference 2 years ago and had a "brand" tagline on my nametag. I thought "This is it! It's my brand and it's great!" But... it could have used the tips in your post. ; ) After some prayer and self-reflection, I decided to go with just who I am instead of trying to "write one". Funny thing is, I had more comments about the brand last year without all of the fuss behind it. ; ) God is good!

  63. Tracy, I enjoyed looking around your website. I got swept away looking at the pictures of your trip to Egypt. Your website has a good 'flow.'
    I also signed up for Julie's weekly email.
    I'll be sure to keep all of this great advice in mind!

  64. MYRA ... I'm SO glad you looked at Tracy's website!! I consider YOU a guru on websites/1-sheets/computers/etc., so I was interested in seeing your response.

    SHERIDA ... Bite your tongue, girl, OF COURSE there's baklava!!! What, do you think I'm a savage??? ;)

    DONNA, you sweet thing, you, THANK YOU for signing up for my blog, girlfriend!! Hope you enjoy it. :)


  65. JEANNE T. ... what in the world is "spanakopita"????

    VIV SAID: "Another issue is what to write about all the time."

    Oh, AMEN TO THAT!!! When I started out blogging, I called my blog "Journal Jots" because I wanted it to be just that -- just a SHORT "jot" of something I was thinking of or wanted to talk about that day. I started out five days a week, then went to three days a week and am now one day a week on Friday, which seems to work best. But it's STILL hard to come up with something fun and creative to read that's short and sweet, although SHORT is not something I do well. :|

    I'll tell you what -- Tracy has me rethinking this blogging idea ...


  66. Viv,

    No worries. Keeping a blog rolling would be hard work, and until I get my fiction process underway, it is better to stay focused on that. It really is a mix between what people are comfortable with. Some writers and agents that I love have great blogs and others are...not as well loved. And it is sad. That's not the case with Seekerville, however!

    Thanks for bringing the baklava, Julie. I love Greek food. Reading about Tracy's wonderful books and hearing about Jeanne's spanikopita makes me long for the Greek food festival held in Pittsburgh each May....



  67. VIV SAID: "Maybe some workshops should come with a box of tissues? Or a medal of bravery for living through it... :)"

    LOL ... tissues for the audience or the presenters when people slink out??? ;)

    VIRGINIA SAID: "And when I look at those bright and shiny pages with twice weekly (sometimes daily!) posts and reviews... I wonder when they can write."

    Oh, ME TOO!!! What the heck -- is EVERYBODY out there like Mary Connealy and Ruthy, able to do 200 things at once, all well???

    MARY SAID: "I'd say that Barbour Branded me with Western Romantic Comedy, but I was mighty suprised that they actually used a red hot iron on my backside."

    ROTFLOL!!! I thought it was a birthmark, Mare ... ;)


  68. "Sure, have a nice-looking website, start a Facebook page, even hone your skills and start to connect with people through blogging and social media. But if you're doing all those things in hopes of landing a contract, you are wasting your time, in my opinion. Become a better writer. That alone will sell your book."

    I think you've done a lot of aspiring authors a huge service, right there.

    Sometimes honesty hurts. We'd rather hear there's a magic bullet of fancy facebook author pages than to do the hard work of upping our writing ability.

  69. Thanks, Virginia.

    I hope I don't sound too harsh!!
    I'm a nice person, really. :-)

    What I want most is to offer FREEDOM to those who are burdened under the notion that they have to be doing all this super-busy marketing stuff - everything they see in the authors around them, all rolled into one - in order to be "doing it right."

    Freedom and Simplicity - those are my favorite words.

  70. Tracy, have you ever read Kristen Lamb's blog on... writers building a paltform by blogging?

    I loved this article.

    "And I truly understand this panic, because a lot of social media experts advise writers to blog in a way that is very left-brain.

    Write about writing.

    Write about the industry.
    (etc. I'm cutting stuff here)
    Yet, here’s the thing, writers (especially fiction writers) are CREATIVE people. We are storytellers. When we blog merely on information, we engage the left-side of the brain, but our fiction engages the RIGHT side of the brain.

    Why are we trying to build a following/fan base for a right-brain product with a left-brain TOOL?"

    She talks about how all advertising uses emotion, so how can we think we'll connect by pumping out a constant stream of information?

    I loved that. It made me realize it's counter-intuitive for a writer to blog constantly about the profession. We want to tell a sory. Even if it's just an itty bitty fairy tale.

  71. No one has offered to bring the dolmades yet, so I've got that covered. My favorite Greek food.

    That, and kalamata olives.

    I once at an olive right off a tree in Greece, walking along the street. It was black, so I figured it was "ripe," right? Yuuukkkkk!

    I've since learned that even the black olives go through a long process of brining before they're edible. Don't you wonder who first thought of that? Ate one of those nasty olives and thought, "this would be great if we soaked it brine for a few weeks."

    Hmm, getting off topic, I guess.

  72. Yes, I've read Kristen's blog from time to time, and her ebook a year or so ago, I think. She makes great points, and this is one of them!

    Unless your blog is a mini-experience in the larger experience of your storytelling, there isn't much point in using it to "build a platform," especially before being published.

    After publication, you have to figure out how it will best keep your readers engaged and interested in you and your next book. But it should still be an extension of the experience of your books.

  73. Hi Bridgett:

    Tracy answered my question but you may have missed it. The book takes place in 227 BC in Rhodes. Rhodes means rose in Greek and the city had beautiful coins with a rose on one side and the sun god on the other. (On many coins). The sun god looks just like the ones made out of clay you see in garden stores today – the one with the rays coming out of his head.

    In 227 Athens was a little College town where the rich people sent their kids. Tuition was about $40,000 a year and it was a fantastic education. Rome was still a republic and was going strong. Sparta was just a few years away from being conquered and occupied for the first time by a foreign power.

    I took a great many history courses in college so that I could have a teaching minor in history but I never got to teach history. I think I would have liked that life.

    I must say I’m fascinated with this choice of time period. It’s between the fall of Alexander the Great’s Empire and the rise of the Roman Empire. Don’t you just love history? I think we might love this book. : )


  74. Hi Mary:

    You’re the headliner of our seminar. Writers will be coming to see you and not me. You have to be 100% comfortable with it or it won’t work. It’s your call.

    You’re as good as anyone in person on a one-on-one basis. When you speak to a group you’ll just have to imagine you are talking to one or two people in their living room – even if there are five thousand in the room. This is not hard to imagine but then I’m an extreme ham who loves to speak in public more than anything else. I even created my own seminar company so I could give even more of them!

    I’ll do the outline for our seminar, “Fuzzy Plotting,” just in case the spirit moves you to do it. Check into Toastmasters. I’ve seen them take people who are scared to death of public speaking and turn them into absolute lectern chatterboxes. You wouldn’t have to go that far. : )


  75. TRACY SAID: "I hope I don't sound too harsh!! I'm a nice person, really. :-)

    I'll vouch for that!! ;) Thank you, Tracy, for taking the time to be with us here today -- you are a WEALTH of information, my friend!!

    And TRACY ALSO SAID: "No one has offered to bring the dolmades yet, so I've got that covered. My favorite Greek food. That, and kalamata olives.

    Oh, love, love, LOVE kalamata olives, girl!!! And I had NO idea you couldn't just pick them off the tree and eat!! See what a font of information you are?? But I'm not sure about dolmades. I think they are a spicy meat mixture in a grape leaf, but not sure I have ever had them. :)


  76. First of all, I love this post. I am definitely keeping it for future reference, and to answer the questions when I have a little more free time. I still live rather far inland on unpubbed island (no bonfires on the shore yet!), but these questions are sure to kindle a new spark in my creative process.

    Secondly, where is my dear friend Nancy Kimball? This book and post are so up her alley.

    Your life (graduate degree in Ancient History-- come on!) and books sound fascinating, Tracy! I just typed Isle of Shadows into my TBR list, just in case I don't win a copy. :)

    Thanks a bunch for spending the time and sharing with us today in Seekerville!

    And thank you, Julie, for hosting. :D


  77. I am late to this party because of my computer issues, but what a fun back-and-forth today!

    Tracy, I agree, the book (s) come first...

    Everything else is gravy for the mashed potato serving of a good book, noticed by a publisher.

    Write a great book....

    And then knock on doors until you find the right key....

    And then smile, nod, listen, learn.

    And write, write, write.

    Thank you for being here today, although the thought of Mary's tatooed/branded tush is really more than I needed to think about.


  78. Vince, Thanks for the great information. Yes, I do love history and I think I'll definately like this book.

  79. >>let’s focus on what makes you unique, and keep your efforts within the circle of that uniqueness. Let the storm of marketing craziness swirl around you, while you remain at peace in the center of your unique circle.<<<

    Thank you, Tracy, for the reassurance that we needn't try to be everywhere at once ... or like everyone else :-)

    I am continually amazed at how timely Seekerville posts are to what's going on in my life. Just amazing.

    Nancy C

  80. Very interesting.

    I would love to read ISLE OF SHADOWS thank you.

  81. Thanks for inviting me to Seekerville, Julie. What a great bunch of folks you have here! It was an encouraging and stimulating day, reading all of your posts and interacting with all of you.


    (that's the Greek's word for celebrating life!)

  82. I'm not a writer but really love to read and would love to win your book for a example for my daughter who loves to write but not published yet except for poetery!

  83. This looks like a great book! The cover is breathtaking!!!! It makes me feel like I am somewhere tropical. Love those colors!
    makeighleekyleigh at

  84. This is a SUPERB post. Thank you, Tracy! I am /starting/ to learn some of these truths about branding and marketing -- after doing it the hard way.

    I read my first Tracy Higley novel last year -- Pompeii: City on Fire -- and it immediately catapulted you to my Top Fave Authors list. You write the kind of fiction that resonates most with me. Big. Epic. Fantastic Depth of character. I would love to win the latest book!

    God bless for taking the time to enlighten us with your marketing expertise.

    Oh -- here's the review I wrote about Pompeii, focusing on what multiple antagonists can do for a story.

    muschfarm at yahoo dot com

  85. Tracy,
    This was helpful. Older writers who didn't grow up with social media tend to be overwhelmed. I'm rethinking the way I do everything, so this is helpful.

  86. Wonderful post, Tracey! I'm still working on finishing story #1, but I get very excited when people talk about Brand.
    I always think of it as the packaging, or pretty little box with ribbon that we fit our whole writing personality in. And I love pretty boxes! :)
    Your website is terrific. I've always enjoyed ancient history. Looking forward to reading your works!

  87. Enter me!!
    Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!
    Sarah Richmond

  88. Hello Tracy! I have been working on trying to figure out my brand for a while and I feel like your post has given me some direction. My problem is I want to include EVERYTHING and I need to narrow it down still. Should writers try to focus on only a few things and do you think some things have been overdone? When I look at books at the store it seems like they are all cowboy or vampire. Not a lot in between (but then again, there isn't a huge selection in my small town!) By the way, I loved the pictures of your Italy trip. I went with my daughter last October and it was amazing! (I also left a comment on your blog)I would also love to be entered in the drawing.
    Thank you!,

  89. TRACY ... it was WONDERFUL having you here, my friend, and I'll contact you as soon as I have the winners's name and address.

    Hugs and HAPPY WEEKEND, all!!

  90. Tracy, your cover is absolutely gorgeous. Which Greek island did you set your book? I went to Greece and Ephesus on my honeymoon. I noticed you've been there too from your pictures.

    Great post! Thanks!

  91. Tracy, your book has a beautiful cover!