My homework for my publicity class is this: “Seriously evaluate your work and look for the threads or core story that pull at your readers’ emotions on a subliminal level. Once you find it, you may have to simmer and boil your message down to get it short, snappy, and concise.”
I have a small problem.
The theme of Tall, Dark & Dead is actually one that a number of readers are reacting to negatively on Amazon.com. A couple of reviewers have written in to say that they find the main characters somewhat (or entirely) morally reprehensible. I didn’t intend for readers to find my heroine and hero unlikable (and, it should be noted, *most* readers aren’t finding them unsympathetic), but I did want my protagonists to wrestle with a fairly hefty moral issue honestly. That is to say the theme is a prickly one: “When is killing acceptable?” I think that this bigger issue, especially when diffused by a chick-litty chatty, romance heroine, is perfectly acceptable, even laudable in a vampire novel. Vampires, after all, by their very nature, are killers. Who better to have this kind of thematic conversation with, right?
Well, it worked enough to sell the book to my editor. I mean, I feel that this kind of moral question is very effective as a theme for a novel and as a conflict for a character, but I don’t know how well it’s going to boil down into a happy, snappy catchphrase with which to brand myself. “Tate Hallaway, the funny violence philosopher!”
Somehow I’m not hearing the cha-ching of bestsellerdom with that one.
The other approach, I suppose, is to try to position myself as the vampire chick-lit lady, except that brand already belongs to a number of authors. Probably the best well known being: Charaline Harris, Kim Harrison, MaryJanice Davidson, et al. So, how do I stand out, especially when my core story is so prickly?
Even my locale has even been taken. Whereas Harris is the Southern Vampire writer, Davidson has claimed the Midwest (being from and placing her novels in Minneapolis/St. Paul). My novel takes place in the Midwest also, but in the quirky capitol city of Wisconsin -- Madison. My main character is a Witch, but then so is Kim Harrison’s. My novels have an astrological element, but it’s not terribly strong in the second book. It’s probably not enough to "brand" myself with at any rate.
You begin to see my problem?
I suspect this tendency of mine to want to write about things that… well, matter (at least to me)… continues to get me into trouble (I believe this may have been part of my downfall in my other persona). I’m difficult to “brand” because, while my themes might be universal, my answers are personal. And, not, as the Amazon.com reviews are showing, always entirely things people who pick up a cartoonish covered romance really want to think about.
A better person would know how to spin this. I don’t.