Kathi Macias (www.kathimacias.com; www.thetitus2women.com; http://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com) is the award-winning author of thirty-five books, including her latest releases, Deliver Me from Evil and A Christmas Journey Home. Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. She is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and won the 2008 Member of the Year award from Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her novel Red Ink was named Novel of the Year at the Golden Scrolls Award Banquet and is a finalist for a Carol Award. Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al.
What's Your Brand?
I jumped into the publishing world “back in the day” when the only writers who knew about “branding” were those who wrote Westerns and cowboy novels. As a result, I wrote whatever came my way (and brought me a contract). My first dozen or so books included a best-selling women’s devotional, two children’s compilations, two novels (one of my own and one coauthored with none other than Rosey Grier), a compilation of sports memories and testimonies from top Christian athletes (also coauthored with Rosey), and a couple of nonfiction books on small-group ministry. When asked to come up with a brand based on that sort of background, I was stumped.
I must confess to also being a bit rebellious. Why did I need a brand? Why put myself in a box? I just liked to write, period. How could I limit myself to one or two genres?
But the publishing world, like nearly everything else, changes. The way it was when I started out in the ’80s is almost unrecognizable to what it is today. We didn’t use agents or publicists then, and we didn’t even concern ourselves with marketing or publicity. Our job was to write a good book, turn it in to the publisher on time, and go on to the next project, whatever it may be.
Then I hit the proverbial wall. I still had great ideas, put them together well, and presented them to publishers and agents at every opportunity, but I couldn’t land a contract to save my life. I was surviving by writing and selling periodical pieces, teaching at conferences, and ghostwriting, all of which was fine, but my own books had come to a screeching halt. To say I was frustrated would be a serious understatement.
Finally, while attending ICRS in a desperate attempt to connect with a publisher who might want to publish me again, an editor I respected and had worked with in the past sat me down and told me exactly what I needed to hear: “Kathi, no one in the business doubts that you can write. What we want to know now is can you sell?” He went on to explain that not only did I need to become actively involved in promoting my books, but I also needed to identify what sort of books they would be.
In other words, I needed to figure out and establish my brand. Sigh. I was not a happy camper when I flew home a couple of days later, but I was at least pointed in the right direction and determined to get there.
That was a few years ago, and while I’ve spent much of that time learning and practicing the promoting part, I’ve also discovered some interesting things about myself and my writing. For starters, finding my brand wasn’t nearly as difficult or confining as I’d imagined. I just had to spend some time seeking to clarify the passion that God had put inside me.
You see, I’m an activist by nature, a bit of a rabble-rouser actually. (I came of age in the ’60s, after all!) If there was a march, I was in it. If there was a soapbox, I was on it. If there was a cause, I was all over it.
Then I became a Christian in the early ’70s. Somehow I got the impression that I had to leave all that issues-related stuff behind and focus on evangelizing. I suppose I had the impression that it was an either-or situation and I couldn’t possibly combine the two. As a result, though I wrote well enough to be published, my writing lacked the passion that I’d experienced in my younger years when issues, rather than evangelizing, claimed my time and energy.
Lately, however, I’ve come to realize how faulty my thinking was. Though Jesus was all about evangelizing, He was also an issues guy. When He spotted a social injustice—and there were plenty of them, even then—He pulled out His portable soapbox, set it up, climbed on top, and told stories that confronted hypocrisy and opened eyes to what it meant to be our brother’s keeper.
That fresh new insight into the life of Jesus freed me to return to my previous passion of confronting social wrongs, without abandoning my need to evangelize the lost. My first attempt at pouring that into my writing was my Extreme Devotion fiction series from New Hope Publishers, four books highlighting the persecuted church around the world. The second attempt, the Freedom series (also from New Hope), begins releasing this month with Deliver Me from Evil, the first of three novels on the topic of human trafficking. Even my first-ever Christmas novel (but not my last, as I plan to make it an annual event), A Christmas Journey Home, is centered around the immigration issue that has tempers flaring and even Christians divided on how to deal with the people and problems involved.
Have I found my brand? I believe I have, and though I may occasionally stray from it for one reason or another (maybe just for an occasional break or respite from such heavy topics), I know my writing will now focus on issues-driven topics because that’s where my heart is.
Knowing that helped me assist another writer to identify her emerging brand as well. I was meeting and consulting with new writers at a conference just weeks ago when a lovely lady presented me with a proposal for a fiction series that I knew would not interest the publisher I was representing. I explained that to her, but she argued that it was the type of thing that was quite popular and selling well. I told her I was aware of that, but it still was not what my publisher wanted.
Then I asked her to put aside what she saw as the current publishing bandwagon and tell me about her life’s passion. As we talked, she zeroed in on having had been a missionary to a particular country for years and had always wanted to write a fiction series set there. The more she said, the more excited I became. I told her she might just have stumbled onto something my publisher would be willing to consider, and she is now busy putting together a proposal.
Will she get a contract for that proposal? I don’t know, though she certainly has a better chance than with her previous proposal. And even if she doesn’t, she has now discovered a way to bring her passion to life with her writing. At some point, God will certainly honor that.
I wonder at times if, in finally learning to pursue the passion God has put inside us, we not only find our brand but also help to develop new genres—or at the very least, strengthen existing ones. I, for one, intend to continue writing with my brand in mind. After all, it is part of the unique individual God created me to be.