Friday, January 25, 2013

Curious Beasts and other Haunts of the Spirits

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.
In selling spirits, that is. I don't mean the sort of thing that haunts you (well, maybe some of you). I'm talking about selling beer and wine. Yes. Selling beer and wine. Let's see if we can draw some parallels with romance writing.

First, some basics. We drink beer and wine because it tastes good. I live in wine country, where foodies from all over the world descend upon our little community for world class restaurants, scenery and the Wine Country Lifestyle. There are even places where they do olive and olive oil tasting, as well as a shop that does chocolate tasting. Who knew there were so many varieties of chocolate?

I must admit, we do live in a "charmed" place most people only get to experience for a few weeks during their lifetime. Let's do a be honest. Can you really tell the difference between Two Buck Chuck and a $100 bottle of cab? Many could not. Heck, I remember the days when, if you brought your own jug, you could fill up your bottle for .50 a gallon. And it was great, drinkable wine, too.

But how do you market wine when the buyer can't get to the winery, but buys their wines at, say Safeway, where the elevator music is blaring along with the clean up on Aisle 10 announcements? If you are smart, like Truett-Hurst partners of Hopland, you package it differently. Suddenly your bottles leap off the shelves with names like: Curious Beasts Blood Red Wine, Bewitched Pinor Noir and Fuscia with a Girls Gone Wild label. We live in stranger and stranger times, my friends.

Marketing execs have found what everyone else has discovered: packaging will sell wine. Some people buy wine to just look at. They buy wine with unusual labels.

One of my favorites is Diablita, depicting a picture of a pixie-haired young lady with horns. It was the nickname the winery workers gave the winery owner's daughter, who used to run around getting into trouble when she was little. Couldn't you just see someone using this wine at their daughter's wedding?

In the recent sensation, Book 2 of the trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker, mention was made of a particular sweet wine. Sales for this wine went up so fast, they had little chance to keep up with the demand. It was a small windfall for the winery, Vin de Constance.

Was this wine so superb that it warranted all this attention, or did people buy it just because it was referred to in the now infamous book? (Note to self: use winery names in my vampire series, especially the sex scenes that take place there.) Perhaps I've found another outlet for my books. It might launch a new trend in wine tours: going AWOL and making it against a massive oak barrel.

Not to be outdone, beer brewers have come up with similar things for their labels. Ever tried Dead Guy Ale? It's actually excellent. How about Voodoo Donut Bacon and Maple Ale? And while we are at it, do the Voodoo Donuts taste any better because they are served by Nurse Nancy behind the counter, where you can get your sugar fix?

I've also enjoyed Damnation Ale at the Russian River Brewery, where they also serve Redemption, Temptation and other selections for your various moods.

Here's another twist on the old flowers and chocolate for Valentine's Day which is sure to please both the hero and the heroine: Chocolate Stout with tee shirts dyed in, yup, you guessed it, CHOCOLATE.

Even Rachel Ray has gotten into the act.

Romance novels need great packaging too. We call them covers. This Book 2 of the Golden Vampires of Tuscany will be out on Valentine's Day. Naturally, I packaged it in red, for the occasion, but also in keeping with the theme. Jimmy Thomas does a good job being Paolo Monteleone here.

I do buy books based on the covers. If I want to read about commanding alpha males, I don't want to see a skinny kid who looks like he's right out of high school. Maybe my husband doesn't have shoulders like Jimmy, but my heroes sure do.

Just like the wine or the beer, perhaps my books aren't any better than anyone else's, but I think the packaging sure makes it stand out.

What do you think? Have you ever bought wine for the label? A book just because of the cover? Confessions wanted! I won't tell a soul.


Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.
Accidental SEAL  SEAL Encounter  Fallen SEAL Legacy   SEAL Endeavor  all available through Amazon
Heavenly Lover (Amazon) (Nook)   Underworld Lover  (Amazon) (Nook)   Honeymoon Bite  (Amazon) (Nook)
Heavenly Lover, Accidental SEAL and Fallen SEAL Legacy also available in paperback through Create Space or


Holly said...

Labels definitely sell!! I am always grabbing new wines because of the labels, and if I don't like the wine then lesson learned but I still got a cool bottle to add to my collection. As for books... covers are the first thing that grab my attention. If I like the cover I will pick it up and read the back and decided from there if I want to give it a chance or not, if I don't like the cover I skip right over it. I know I probably miss out on a lot of great books that way but I can't help it!! It has to appeal to my eye first.

seelk said...

Great post Sharon! Yes packaging is 50% of a sale. Being a graphic designer who creates packaging I know all about the need to make it stand out so it pops off the shelf. Being on the other side of the packaging world, I am reluctant to buy something based on packaging alone. Yes, a striking package will attract attention and it will increase sales, but in the long run is what's inside that counts IMO That goes for books too. Also have to take in consideration the taste of the individual who is looking at the package or cover. Love the cover of "Mortal Bite".

julie beasley said...

I cant tell you the amount of books ive bought just because ive liked the cover. I too have probably missed out on a good book because i look first. Thats the same with my heroes to. I like them big and strong and Jimmy fits the bill. Your cover is marvellous and fitting for St Valentines Sharon. I wish you all the best with it too.

Sharon Hamilton said...

You are so right. I've bought wine (Sin Zin and Seven Deadly Zins) for the labels alone and presented them at dinner parties, where they are a hit. To be honest, most people don't recall if the wine is good. Now, if I know it isn't, well the packaging wouldn't make me buy it all on its own.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Thanks Nicole. I love the cover too, especially the hue of red, which is so perfect for a "blood" look, and so perfect for Valentine's Day.

Yesterday I saw a beautiful blown glass bowl in that same blood red color. I'm thinking it belongs in my window of the writing room.

Gayle Latreille said...

Packaging definitely draws a person to the item wanting to know more about what it contains.

For me, a hot cover, such as "Mortal Bite" most definitely drew my attention immediately and I want to know more about what is inside. This cover is absolutely perfect for Valentine's Day, or any day, IMHO.

Congrats on the upcoming release, Sharon. I cannot wait to read it.

Sharon Hamilton said...

You and me about the buying the books for the cover. Although some people complain about things looking the same, it is the promise of what the book delivers that I feel readers want. If it looks sexy and wonderful on the outside, the inside better match up, and if it doesn't, well, that author is off my TBR pile in a hurry.

But you are so right, most the time, we forget, and so I'd probably buy another book with a yummy cover. And you are so right about Jimmy. He fits the bill. He's often the face of my heroes when I write.

Sharon Hamilton said...

I agree, I jumped a foot off my chair when Kendra sent me the proof. People around me thought I'd just gotten bitten in the butt...LOL.

I agree, it's perfect for Valentine's Day. I am so excited by this new book. Even managed to have some Dark Coven SEAL-types in it so I could keep holding hands with those heroes.

Danielle Ravencraft said...

I admit, I buy both books and drinks based on the "pretty" or cool-looking labels. Sometimes I am disappointed, LOL. But point in case, a label that catches the eye sells the product, which is why I am so hard on my cover artist.

Cat Winchester said...

It seems that I am to be a dissenter here. I have never bought wine or a book based on the cover.

For wine, I either buy a wine I am familiar with and so know what to expect (crisp, dry, sweet etc) or based on price point if I'm unfamiliar with the types being sold, usually in the £5.99 region (unless it's a special occasion, then the good wines like Chablis, cost £15-£20).

BTW, I am not a wine connoisseur, in fact I don't drink at all any more, so all my purchases are all for other people. I don't know if that's relevant.

As for books, the description of the books interests me far more than the cover. Honestly, what does a cover like the Twilight books tell you? The Harry Potter covers prejudiced me against reading them for a long time, because they looked like young kids books, not YA books. Plus, cover art can be exceptionally misleading. I've read (well, started) some terrible books that had fantastic covers, but misled me as to what to expect in the book. Your cover looks fantastic but if your blurb doesn't catch me too, I wouldn't even consider buying it.

However having said that, bad cover art makes me far more likely to skip reading the book blurb completely, even if it has hundreds of 5 star ratings. If don't care enough about your book to represent it well, why should I care about it?

It does seem like I'm in the minority though, and I do spend hours agonising over my own covers, trying different variations until I have just the right look. It's like a job interview and how you represent yourself matters. If I was going for a mechanic job, maybe having oil under my nails would be a plus, like I've just come from working on a car but if I'm going for a administration job, I would look smart and scrub my nails clean.

On another note, I've seen many books that are almost exact replicas of the 50 Shades books, the Twilight series and the Harry Potter books, among many others. If your book cover looks a like a rip off of a popular book, I'm going to assume it IS an inferior rip of of that popular book and skip it (even more so if I skipped the original too).

Sharon Hamilton said...

Danielle, your covers are wonderful, so all the stressing and attention to detail works! They certainly make me want to pick up your book, and if I didn't know you, it would work for me.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Cat, I don't think you're a dissenter either. You kind of made my point that people don't always buy wine to drink. You buy wine for a gift. Now, your gift is for a particular person, and for that person, you want to buy something that is good inside the bottle. Even though you don't drink.

That's my point exactly. So, marketing, gets us thinking about something, and, as you said, if it's a crappy cover, it would take a lot for you to pick it up and read it. Exactly what I was saying. Thanks for showing up today and good luck with your covers. I'm sure they're great.

Kay Dee Royal said...

WOW, excellent post Sharon! AND, hell ya, I buy books for their covers like I've bought wine for its're on to me *LOL*