Familiar, Reliable, and Beautiful

Recently, I had the chance to shop in a clothing store in Europe. Basking in novelty, I noted that my observations sharpened.

Reading the names of the designers as I passed, I realized I didn’t know many of them. Not that I’m exceptionally knowledgeable about designers, but I have a good idea about fashion visions from many stocked in my haunts back in the States.

I dismissed well-crafted, extraordinary items, no doubt. But since I didn’t know the designers, my gaze didn’t linger. Only when I spied designers I knew did I pause to observe, taking joy in familiar, reliable, beautiful offerings.

I couldn’t help but note that this is the way many readers shop. Perusing shelves or the internet, they glaze over books by authors they don’t know. No doubt, many of the books they ignore are well-written, fascinating, and helpful. But readers who aren’t familiar with the author may move on to someone else they know and love.

Don’t most people shop for all sorts of items this way, looking for the familiar, the reliable, the beautiful?

Building name recognition is why publishers ask authors to take the time to establish their audience through engaging with readers, along with writing amazing books. Traditional publishers assist authors in building name recognition and brand in the hopes that readers will go into stores and online looking specifically for those books.

As an author, strive to be familiar, reliable, and beautiful.

Your turn:

Which authors do you find to be familiar, reliable, and beautiful?


51 Responses to Familiar, Reliable, and Beautiful

  1. Avatar
    Mary Foster June 20, 2019 at 3:59 am #

    A few of my favorites are; Grace Livingston Hill, Jan Karon, Ronie Kendig and the series by Tracy Peterson & Kimberly Woodhouse. Louis L’Amour is my favorite author of western fiction.

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      Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 7:01 am #

      Fabulous list, Mary! I hope readers will dig into these authors’ works today!

    • Avatar
      Ronie June 21, 2019 at 11:34 am #

      Thank you, Mary!! So appreciate you!

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    Steve Watkins June 20, 2019 at 4:14 am #

    Engaging with readers and offering value-added material on a platform is surely a strong strategy. But what the industry now asks authors to do in marketing their books is virtually impossible, in my opinion.

    I’m supposed to effectively market my book through the year it takes to write it, through the next six months it takes to edit it and find a publisher, then through another year that it takes to get the book on a commercial shelf. (That’s if everything goes smoothly.) All this in an age when the attention span of most people is a few seconds.

    I’m not saying that can’t be done, but it requires brilliant marketing strategies that most authors do not have. I think its currently one of the biggest disconnects in the industry.

    • Avatar
      kayleen Reusser June 20, 2019 at 5:21 am #

      I agree. I’ve known few authors who can find the time / energy /enthusiasm to do it all.

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        Steve Watkins June 20, 2019 at 5:25 am #

        Just to clarify my point, there are authors who have the ability, for sure. I believe the industry is unfair to us in the time they ask us to sustain it effectively and creatively. I’m perfectly willing and enthusiastic to market my work. I actually love selling. Sustaining it effectively in the eyes of potential readers/buyers over three years from concept to launch day, however, is not in keeping a fair deal.

        • Avatar
          Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 7:02 am #

          Steve, I believe you are not alone in your feelings. You have inspired me to plan a future blog post to talk about this. Thank you.

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 20, 2019 at 8:48 am #

        Steve and Kayleen, for what it’s worth, this is for you.

        Hold on to your hope when it’s the hardest,
        hold on to your dreams, worn down with care.
        Success may be boon to whom travels the farthest,
        but grace is reward if you are still there.
        There’s too much to carry and too much to do,
        and mortal bones rightly quail at the thought.
        Don’t look at the mountain, how gloried the view;
        your place in the valley defines what you’ve wrought.
        God will not waste the true words of your heart;
        only you can do that, when discouragement rises.
        Having done all, to stand, then let Him play His part
        through the length and the breadth of His enterprises.
        Our work is complete, our promise made whole
        when we bring faith and courage to merely one soul.

        • Avatar
          Rhonda June 20, 2019 at 10:01 am #

          Beautiful! This “one soul ” was just moved by your words. Thank you

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          Mary Kay Moody June 20, 2019 at 5:45 pm #

          Maybe for them, but I thank you for your powerful encouragement and wisdom, Andrew. I’ll pray to remember that God does not waste my words. He doesn’t waste yours! He doesn’t waste anything. Praying for you and yours.

        • Avatar
          Terrie Todd June 21, 2019 at 7:13 am #

          Love this!

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    Maco Stewart June 20, 2019 at 5:31 am #

    Yours is an apt (and terrifying) analogy, Tamela.You are absolutely on target in pointing out that we almost always gravitate toward established brands—in writing, music, movies, books, clothes, in everything. Achieving brand recognition helps, but couple of stinkers can also turn off your audience. This also speaks to the Prison of Genre: just as when we marry, we had better choose wisely the first time.

    What gives me hope is that we all know of bands that went from being the opener to being the main act, who went from roadhouse to festivals to filling stadia on their own. Fans at the early stages are wildly enthusiastic (I’m thinking now of the rise of 21 Pilots through the past few years). _Especially_ before a band is widely recognized, their followers may be incredibly, contagiously enthusiastic.

    These are the kind of followers we want to develop as we climb from obscurity, and they will help. Our job is to produce work worthy of their enthusiasm and to love them first, even before they love us. Sounds familiar, right?

  4. Avatar
    Sharon K Connell June 20, 2019 at 6:01 am #

    Although I’ve worked for several years now building a recognizable name through social media, etc. I find that I like finding new authors to love. My favorites so far are Grace Livingston Hill, J.R.R. Tolkien (I think I’ve read everything he ever wrote), Jane Austen, Jackie Zack, Jeff Salter, Jamie Carie, and Julie Klassen.

    I’ll always give a new author a chance to prove themselves if I see a book that catches my interest.

  5. Avatar
    Meg MacDonald June 20, 2019 at 6:08 am #

    Maybe I am unusual in my preferences and habits, but the analogy did not work for me. While I do gravitate toward known quantities in entertainment, brand means little when I am looking at clothing (though I notice deeply discounted “good” brands in a resale shop). I am motivated by the item’s individual appeal. The color, pattern, texture, style, price etc. Who the manufacturer is doesn’t enter the picture as long as whatever it is appears to be of good quality for a price I am willing to pay. If I fancy it, I buy it regardless of who produced it. This is good news for indie authors, I guess. Snazzy cover and/or compelling blurb catches my eye and I will take a closer look. Sample chapter(s) keeps me turning pages, you probably have a sale, I just wish I had more time to read.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 7:27 am #

      Meg, with clothing or books, there is always the first time you try a brand, and the first time you read a book by an author you don’t know. You are right in that something attracts you to that book or garment.

      With clothing and books, I also shop for quality and appeal. I don’t shop for clothing except to keep my wardrobe fully stocked, hence avoiding emergency purchases on a short deadline. Those purchases have universally been mistakes for me in the past. I shop for books because I want to. However, if I start reading a book I find doesn’t meet expectations, the price I pay in literal money and time is much less than if I buy an expensive garment that turns out not to work for me.

      I have learned which manufacturers cater to my needs and style. The act of choosing a certain website or store alone speaks to your needs and wants at the time. A Neiman Marcus customer has entirely different expectations of service and selection than does a Forever 21 shopper. Shopping at a used bookstore is completely different from shopping at Barnes and Noble. All of these options have their high points and drawbacks. It’s all about what you prefer, or what your needs and wants are at the time, and who can meet them.

      When I find a new manufacturer, designer, or retailer who caters to me, I’m thrilled to have a new option. My guess is that most readers know which authors cater to their tastes. When they find a new author to love, they’re thrilled.

  6. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 20, 2019 at 6:32 am #

    Tamela, first, congratulations on being an Agent-Of-The-Year finalist!

    One thing I have found, in days that have gone from painul to evil, is that what I read and view is crucial to morale; books and movies have been transfigured, and are no longer mere entertainment.

    Sometimes the familiar simply ceases to resonate, as things change, and it can be a struggle to find another star to which to hitch my wagon withal, before losing the morale that keeps me cheerful and a walking melange of bad puns and worse riddles.

    And recently I was guided…this is going to sound so stupid…to “The Fast And The Furious” franchise. I had shunned these films, thinking I would hate the whole fast cars-hot women-heist paradigm…well, that I’d hate two of the three…but I found a world of appealing Christian characters, good stories, and good messages.

    And in case anyone thinks I forgot to write another poem…

    In the well-known paths was meaning
    ’till all my world was changed,
    and the wisdom I’d been gleaning
    was so suddenly deranged.
    My feet were swept by the gyre,
    the swift riptide of hard fell times,
    and my breath came thickly in the mire,
    choked on worn-out paradigms.
    There had to be a new clear road
    to which I could trust my breaking soul,
    new hands and faces to share the load
    that I, like kitsugi, again be whole.
    The warning came, and I yet survive
    with will to agility, to live, and thrive.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 7:35 am #

      Great poem!

      I understand about triggers.

      My uncle was robbed and attacked on an Army base when he was serving back in the 1960s. He had to subsist on milkshakes for weeks as a result of a broken jaw. Decades later, he still can’t stand any type of violence anywhere, including fiction.

      I applaud your courage in stepping out of your comfort zone with the franchise. One good thing about books and movies is you can always close the book or turn the channel if it’s too much.

      • Avatar
        Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 8:13 am #

        Oh, and thank you for the congrats! I am honored and humbled to be a finalist.

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    Daphne Woodall June 20, 2019 at 6:39 am #

    Tamela your trip sounded wonderful. I can tell you in order the first authors who brought me back as an adult reader. Janette Oke, Susan May Warren and Jan Karon.

    Eventually I added Catherine Palmer, Deborah Raney, Denise Hunter and more. What I started to notice were the publishing houses which to me equated quality writing. It was their branding I trusted and knew I could trust the authors they chose.

    Even if I didn’t know the author I would scan the spines at local bookstores for logos of the publishers and if the cover and description drew me in I was hooked!

    Over the years as I’ve made friends through writing conferences the publishing houses have not been priority. I enjoy supporting fellow writers and sharing their books. I’m running out of bookshelf space and it’s hard to let books go. Thankful for eyes to read.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 7:38 am #

      What a wonderful testimony not only to the work of fine authors, but also to the thought and care that our marvelous editors and publishers take with our precious words. Thank you, Daphne.

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        Rhonda de la Moriniere June 20, 2019 at 8:28 am #

        I can relate to your searching for spines in the bookstores, I have told the workers at our local Christian bookstore to post my picture and ban me from buying anymore books.
        I dread the day I have to go through them and donate some for they represent some precious journeys my soul has taken with the LORD.
        It’s nice to know I’m in good company.

        • Avatar
          Daphne Woodall June 20, 2019 at 11:53 am #

          Amen Rhonda! I still have those early books. Which now are reference books for the writing craft. I pull them off the shelf to see how the experienced author handled a scene or wrote back-cover etc.

          I also love to read the acknowledgment pages etc.

        • Avatar
          Peggy Booher June 21, 2019 at 8:53 pm #


          I understand about not wanting to give books away. However, Christian Library International takes new and gently-used Bibles, Christian fiction and non-fiction. The organization sends them to prisons around the country. I think the website is: http://www.cli.org. This might be something for you to consider.

    • Avatar
      Deborah Raney June 21, 2019 at 5:24 am #

      Thanks so much, Daphne. I’m honored to be named among those wonderful authors you mentioned! They are some of my favorites too!

      • Avatar
        Daphne Woodall June 21, 2019 at 6:07 am #

        You are at the top of writers I admire as authors and as a Christian. And I AM still working on my fiction novel you critiqued. You don’t know how much your words inspired me Deborah. First novels are truly testing but I keep getting confirmation that this is the story God wants me to complete. Thank you!

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    Christian W. Mosemann June 20, 2019 at 7:40 am #

    Tamela, thanks for your advice. Easy to grasp the concept difficult for me to do. Do you have any advice on how to best build familiarity? I have accounts with Facebook and Twitter and I have had articles accepted and published online by the Good Men Project. I also have a blog site. I’m not doing much with any of them and don’t know where to focus my time and energy. Any suggestions? Thanks again for your excellent suggestion.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 12:09 pm #

      Thanks for asking! You might clicking on the CWI link on the right-hand side of this blog post and see what courses they offer. Terry Whalin also has some great resources on platform. Edie Melson is another well-respected and recognized expert on platform.

      I am very impressed by the advice given in the comments below, too. I have the world’s best blog readers!!!

      Otherwise, I would focus on your favorite one or two platforms and stress and promote those. Have fun! When you’re having fun, your audience will grow because they are having fun.

  9. Avatar
    Richard New June 20, 2019 at 7:51 am #

    In my earlier years, I read secular Si-Fi authors like Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert and Niven. Hard Si-Fi writers that I’d return to again and again. I’d order copies of their earlier works by the trunk load. Lately, after many years, most of their stories don’t resonate with me, except for Asimov’s robot stories (“The Caves of Steel”), Clarke’s “2001,” Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress,” Herbert’s “Dune,” and Niven’s “Ringworld.”

    Lately, I’ve found Christian Si-Fi author Kerry Nietz. And through the writer’s sci-fi/fantasy group Realm Makers, I’m finding more hard Si-Fi authors with a Christian bent. Steve Rzasa’s another good one.

    And the hunt continues, even as I strive to become one myself.

  10. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson June 20, 2019 at 8:00 am #

    Of course, Phyllis Whitney was my favorite author during my school days. I bypassed many authors in search of her books. Now, I watch for familiar names like Lynette Eason, Rachel Dylan, Patricia Bradley, and many others. I tend to overlook novels written by authors I don’t recognize. Sad, but true.

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    Diane Werckle June 20, 2019 at 8:19 am #

    Tamela, thank you for this excellent analogy of what constitutes a “brand.” I was a store owner for 12 years and constantly struggled with how to perfect our “brand” and set ourselves apart. You’ve stated a giant concept in a few simple words. Now, to figure out what that brand is . . .

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 12:11 pm #

      You are so welcome! Most likely this concept occurred to me because I worked in a drug store as a teenager. I loved selling cosmetics!

      I suggest getting to know authors who are writing what you are writing and see how they conduct themselves. And keep writing your best!

  12. Avatar
    Rhonda de la Moriniere June 20, 2019 at 8:22 am #

    I write bible studies and it’s been a journey to find authors who have quite literally become my best mentors and even often my most trusted friends (even though I don’t know them and many of them have already passed away).
    C.S. Lewis is, of course, my favorite and I trust him fully to lead me in truth and to do so in a way that gives my mind and heart a work-out while so doing.
    And Oswald Chambers is one as well. I will sometimes hear the LORD speak to me through a interview or such and reach out for a book from the one speaking as to learn more.
    I may be different from others, but I am not really looking for a a few familiar voices when I go seeking for whom to listen to or learn from, but for One familiar Voice. If I recognize His Voice in another, my heart fills with joy and I immediately feel an inner companionship with the person speaking and want to lean in and know more, for my heart loves to seek and find JESUS.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 12:13 pm #

      Excellent list, Rhonda. And yes, we are all so blessed as Christian publishing professionals to be able to share the LORD with others through our words.

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    Sylvia M. June 20, 2019 at 8:57 am #

    Some newer authors have made me want to read their books years before contracts were even signed or publication was even on sight. They had a crowd-drawing online presence and presentation. I got to know them when they publicly blogged or vlogged to talk about their hobbies, family, books they were reading (written by others), God, and more. Jaime Jo Wright has done this way before contracts were signed. I would always read her blog, watch her videos, and enter the coffee giveaways. It wasn’t until several months later that I even knew she was a writer seeking an agent, publication, etc. We got to know her (she has maintained privacy where she finds it necessary) not her book subjects. By the time she did get published I knew I wanted to read her books.

    • Avatar
      Steve Watkins June 21, 2019 at 5:44 am #

      What you’ve described here is exactly the key to platform building and sales. You’re talking about value-added content that makes readers, not just readers, but stakeholders in an author’s work. That’s what I want – stakeholders who are invested. Back to my point on this whole topic, though. Think about marketing campaigns for some of your favorite products. How long does General Mills market to sell a new cereal? Let’s go to an extreme. US Political campaigns often last 18 months or more, and we know how sick we become of those. Yet the publishing industry is asking us to market our products throughout a process that often lasts three years or more. It’s impossible, and completely unfair. And think about it. As much as we all love what we do, it’s just a book.

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    Sylvia M. June 20, 2019 at 9:15 am #

    I am a reader, not a writer. Several years ago I would faithfully read these agency blogs and also would read the comments. There were several commentators that stood out to me. I always looked forward to reading their comments, started recognising their photograph, and would sometimes view their website,Facebook page if they had one. By the time those blog commentators Katie Ganshert, Regina Jennings, Sarah Loudin Thomas, Melissa Tagg, Gabrielle Meyer, Dawn Crandall, Lori Benton, Carolyn Miller, Melissa Jagears, Amanda Dykes, and more did get published, I was pretty much already sold on reading their books. Having an online presence on other authors’ sites, being a part of those online communities where readers hang helps readers get to know you individually and gets your name out there.

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    Terri W June 20, 2019 at 9:30 am #

    A few of my favorites are Sharon Srock, Robin Patchen, Colleen Coble, Lynnette Eason, and Patricia Bradley.

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    Joey Rudder June 20, 2019 at 12:05 pm #

    I have to smile when I think of the authors I feel are familiar, reliable, and beautiful because I’m struggling to remember all of their names right now, but I know right where they are in the library. 🙂 Melody Carlson (love her Christmas stories!), Lynn Austin, Robin Jones Gunn, Deborah Raney, Christa Parrish, and Max Lucado to name a few. There are so many wonderful authors, sending me like a candy-crazed kid through the shelves at our local library. (I’ll be in trouble if we move!!)

    I also find a number of Christian publishers to be familiar, reliable, and beautiful because I know they have certain standards, and I’m not going to run into something that makes me close the book halfway through.

    Blessings to you, Tamela, and congratulations on being a finalist for the Agent of the Year!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray June 20, 2019 at 12:15 pm #

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Joey.

      I can definitely get into spending big bucks very quickly in a book store!

      • Avatar
        Joey Rudder June 21, 2019 at 10:14 am #

        You’re very welcome! And I agree…I can get into a lot of trouble in a book store. 🙂

    • Avatar
      Deborah Raney June 21, 2019 at 5:25 am #

      Joey, those are some of my favorite authors as well! Thank you so much for the mention.

      • Avatar
        Joey Rudder June 21, 2019 at 10:19 am #

        Deborah, you’re very welcome! Thank YOU for sharing your gift!!

  17. Avatar
    Mary Kay Moody June 20, 2019 at 6:14 pm #

    Familiar, reliable, and beautiful. Most definitely. Too little time so spend reading mediocre or boring books. When I met Nancy Rue & mentioned I didn’t read fiction by writers I didn’t know, she was shocked and asked how I was able to meet so many. I don’t have to meet an author face-to-face (though that’s nice), but be introduced by someone whose evaluation I trust. Because too often an inviting cover and compelling back cover copy has led to disappointment at how the story was spun. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of creative, consistent, amazing storytellers out there.

    Early in my “reading career,” I read Davis Bunn, Lynn Austin, Angela Hunt, Randy Alcorn, Liz Curtis Higgs, Nancy Rue, Sally John, Lori Wick. While I still read some of their works, my F-R-Beautiful roster now includes Laura Frantz, Amanda Dykes, Sarah Sundin, Joanne Bischof, Kristy Cambron, Kate Breslin, Jody Hedlund, Lori Benton, Roseanna White, Susan Meissner, Clarice James, and … I know I’ve left a few off. My apologies, but my family need dinner.

  18. Avatar
    Aria Myers July 4, 2019 at 6:20 am #

    Hi, I am a newbie, in so many ways.
    My authors were Nora Roberts, Charles Dickens, Hannah Whitall Smith, Madeline Brent, The Bible, Francine Rivers, and Kay Arthur.

    I Just had a friend tell me after I read her a short excerpt of a book, “I don’t read very much but I want to read more.” You have got to finish that book.
    So I am going to. All of them.

    Just giving notice. LOL. I am going to be joining the arena soon.

    No big words, I will let my writing speak for itself.

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