Should I Change the Name of my Book?

rose_name_62540860One of the major caveats that critics level against self-publishing is that without the weight of a big publisher behind you, your book is likely to get lost among the hundreds of other indie ebooks that come out each week. Now, I agree that getting noticed in the clutter is a major concern, but the advocates of traditional publishing seem to be stuck on this old-school idea that Amazon is a gigantic warehouse storing billions of books—or the online equivalent of a hoarder’s bonus room. There’s a better way for authors to view Amazon. Not as a warehouse—or even as a bookstore—but as a search engine. Think about how a consumer shops on Amazon, versus browsing at a Barnes & Noble outlet. What’s the first thing a consumer does when she goes to Amazon.com? She clicks on that search bar and starts typing.

There’s plenty of great articles that discuss how to ’Search Engine Optimize’ your book to be more discoverable on Amazon. Here. And here. And here. Through proper selection of keywords and categories, you can draw in potential readers who are actively seeking your type of book. And isn’t that more effective than placing your book in a bookstore, where 90% of the customers are just there to browse or drink coffee?

This search engine democratization is another way that Amazon is leveling the playing field between indie and traditional publishers. In fact, you could say that a indie author has an advantage when it comes to Amazon search results…as long as the indie can present their book with a cover and blurb that is engaging and professional. Consider this: a consumer searches for a very specific type of sub-genre (historical fiction supernatural beach-read featuring leprechauns), and she finds two ebooks that strike her fancy, is she more likely to buy the traditionally published ebook at $10.99 or the indie ebook at $2.99?

With all this said, I recently took a good hard look at the title of one of my books, Turning, and started a self-debate about the ‘discoverability’ of that title. When I searched ‘Kindle ebooks’ for ’Turning,’ Amazon spat out 1,934 results. At least twenty of those ebooks were called ‘Turning,’ or some variation of the name that was very, very similar. I had to ask myself the question: If a potential fan found out about my book (through my blog, through Twitter, or some other way) and searched for its exact title on the Kindle store, what would they do if they couldn’t find my book on the first page of search results? Granted, I’m not sure how often this scenario is likely to come up. Hopefully most readers would find out about Turning through a source that would provide a direct link to the book on Amazon. But it’s a big enough issue to consider seriously.

So I started to think of names that would be more unique and more engaging on the Kindle store. It was tough, because I really liked the title ‘Turning.’ My wife did too. It’s simple, it’s short, it would stand out well on a cover. I especially liked the way that the word has a double meaning that obviously implies a transformation (it’s a story about a spirit who reincarnates itself inside bodies of its own descendants) and more subtly implies a theme of cycles and the passage of time. I played with that second meaning a lot throughout the book, with imagery of circles, cycles of the sun and moon, the tides, the idea of reincarnation and Samsara, repeating patterns from one generation to the next, on and on.

First I brainstormed new words that were more specific to the story. I liked words like possession, scion, inheritance, legacy, lineage, vessel, and perennial. I really liked the word ‘succession’ because it has a royal connotation (the evil spirit in the story is named Regina—as in Queen), and it has a ‘hostile takeover’ sort of feel to it. Line of Succession. Yeah, I thought that sounded pretty good. But then, ‘Succession’ is kind of a hard word to say. And also, there were several suspense/thrillers with the same title. In the same vein of royal lineage, I liked The Living End. A historical phrase that sounds like a creepy oxymoron. But apparently there’s a popular band with the same name, which would cause a major issue with Google results, and also at least one other interesting ebook with the same name. I’ve always liked the phrase Vicious Circle, but it was also fairly popular. And I was afraid it sounded too… vicious. I liked the name Law of Possession, which I pulled from the old adage ‘Possession is nine-tenths of the law.’’ But my wife really hated that one.

So what next? My wife suggested the word ‘descent,’ which also has a nice double meaning. But there were a lot of media products with that one-word title, including a horror movie called The Descent. (The first half of that film, which shows spelunkers squeezing through tiny gaps between giant boulders, was way more anxiety-inducing than the half with the cannibalistic subterranean humanoids.) What about Line of Descent? I liked the idea of a inexorable, unceasing line that’s always moving forward (or maybe downward in this case) because I think that’s a good way to describe the reincarnating villain. Although it’s a definite departure from the cycle/circle theme… Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I think it’s more descriptive, more meaty—and less likely to be confused for a vampire or werewolf story. Line of Descent! Yeah! Cue the latter-era Trent Reznor music!

And I’m mega-excited about getting the book out there to be discovered! I expect that I’ll soon change the ‘Turning’ tab and the blurb-page on this blog. And keep an eye out for a Line of Descent promo image that I hope to use as my blog header. Here’s hoping that Line of Descent will be available for purchase by February!

State of My Writing, Spring 2014

It’s time to dust off the portable hard drives and those nearly useless 16MB memory cards. Time to  email attachments to myself. Time to start stashing files in the cloud. It’s back-up time!

As of right now, I’ve finished the 4th (and hopefully final) major redux of TURNING and the 7th (and hopefully final) redux of IDYLL. Whew, what a relief! I started the first version of Idyll in February of 2006! The four main characters and the setting have remained mostly unchanged in eight years. Everything else has changed drastically and often. Right now I want to sit on both stories to plan a potential roll-out in late 2014, early 2015. This is because:

1) I’m skeered.
2) Both books are being reviewed by Beta-Readers
3) I want to absorb as much as I can on the subjects of publishing e-books, marketing e-books, building my platform, etc.
4) It’s a very busy time with my job and attempting to sell our house
5) I’m beta-reading my wife’s new WIP
6) I’m skeered.

And there’s another exciting reason! Only exciting to me probably! I’ve begun humping away on a sequel to Idyll! Three weeks ago, I was one paragraph away from finishing a final revision on a cool short story, when the urge to start on the sequel overtook me. For a long time, I’ve had a rough idea of where I wanted to take the characters in Idyll—their course for a second and third book. But in early May I began to really think about what would happen in Book 3 of the series. I think I came up with a great story—I can see the characters evolving to these great places, and now I can’t wait to write them.

Hopefully Idyll’s first sequel won’t take another eight years to complete. I think I can realistically shoot for eight months. Part of my plan of attack is a tactic I’m calling “gap writing.” I’ve heard in the past that as some writers go through their first draft, they’ll write as fluidly as they can, and leave blanks if they can’t come up with the perfect adjective, or if they don’t want to stop to look up a particular fact. I’m taking that rapid-burst technique a step further: sometimes I won’t even bother to write down proper names. I’m skipping straight to the verbs and their objects. We’ll see, as tactics go, if this is more of a Pickett’s Charge. So far, when I’m on a roll and really enjoying myself, the full sentences seem to flow unbidden from my keyboard. In fact after one particularly fleshed-out, detailed paragraph, I had to stop and remind myself that this is just a first draft, and everything I write could change, so I don’t want to spend too much time on it now. The goal is to end up with a intensely descriptive outline that lays out each chapter, clause-by-clause. Description…Action…Reaction…Description…Metaphor…Dialog…Action… All muscle and bone, but no sinew.

My hope is that I can have Book 2 finished so that it could drop 2-3 months after Idyll is released. That means I could have three novels and one short story on the market by March or April of next year! Of all the self-publishing advice I’ve read, the tip that makes the most sense to me is “Write, write, and write some more. Don’t stop with one book.” The most successful authors have multiple items on their Amazon author pages, so that they can leverage the success of one book to help boost the others.

Don’t You Roll Your Eyes at Me!

I’m currently querying for my paranormal novel, TURNING, (up to eight rejections so far!) and I started working on a promo image for the book. Here it is. I kind of like it.

Promo image for TURNING. My paranormal novel about reincarnation through possession.

Promo image for TURNING. My paranormal novel about reincarnation through possession.

Overall, the image reminds me of Junji Ito. Which in and of itself is a good thing; except that I’d prefer to think of TURNING as ‘paranormal’ and not ‘horror.’ And Junji Ito is very much ‘horror.’

It took a while browsing through stock photos to find a pair of eyes that worked as a pair once I flipped the left eye upside-down. I’m a little worried that the image looks more grotesque than eerie (eerie is what I was going for). But hopefully the spiral of text helps to convey the idea of   ‘juxtaposition’ as opposed to disfigurement! The text is part of an occult scripture in the book, so it was nice to get to use it here. I think the rough canvas background also helps to convey the idea of something ancient and possibly a little bit sinister. I picked the sea foam color because the story takes place on the coast, and I think it helps keep the image inviting.

Finally, there’s the Gotham font for the title. Gotham the official font of the Obama campaign and of most of Coke’s marketing. If you’ve seen a san-serif font on a print ad in the last six years, there’s a 50% chance it was Gotham. But there’s a reason Gotham’s so popular: it’s a damn good font, both for text and for headlines. I think it gives a clean, calm, inviting feel—as opposed to a font called Splatterpunk or the like. Also, it needed to have a nearly round ‘G’ for the rotated letter at the end. But maybe Futura would have been a little less cliched.

Please let me know what you think! And check out more info on the TURNING page. And read a Junji Ito book if you’re into comics!