In my continuing series on discoverability I turn now to titles. I was reading a great post by Kevin McLaughlin where he lays out 6 things you need (You can read the full article on his site - which is worth a read but as they say in the Princess Bride...."I'll sum up".
- You must have a great cover.
- You must have a great blurb.
- You must have an outstanding sample.
- You must have a good price.
- You must have a compelling book.
- You must write other books.
Many people put a lot time an effort, as they should, into creating a great cover - but do you put just as much time into thinking about the title?
Most authors come up with their book’s titles very early in the writing process with no thought about marketing. It could even be, that at the time they were planning on publishing it through a big house and figured they would take care of that (and they will). But if you are self-published, or have a publisher willing to work with you on title then you should be thinking about this.
When I come up with a title the first thing on my mind is: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which basically means how likely is it to find your title using Google. For instance, one of Michael’s early books had a working title of “Wizards” but I would never release a book with that title. It is much too broad and would be nearly impossible to get dominance. If you type Wizards into Google right now there are 83,900,000 results. We selected the titles for Michael’s books very carefully. For instance if you Google Nyphron Rising, it returns 7,400 links and while I’ve not gone through all of them, I did looked through the first 10 pages (100 entries) and each one was related to Michael’s third book. This title has great SEO. Even if all you remembered was the Nyphron part you still get all entries related to Nyphron Rising.
The other issue with title selection has to do with what it conjures in people’s mind. I’m currently helping a new author with his thriller book. It is a about a female CIA agent who is after a criminal who starts off with a simple crime and escalates the stakes with each one. At each crime scene a card is left behind saying, “This was my xx crime, the next one will be bigger.” Taped to the card is a stick of gum (the first crime was stealing that pack of gum). The author’s title is, The Bubble Gum Thief. I really don't like this title...it conjures (for me) a kid's book featuring Scooby Doo or Encyclopedia Brown Boy Detective. So I would definitely re-title this before release.
If your book is in a series there are other things to consider. Can you tie them together in some way? When Orbit told us they would release Michael's six-book Riyria Revelations series as a trilogy the obvious question was - what do you call them? Michael took a step back and asked himself what was at the core of each. The first two books both revolve around stealing a sword. The second two books around a newly formed empire, and the last two about the lost heir of a forgotten time. To tie these together he decided to make each one be three words with "of" in the middle. Hence was born:
- Theft of Swords
- Rise of Empire
- Heir of Novron
But what about the title of the series? How can you leverage this? Ridan inherited a few series (signed authors that were previously published) and their titles did little to nothing to enhance the series. Leslie Ann's Moore's Griffin's Daughter Trilogy is simply the name of the first book with Trilogy tacked on the end. Similarly Marshall Thomas's Soldier of the Legion Series is, once again the first book in with Series tagged on. Ugh! What were the previous publishers thinking of?
Again, looking to Michael's books his are entitled The Riyria Revelations. There are several things going on here. First "Revelations" is used to indicate that there are secrets and mysteries that will be revealed through the course of the books. And Riyria is the name used by the two main protagonists to refer to them as a single unit (Riyria is elvish for "two"). Riyria is also SEO friendly (75,300 - and again all relating to Michael's books).
Here's a big secret about B&N's search engine - it's pretty primitive. Selecting of categories doesn't help you out very much as it works primarily on titles. So...when posting your nook titles be sure to add a short descriptive phrase. For instance, if you search for: Military Science Fiction in B&N you get:
- #1 - The Forever War
- #3 - Solder of the Legion
- #4 - March of the Legion
- #5 - Cross of the Legion
- #6 - Secret of the Legion
- #7 - Slave of the Legion
Title choice is just one of a myriad of issues that has to be thought of from a “publishers” standpoint and not a “writers.” So if you don’t start out by changing your mindset early you’ll make a ton of small mistakes along the line that will all add up in the long run.
The morale of this story is use every tool available to you. Think of ways you can maximize every aspect related to your book. It is strategic thinking such as this that will help you get ahead of the pack.