Friday, October 28, 2011

What's in a name?

"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." - Niels Bohr

Well, hell.  I guess I'm a couple steps closer to being a writing expert. 

I probably shouldn't come clean on this one, but I will anyway.  In all the glamor and glory over attending a conference, I forgot one of the most basic concepts of marketing: provide what your customers (readers, in this case) want, not what you want, and especially not what outsiders want. 

Let me start earlier.  I had several unattractive names at first for the book that's about to spring out into the world, things like "Goddess Part 1" and "Goddess Book 1."  I finally lit on Return of the Gods: Cataclysm because that really resonated with what I was wanting the book to be about.That's what the book was named through about 90% of its life.  Then I went to the conference, and a few people told me that the name stink, stank, stunk.  One of the speakers recommended "I was Married to Mars," and the agent sitting beside him liked it.  I sort of liked it too, and so I went with it. 

Okay, then, first mistake: taking advice from people who don't write, read, or rep my genre without consulting those who do.  Genre really does make a difference, not in the hard and fast "this can only be mythological fantasy" way a lot of people think, but more in the underlying assumptions readers make.  Most fantasy readers, ferinstance, expect titles to sound a certain way, just as most romance readers expect titles to sound a very different way. 

Second mistake: not being very thorough with my name change.  While this proved fortuitous, it's not a mistake I'll make again.  When you change the name of a work, you have to destroy every shred of the previous name.  That means in the header, on the title page, and yes, even the document file name.  I did the first two and several others, but didn't change the name of the file. 

It was fortuitous because the graphic artist doing the cover art took the name of the file and used it on the cover.  Wow.  That mistake, in conjunction with the graphical magic he worked, lit the front of the book up better than neon bulbs would have.  It really popped. 

Only problem was, it wasn't my book title.

When I brought the concern to the publisher, I received a response that I wasn't aware publishers knew how to give.  "Hey," he said, "you're the author.  You tell me what the title is." 

Such freedom!  Such responsibility! 

He continued: "Let me know today so we can finalize the artwork."

Such a tight deadline!

This time, though, I knew what to do.  I've built relationships on Facebook and gotten into several fantasy readers/writers groups, and so I posted my quandary into those groups.  They represented, after all, my ultimate target market.  When the dust settled several hours later, Cataclysm: Return of the Gods was a clear winner. 

Happily, it was the one I'd wanted to use all along.

So.  One of these days I'll be sitting in my parlor, a room no normal house can afford to contain, sitting on my Chair of Wealth and Fame, talking to someone who wants to know how I managed to be such an overnight success with my first book.  I'm sure I'll grin, ignore the fact that "overnight success" doesn't exist in a writer's world, and say, "Well, there was this one little glitch...."

1 comment:

  1. Stephen, I'm enjoying your blog. It's nice to see someone have a breakthrough, and also nice to know others are struggling along this treacherous path. Thanks for being so open and honest about everything. And I love the title of your new book!