Rookie mistakes and pickled eggs – an original title

Catastrophe this week!

Well, ‘catastrophe’ might be stretching it a bit. Small, self-publishing hiccup (which felt catastrophic at the time) is more realistic.

I read Derek Haines’ blog on self-publishing (www.derekhaines.ch). Derek talks a lot of sense, which it isn’t always easy to hear. I keep reading him because he speaks the truth, and despite the fact that his words never fail to lead me ever deeper into the digital marketing swamp.

Anyway, I digress. The particular post I am referring to suggested that it was worth publishing on Smashwords in addition to Amazon. Smashwords publishes e-books in a format which is accessible to users who do not have Kindle. At least that is the gist of it, I think. There were actually a lot of technical words and ‘format’ types described, which passed over my head without causing my brain to take note. So I hope I have summarised correctly. I am digressing again. I blame it on twitter, I am no longer able to concentrate on any line of thought for more than 20 seconds.

Smashwords has a fine, clear website. Lots of easy-to-find instructions on how to self-publish, which are sorely lacking on CreateSpace. Also advice and general tips about writing your book, designing a cover, and selecting a title.

My title has been in place for some months now. My cover is signed off, my edited manuscript (with the name of the book featured on every page) was returned to CreateSpace for final publication over a week ago. It took me ages to come up with the title. I bounced various options off of friends, Googled phrases and meanings. Changed it, changed it back, and requested feedback from my editor. What I should have done, and didn’t, was search my title in Amazon. Under the books department. Rookie mistake.

Smashwords told me to do this, and I must admit my heart froze over momentarily. I delayed following their instructions for a full twenty-four hours before grasping the nettle and typing in the search. Hey presto! Fourteen other books with the same title as mine. Several of them in the same genre, which is not entirely surprising. It could have been worse. Smashwords tell me that if you use the words ‘star’ and ‘wars’ anywhere in your title, you are likely to return forty thousand items on any search. But fourteen books, on my primary selling platform, is not good enough.

CreateSpace told me that it wasn’t a great idea, to share your title with fourteen other authors. I think I knew that already, but I wanted to debate the issue with someone who knew what they were talking about. It briefly occurred to me that if one of the other books bearing ‘my title’ was exceptionally good it could even be a bonus. Readers might stumble across me on their search for something better and buy my book by accident. This is obviously a foolish form of marketing, although I believe China has used it to good effect. Given that the most recently published books appear at the bottom of the search, I imagine most readers would be worn out by the time they had scrolled down to number seven on the list.

Solution to my hiccup is a title change, of course. Back to the drawing board. Further costs involved I would imagine, because both my cover design and editing services with CreateSpace have been completed and closed. I will end up paying that $75 dollars after all, but maybe it was worth holding off. Maybe it still is, in case there is something else I have failed to do.

The sting in the tale of this story, is that I have now discovered that every title you can think of has already been written by someone else. Search any random words in Amazon books, and you will see what I mean. Forget proverbs, sayings, idioms. They have all been done before. My searches became increasingly outlandish, I even typed ‘Pickled Eggs’ in a moment of madness – no direct hits! But I don’t think I can call my book that.

Mother and I were shouting random phrases that came out of the telly throughout the evening. The best phrase of the night? Wolf Hall’s original use of English swear words in a configuration never heard before, but very, very funny.

One reassuring fact was that the working title of my work-in-progress sequel only returned one hit, and that was a gardening book written in 1954. Maybe I am growing wiser, or perchance I simply struck upon beginners luck.

The book almost has a new title. I’m bouncing it off of friends and family, Googling phrases and meanings, asking my editor for feedback. And I’ve searched it in Amazon Books – no direct hits. Yes!

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