Your pain is my gain

Who doesn’t love statistics?

Okay, maybe not everyone. But statistics can be exciting when they have immediate relevance, like the stats Word Press and other blogging tools offer. Thanks to those, I discovered that the search term people used most often to find my blog in the past year has been the phrase “pain assessment tool” or some variation thereof.

Pain Searches

I know writing is painful, but what’s going on?

Back in July I wrote a post titled “My quest for a universal book-assessment tool.” It began by referencing the pain assessment scales used in the medical profession. Now more people have viewed that post than have viewed any other I’ve written, by a factor of more than three.

I have to guess that many of those visitors aren’t really interested in fiction writing.

Which got me thinking about marketing.

To thine own self stay true

“Why don’t you just give your book a title like Improve Your Sex Life in Three Easy Steps?” a friend asked when I described the challenges I’ve been having marketing Dance of Souls.

That might entice more hits to my web site and maybe even more book sales, but roping people in with a title that doesn’t match the content is the literary equivalent of putting a pig in an evening dress. If readers expect a date and end up with bacon, it’s unlikely they’ll come back for more books.

Sow with piglet 1

Maybe not the date you had in mind. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people, of course, build their careers on deliberate deception. For example, there’s the book Steve Jobs by Isaac Worthington—NOT the bestselling author—and Thirty-Five Shades of Grey, unrelated to the steamy bestseller. On the Media discussed these and more on a show last summer.

Sometimes what seem to be small decisions—for example, the topics you cover in blog posts—can have big consequences. I’m not saying self-published authors need to become statisticians or market analysts. But after my pain experience, I will definitely think a little longer and harder about keywords and a title for my next novel. Just don’t expect Forty-Six Shades of Gray from me.

Have you ever felt betrayed by packaging?

ROW80 Update

Since finishing up a big project last week, I’ve done a fairly good job sticking to my 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. writing commitment. I still haven’t gotten back to my novel because for some reason, short fiction is calling me. I sent another short story off to a couple more markets (thanks, Duotrope), sent one to be edited, and started another.

6 thoughts on “Your pain is my gain

  1. Agreed. But I do love coming up with titles. My blog posts always had(sometimes still have) catchy titles, now, I see that’s probably not the smartest thing to do…but I can’t seem to stop!

    I enjoy thinking of a title for my books that capture the essence of what it’s about AND is catchy or witty or fun.

    And I say if you’re writing, you’re writing–shorter fiction is calling you and you’re doing something with it. Good for you!

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  2. “Pain assessment tool”?? That’s pretty funny. Must be a lot of people trying to tell if their pain is real. On the catchy title, naw, stick to your guns. Catchy title for blogs are fine, but your book? Unless your agent says honey, I’ve got a $100,000 contract here, if you’ll just change the title to …

    Uh oh, I think I just revealed the shallow depth of my soul.

    Anyway, marketing is challenging these days, period. Hang in there.

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  3. I have thought more about my blog post titles lately, after reading something about how people search. I used to try to be clever; now I don’t so much. And I make sure the title contains relevant key words. I don’t think people look for their next fiction read by searching on key words.

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    • I tend to fall in the “descriptive is better” school. But you can let yourself get all tied up in knots about blog post titles (and lots of other things) if you read too much about SEO and cutting through the clutter. Thankfully, I’m not trying to pay the bills via my blog, so I can afford to take risks.

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  4. I get enraged when an author or a movie marketer uses the bait and switch with me. It’s a quick way to get money but they definitely lose a repeat customer/potential fan. I think the title of your book fits the content and that’s what a book title should do. It should reveal something of the book. It should make more and more sense as you read the book. And yours does that. 🙂

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  5. I’ve never thought of choosing a title for my WIP based on what would draw in the masses. Certainly I want a catchy title, but one that pertains to the novel in a clever way, not one that rides the coattails of something else. I wonder how successful such a thing is, anyway. Interesting concept, but like you, I think I’ll stay away from 50 Shades of anything…

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