Saturday, August 10, 2013

A free aha moment and the importance of title

There was a lightning storm last night. The sky was flashing like crazy and rain was exploding down like bullets, no thunder though, which is kind of weird since living in the South trained me to expect a huge, crashing "BOOM!" each time the sky lit up. I turned off the computer and for some reason, started thinking about the post I did on reading, wondering about industry trends, self-analyzing my habits. I like to know why I do things. Probably just fallout from my craft work--it's hard to experiment on other people, but my own head is always available, lol. I buy free books. I won't lie. I like seeing my kindle the same way I have my bookshelves, nice and full.

The thing is--I've read everything on my bookshelves except for a couple of  reference books. What is it about downloading free books? Yesterday, I downloaded four. I might or might not read them. When I'm at the doctor's office or just sitting around somewhere, I tend to browse interesting titles--sometimes they're virtual wall-bangers, sometimes I really like them and check out the author's other titles. I got this book from Pixel of Ink called "Bangkok Burn" because of the cover. Just a gun, pointed outward--loved the cover, and the blurb sounded okay. I opened it up at the doctor (because of the title) and read it in two sittings. Thriller writers are always trying to do the hero with relativistic morals. Most of the time it falls flat, but this guy pulled it off beautifully. It reminded me of Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran's "Temple Dogs". After I read it, I immediately went out and looked for part 2.  I'm not promo-ing the guy's book, but check out the cover. I love the cover. If you're going to brand yourself as a thriller writer--especially in the hard to crack world of indie writers, this guy has cover art down to a science. It's simple, in your face, it defines the genre without the need for a complicated cover and expensive artist, and best of all--it's memorable.

Breaking away from the computer made me realize (in a big wave of "duh"), that the free kindle store is my library. I have a library card, but I really don't have time to go, they usually don't have anything I want to read, and I always end up keeping things so long my overdue fees are more than buying something on Amazon. I download free books, the same way I used to cruise the library aisles, looking for interesting covers, reading a few pages here and there. Back when I was a kid I remember picking up this fabulous book with a picture of some kind of Chinese medallion--it was Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran's "Grandmaster". I own all their books, and I'm still a fan even though I had to wait until I had my own money before I bought them, and it's been a very long time. Which just means that "free books" are the 21st century version of the library. Some people will use the library, sample something, and go on to buy everything that isn't nailed down, and some will just continue to use the library because they don't like to pay for books. And that's okay. It's just a different mindset.

Another thing I noticed was that I have a lot of titles (another of my fabulous and brainy "duh" moments), but the combination of title and cover is what initially attracted me when I first downloaded it. Without the cover, the title stands alone, and some of those titles aren't very interesting. Talk about blah, boring titles that A) don't tell me why I bothered to download it and B) are about as interesting as a turnip. I've deleted a bunch simply because they didn't sound interesting enough to open, and in retrospect, that's pretty sad.

Which means, yes--I'm going to bring up the Simon Royle series again. It's not that he's perfect, because if he'd been perfect, he'd have had a tighter blurb and a couple of books in the Bangkok series ready to go to maintain momentum, but he had the perfect proportion of ingredients to overcome the minor issue in the blurb. His cover was excellent, and his blurb was strong enough to pull in readers because it had the right keywords for his target audience.

(I'm going to paste his blurb from Amazon, for purposes of review (of his blurb and technique) all rights to the author, Simon Royle)

I'm going to underline and bold the keywords for his audience.

A war is taking place on the streets of Bangkok as political cliques fire bullets and rockets at each other. Mysterious 'Men in Black' snipe combatants from both sides. It is a good time to settle old scores. Take a walk on the darkside with Chance.(love this name. It's a good name for a thriller hero) An enigma: family-orientated, loyal and loving... and a cold-blooded killer.... This chilling, high-octane thriller takes you to parts of Bangkok no tourist should ever go, a world where life is cheap and morality non-existent.

okay, back again.

Almost eighty percent of this entire blurb is made of keywords that resonate in his target audience. It could stand a trim, because the political climate really isn't the focus of the book and without that, his blurb would be almost 99.9 percent keywords and phrases, but it's a strong blurb even without the trim.

But, once the blurb serves it's purpose in getting the book in your kindle, it goes away. And for the majority of kindle owners, since I strongly feel most people own kindles without cover capability, the only thing they see after that point is the title. The title has to draw the reader in without benefit of cover art or blurb. And in this instance, it does. It's got lots of thought strings attached to it, it's targeted to his audience, it states--without the blurb or cover, exactly what it is, where it's set, and why you should open it. And I did.

Excellent technique. And judging from the number of reviews, excellent sales. Nicely done.

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