How do you change the name of your baby?

I have a dilemma. Two and a half years after writing it, one year after naming it, six months after releasing it as an eBook and a few months before it comes out in paperback, the name of my book has become problematic.

As every author needs to do these days, I activated a variety of social media platforms to promote it. And there’s where the problems began. Fake Profile had two alternative names prior to having the final title conferred some time after manuscript completion. The current title was selected after consultation with the target demographic who unanimously decided that a book named Fake Profile would be one they’d be most likely to pull off the (actual and virtual) shelf. It’s what authors and publishers think about when assigning titles. The aim is for it grab enough attention from potential readers that they will read the blurb, if not the book.

The problem is, to make sure that the target demographic knows that the book exists the author (among others) has to promote it. And to promote your work effectively you need to target your demographic and penetrate with publicity, the areas in which they hang out. For a young adult (YA) audience, that is online—in the depths of social media.

Like many authors, a website and blog was the first thing I thought about setting up. I spent months creating an elaborate website using WordPress, but when I tried to claim the domain name for the book title, I discovered that it had already been claimed. Not by someone who wanted to use it, mind you; FakeProfile is one of the hundreds of names that had been purchased by an unknown party for selling to the highest bidder at an outrageous price.

Disappointing? Yes. A game changer? No. At least I didn’t think so at that point, so I moved on. The next necessary avenue to engage with the YA readership was Facebook, so I went ahead and set up a Facebook fan page. I already had an Author page, but I thought it might be better for YAs to interact directly with the book fan page, rather than go through the author site. Good idea, right? Apparently not.

It started well. I’d tweet links to the page and post updates on my other Facebook pages to link back to the book page. I began collecting ‘likes’ and fans, many from the students I interact with in the schools visit. Then once I hit the thousand fans mark, a strange thing began to happen. People seemed to confuse the Fake Profile BOOK page with a forum to report the incidence of fake profiles being created in other people’s names. It was strange. The ‘About’ section on the page clearly stated that the fan page was for a book entitled Fake Profile.

At first I responded to each person privately. I gently told them that the site was not a forum for action regarding fake profiles and suggested that they use Facebook’s own reporting procedures. I even stated it as an update on the page. It made no difference. When I wrote the book, I didn’t realise just how prevalent the issue was. But pretty soon, the regularity with which people began posting complaints about fake profiles became alarming. I couldn’t keep up.

This is problematic because if people are mistaking the fan page for a complaints forum, they are not engaging with the book. The same thing happens on Twitter. Whenever I tweet about Fake Profile, I usually get responses about personal Facebook engagement.

Promoting a book without using the title is counterproductive, but promoting a book while justifying or clarifying the title is just as pointless. When I ran the poll that decided the name, those voting knew it was for the title of a book. There was no confusion. I could not predict what would happen when the book was finally published.

So, where do I go from here? The preliminary publicity is well underway, the flyers are printed, the cover professionally designed, the articles written, emails sent. But a YA book without a website or Facebook fanpage is going nowhere fast... ugh. Perhaps a I need to write a non-fiction how-to-spot-a-fake-profile guide for parents instead...

Terrible titles

The header for this post is Terrible Titles, but perhaps it should have been: Creating a Suitable Title For Your Novel That Doesn’t Put People Off Reading it But Clues Them Into What It May be About Without Being Irrelevant or Long-winded. Snappy right? Would you read any further?

Finding a suitable title for your novel is a delicate matter. A novel title needs to be catchy, or at least rhythmic. It needs to roll around the mouth and off the tongue in a sanguine manner that makes the potential reader want to say it over and over again until it gets stuck in their head and they feel compelled to navigate to Amazon and click on that purchase button.

A book title has to speak volumes to the multitudes. It needs to enthrall and entice a reader to download the novel, or open the cover, or at least read the blurb, which ideally should build the magic. It needs to be indicative of the genre, to allude to the content, even if in a very subtle way. A book title needs to create intrigue and engage the reader. And it needs to do it all in just a few words. No problem, right? I wish! It was easier to name my child.

So how does an author come up with a title that does this for their book? It’s a process. And like most things relating to writing, it is subjective. I guess it’s a bit like naming characters, sometimes the names just pop into your head when your characters begin speaking to you. Other times you change the name so many times your character can’t help but develop an identity crisis.

The title for my first novel—the one that still sits in the drawer unpublished—came to me the day I started writing it, and hasn’t changed since. It doesn’t need to. It fits. My second novel Fake Profile began life as Turning Point. I thought it was poignant; market research of the target demographic didn’t get it. They thought Fake Profile fit better because it’s about a group of friends who create a Fake Facebook Profile for someone. Go figure.

The novel I’m about to finish has had three title changes so far. And will probably have another few before publication. But I have learnt enough about appropriate naming to realise the value of consultation. After all, it is the reader that needs to be drawn to your book if you want it to sell. It’s counter-productive to stick with a title you absolutely love, but no one else relates to. Check your demographic. If you write romance, there’s little point in giving your book a title akin to the horror genre. And vice-versa. Ask your potential audience. Come up with a few options that you think might be suitable and create a poll. Most people are happy to give their opinion, especially if it is sought. Listen to your audience.

I’ve seen book titles I get bored with before I’ve finished reading them, but others that I’ll click through and bookmark so I can return to read the blurb later on. Of course it’s subjective, but you can give yourself a head start by doing your research. Google your potential title to see if it’s already being used. Consult. Try it out on people. Say it, write it, ensure that it fits with your cover design.

A title is the first thing you share with your audience. Make sure it’s a good one. Oh, and if you come up with an awesome title for a Young Adult Crime Fiction novel, let me know!