Don’t Title Your Book “Slef Publishing”

Marketers like to point out that it’s harder and harder to get noticed in a noisy world, but it doesn’t pay to mix internet attention getting techniques with book design. One of the oldest methods for attracting attention against tough competition online is to use intentional misspellings. Accidentally typing the "l" before the "e" may even be how you found this post, but I wouldn't suggest using "Slef Publishing" in the title of your book. While it might bring you a typo visitor a day on Amazon, I doubt they would be very likely to purchase the book unless it were clearly a satire.

Mistakes happen in publishing, and as a self publisher, you have to determine which you can live with and which require you to halt the presses. As a trade author I can tell you that the major publishers have pretty thick skins. They might be willing to fix a double sentence or other introduced copy editing error in a future printing, but they’ll sell the ones they’ve printed without the slightest embarrassment. You almost never hear of a major publisher pulping a printing due to errors, unless, of course, they are the types of errors that can result in libel or wrongful death lawsuits. I remember in the case of one book I authored for a major trade that went through twelve or more printings. Errors introduced by the copyeditor that I caught and fixed nevertheless reappeared in a later edition. Apparently the publisher simply sent the wrong file to the printer.

When you’re considering using a clever trick to stand out from the crowd, ask yourself how it will look on somebody’s shelf, as opposed to on the computer screen, and if it’s something you want to be known for. "Oh yeah, that’s the guy who misspelled Shakespeare on the cover." I actually threw out $900 in book jackets once because my designer spelled "Sarah" with an "h" on the front cover and without an "h" on the spine. A minor matter, but the particular audience for the book included some particular people, and I didn’t want to hear about the missing "h" for the rest of my life.

Very long titles work well with database driven storefronts, like Amazon and Barnes& The problem is they don’t look very good on book covers. The trick there is to use the official subtitle to cram all your thoughts in and only put the main title on the cover. Publishers have been using this trick for hundreds of years, though the initial reason was to placate authors who had some twenty-five word title they thought was essential to explain the contents of the book. These days, some successful publishers use comma delimited laundry lists of keywords in their subtitles to maximize their chances on Amazon. I’m not comfortable with that approach myself and prefer my subtitles to be in sentence or phrase structure, but I have to admit I haven’t seen the laundry list approach hurt anybody’s sales.

On the other extreme, if you’re self publishing nonfiction books and will be dependent on database visibility for a portion of your sales, don’t get too cute. While an intentional misspelling will likely be a turn-off even for people who find the book through a typo, an overly artistic title will prevent them from finding it at all. A book about self publishing titled "Independent Expression and Financial Remuneration through Value Added Paper Processing" is unlikely to attract many visitors on Amazon, or at least not the visitors to whom you’re trying to market the book. When in doubt, describe your book to a couple of friends and ask them how they would search for it on Amazon or in a library catalog. Then go to Amazon and see how competing books are titled and which are succeeding. In the end, the title will only make or break the book if there isn’t any online competition, which is rare, but it’s always there in the background making a marginal difference in search results that gets magnified over time.

No comments: