Monday, October 7, 2013

Killing off a Pen-Name?

Photo by Lothar Spurzem.

I have a pen-name with a couple of titles. He’s never sold a book although he has given a few away and ‘sold’ books with Smashwords coupons. These actually do count as sales, an important factor to consider in ‘gaming the algorithms,’ but only on the Smashwords site, (and that’s just guesswork.)

But to kill off this particular author might be a wise idea. He’s not generating any heat, any traction, and the longer he sits there the colder those books get. I don’t have any real plans to write anything more for him. 

It’s kind of a vicious circle. If I could keep feeding him material, and keep blogging along on some subject of interest, he might still make a go of it. It’s a bit of work for a guy who’s not selling any books…there is that.

Those books need new marketing images anyway. I’ve known that for quite some time.

If I took those books over, one crime novella and one thriller novel, it’s not that far out of my known genres. 

I already have a couple of mystery novels. Those readers are somewhat likely to cross over into another crime story; or a thriller, because the mysteries are also historical. They’re already halfway there. I’ve been thinking about it for months, and Christmas is coming…thought processes just sort of revolve around in my head. But I need a sequential sort of list before I really do anything about it.

My books have at least some sales, and carry some minor weight in the ‘product presentation algorithms’ that govern what a given customer might be presented with in the automated bookshelves we’re all familiar with on Amazon, iTunes, etc. The books at least have some readers, and those readers are more likely to be presented with one of my books because they have already bought or downloaded a free one.

So this is how my mind works.

I would add two more really nice products to my own list. The kid could still live—an option is to sign him up for an affiliate marketing program such as the one at Smashwords. All he has to do—all I have to do, is when I read a book, do a quick 350-word book review on his blog, attach his affiliate code onto the end of the book’s buy link code, and voila! The kid has reviewed a book, made his recommendation, and who knows, he might even make more sales with other people’s books than he has made on his own. (I have virtually no thoughts on affiliate marketing or how to go about it.)

The process of re-branding might be more complex than it sounds. All I have to do is put my name on it, right? But the metadata is important. Three years ago, when I published my first two titles, I practically ignored it, but it’s important because it’s attached to the ISBN number. I don’t really know how it works, behind the scenes electronically*, but essentially you have to change that data. For obvious reasons, this must match all the way around. The name on the cover, inside the book, the bio, the name listed on various platforms, and the ISBN number listed for example at Collections Canada ISBN service, Bowker’s, or places that assign free ISBNs such as Smashwords. I don’t know what sort of problems that might engender.

The books are in Smashword’s Premium Catalogue, and I would hate to mess that up over the long haul…sometimes you just don’t know what to do and the obvious answer is to procrastinate.


What I am finding, certainly for this vintage-racing/plot to kill the Pope in 1938 sort of story, is that night-time racing shots, with a handsome driver’s face in the right sort of car and environment are hard to find. So now we look at alternatives. What about a girl with a gun? What about a couple of German WW II snipers on the roof of the Vatican? Some images are easier to find than others, and many of the readers are sophisticated enough in terms of historical knowledge that they can tell the difference between a Schmeisser and a Thompson. They know what a Wehrmacht uniform looks like, and they know what a U.S. Ranger from 1968 ought to look like.

This leads me to my next question, for surely these are all questions, no matter how inelegantly phrased.

Can I possibly re-title the book? Yeah—obviously, but if so, then what? I mean, what? Without any ideas, there is essentially no image to look for because I can’t quite visualize it in my head.

I need key words to search with and a stock photo provider with an appropriate image. I’ve already looked at over three thousand and it doesn’t look easy so far. I’ve saved exactly two links in a .doc file I use for the purpose.

(You’ve got to have a system, ladies and gentlemen.)

I could visualize that racing driver and his mechanic racing down some twisted cobbled road at eighty miles an hour in the dead of night just fine. I have not found any really good images so far.

Re-branding a couple of titles isn’t going to be the work of a moment, but in terms of one of my other pen-name's books, well…there might be a couple more out by Christmas.

There is definitely some thought involved, and the whole thing would be a process. What I am looking for is a logical sequence of events, and for right now, the marketing image/title is a stumbling block. It is a major hurdle, ah, ‘when ya got no money.’

I could still go with the ‘girl with a gun on the cover.’ There is a girl or two in the book. They have guns too, (and they know how to use them) but the racing driver is the real character study in that he is politically and somewhat morally oblivious—in Europe, in 1938. (There has just been the Anschluss between Austria and Germany, and everybody but our racing driver knows Czecholslovakia is next.) I wrote the book about him more than anything. Everything else is just window dressing to make it fun for the readers. I’ll be honest with you, it’s not that profound.

Basically, all he wants to do is race and has given up everything else to do it, including the heroine.

So why not a guy with a gun? If the book is pitched at males, an action shot, a guy with a gun and a hot babe might be just the thing. A simple portrait of a male figure with a gun…it had better be pretty iconic, and who knows, maybe there is an image out there that would work.

The real problem is that the focus of the book is on a racing driver.

This doesn’t necessarily rule out women readers, although a really good picture of an intelligent looking woman, one with real class might intrigue them. The picture had better be good and the blurb even better, (something I’m not particularly known for.)

I might play down some aspects of the book in the blurb. The product description is not carved in stone. I would simply play up the girl rather than the racing driver with a whole new blurb. You can only go so far with that without being ‘overly misleading’ about the book.

Obviously this isn’t going to happen all at once, and luckily, it’s only two titles. The novella also might require quite the unique little image.

It’s an interesting challenge if you don’t know what you’re doing!

*That pesky asterisk. Smashwords knows instantly if you’ve pooched your ISBN number, which implies some connectivity with ISBN providers of an official nature such as Collections Canada.

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