The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul taught me the power of a good title. As soon as I saw it, I was so intrigued that I decided to read Douglas Adam’s novel before I even knew what it was about.
As a result, I took care when choosing the title of my first young adult book. Throughout the months it took to write, I’d called the book Sasha’s Story. However, a quick search of Amazon showed this style of title usually belongs to “misery memoirs” – books about people who have overcome horrendous childhoods.
Although Sasha is in foster care and her childhood has been pretty miserable so far, this book wasn’t about her past. It was about her future and, in particular, about her love of horses. As my target readers were horse lovers, I realised that I needed to change the title to one that would appeal to them and show up on relevant searches they made on Amazon. I decided to concentrate on the keyword “horse” and, after a lot of trial and error, I settled on There Must Be Horses – a title that’s worked well and proved as effective as I’d hoped.
Unfortunately, in my case, a lesson learned isn’t necessarily a lesson remembered. When I published my children’s novel about an alien who comes to earth disguised as a green sheep, I forgot about the importance of finding the right title. I’d called the book The Green Sheep while I was writing it so, without thinking hard enough, that was the title I used when I published the book towards the end of 2014,
I soon realised my mistake. My book didn’t show up at the top of Amazon searches for “green sheep” because there’s a picture book called Where is the Green Sheep? and there’s The Little Green Sheep range of organic baby bedding. Worse still, it didn’t show well on searches about aliens, and there was nothing about the title to suggest the book was funny science fiction.
The obvious solution was to change the title to Alien Sheep, and I found a useful article by Joanna Penn describing how easy it is to do. I was encouraged by her success and thankful that I’d used print-on-demand for the paperback so I didn’t have a pile of unsold books with the old title. However, just as I’d decided to go ahead with the change, the book was shortlisted for and eventually won the children’s category of the Rubery Book Award. As that was under its original title, I decided to delay the change until 2016, just to be sure.
I finally started the change this month, and it took far less time than I’d expected. Changing the title of the ebook was ridiculously easy. I just had to replace the original cover and content for The Green Sheep with the new ones for Alien Sheep, complete with updated copyright info, and change the title and publication details in my KDP account. I also updated the book description to make it clear that Alien Sheep was originally published as The Green Sheep to avoid anyone accidentally buying it twice.
The print book was slightly trickier as it’s not possible to change the title of a book once it’s been allocated an ISBN. I had to write to Createspace and Ingram Spark to ask them to turn off the original book and then upload a new edition on both systems with a new ISBN. (For this book, I’m using Createspace to supply Amazon, and Ingram Spark to supply wholesalers and other bookshops.)
Time alone will tell whether the change was worthwhile, but I’ve enjoyed doing it. I like the new title and the new cover. I also like the fact that, as an independent author, I can take my time, fix my mistakes and experiment to see what works.
Hopefully, with the next book, I’ll get the title right first time!