A Book Birthday and Subtitles

A Book Birthday and Subtitles
Terry Odell

In the CrosshairsI hope you’ll indulge a detour for a moment and help me celebrate the my 32nd (give or take) Book Birthday. In the Crosshairs drops today. This book is the fourth in my Triple-D Ranch series. I got my first paperback author copies, and there’s nothing more exciting than holding that baby in your hands. Hands that have been overworked pounding the keyboard. The keyboard’s not too happy, either. More details, including buy links, are here.

To offer a bit of “writerliness” and not turn this post into total BSP, I’ll talk about subtitles. Being discoverable amidst the other million-plus books in the digital e-stores is critical if you want to move away from your tried-and-true readers. If you’re barely (if at all) a midlist author, your circle of auto-buyers is small. Advice is to add a subtitle to the book’s metadata that will show potential readers what’ they’re getting. The thing not to do is turn that subtitle into a tagline. I wish Amazon would simple do away with allowing subtitles like these which I found doing a very basic genre search at Amazon.

A Nail Biting Romantic Suspense Take It Off Standalone Novel
A Sexy, Thrilling Romantic Suspense
An absolutely gripping cozy mystery
A totally gripping and heart-pounding crime thriller
Sci Fi Fantasy and Action Adventure of the Rebel Princess named Lilla

My contrary nature immediately reacts with “Oh yeah? Sez Who?”

What’s the better approach? Show potential readers the genre, or, more importantly, the sub-genre. Odds are they’re already searching by the main genre, such as mystery, romance, science fiction, etc. Show that it’s a cozy mystery, a romantic suspense, a military science fiction.

I went back and added genre-related ones to my books. I didn’t change the cover art, only the metadata where there were fields for subtitles, which saved time and money.

My Triple-D Ranch books are subtitled “A Contemporary Western Romantic Suspense.”
My Mapleton Mystery books now have the added “A Police Procedural Cozy Blend.”
My Blackthornes are tagged “A Covert Ops Romantic Suspense.”
My Pine Hills books are subtitled “A Small Town Police Romantic Suspense”

Does that move help sales? I don’t know? How can anyone know what triggered that “buy now” click? But at least there’s less of a chance of readers returning the book because it wasn’t what they were looking for, or leaving scathing, negative reviews.

Between the  pandemic and being an indie, 95%+ digital author, I’m not holding a physical launch party. Instead, the Hubster and I will get takeout from our favorite sushi restaurant and celebrate at home. Unless it’s snowing, which is the prediction, in which case I’ll be cooking.

In the Crosshairs by Terry OdellAvailable Now. In the Crosshairs, Book 4 in my Triple-D Romantic Suspense series.

Changing Your Life Won’t Make Things Easier
There’s more to ranch life than minding cattle. After his stint as an army Ranger, Frank Wembly loves the peaceful life as a cowboy. Financial advisor Kiera O’Leary sets off to pursue her dream of being a photographer until a car-meets-cow incident forces a shift in plans. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery, one with potentially deadly consequences.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

22 thoughts on “A Book Birthday and Subtitles

  1. Terry! Happy Birthday and congratulations! I hope you have much success with In the Crosshairs. I agree…slip the genre/subgenre in there earliest.
    I hope you get to enjoy your sushi tonight. We are promised the mother of all storms as well — ice, snow, power outages — but we will probably just get the crazy uncle in the attack, which will be bad enough. In any event, enjoy!

    • We’ve got about six inches of snow overnight and there’s more to come. Not a smart night to be on the roads, most likely. Up here in the boonies, we’re a low priority for plowing. I’ll be making lamb shanks in the Instant Pot.

  2. I also despise these subtitles, but I’ve noticed even Big Five does it from time to time on ebook versions of their books, and they go even more insane: “a totally gripping crime thriller mystery with twists and turns.”

    • With all the things Amazon doesn’t allow, you’d think they’d crack down on these. We can only hope that readers get fed up and scroll right on past.

  3. Happy Book Birthday! And congratulations on the release of #32. Wow! Thanks for the links for purchase, and thanks for the marketing advice.

    Some interesting subtitles you found. Maybe we should add to TKZ’s activities with an annual contest and award for “Most Outrageous Subtitle of the Year.”

    Have a great celebration. I hope the snow skips you.

    • Thanks so much, Steve.
      I didn’t even have to “hunt” for those. I typed in a sub genre and scrolled through the first couple of screens and found them. Which, sadly, probably means they’re attracting readers. But who knows how Al G. Rhythm’s programming works.

  4. Telling us a book has twists and turns or will make you bite your nails is unseemly…at least to purists; but do the readers care? I suspect not so much. And if the Big 5 does it, they must have some data to back it up.

    Still, I resist…and you make a good point for indies. An over-the-top description may indeed trigger bad reviews if the book doesn’t deliver the goods. Info about sub-genre or the actual contents of the book seems more apt.

  5. Congratulations, Terry! #32??? Wow, esp. impressive since you started writing later in life.

    My hands look the same–cracks that sometimes leave smears of blood on the keyboard. Working our fingers to the bone for our craft, right?

    Blizzard here last night and -3. Good day to stay inside and write.

    Wishing you great success with your latest launch!

    • Thanks, Debbie. That 32 is novels, and doesn’t count all my offerings. I have some short story collections, novellas, box sets, so I don’t really have an accurate number. Shame on me.
      We have a couple of degrees this morning, but the snow is still falling. I KNOW I swept the porch; why is there still snow on it?
      Mostly, I think I’ll be listening to audiobook chapters so I can get my part done before I leave on vacation. My narrator provides them in spurts, so I never know what my day will be like. But it’s Wednesday, which means it’s laundry day. The life of a writer, right?

  6. Happy book birthday! Terry! 32 novels to your credit — I’m in awe.

    I haven’t used subtitles, but I can see the value in the hyper-competitive book market. I found this one:
    “A totally enthralling psychological thriller with a stunning ending.”
    It made me wonder if some customers will refrain from buying a book because of the subtitle.

    Stay warm. We’re supposed to get freezing rain here starting tomorrow morning. Glad I picked up the groceries yesterday — there’ll be a Kroger mob today.

    • “It made me wonder if some customers will refrain from buying a book because of the subtitle.”

      Me, for one, Kay.
      We have one or two degrees out there, and Tuesday’s my grocery pickup day, so we’re set.

  7. Happy Book Birthday, Terry! #32, too! That’s a huge accomplishment, and one worth savoring. I can never get any real work done on my book birthdays 🙂

    I know exactly what you mean about subtitles in the meta-data. With my fantasy, I just put in the series name and number, rather than something like “An ultra-fast paced suspenseful super hero urban fantasy novel”, which might be a fair if hyperbolic description of my Empowered novels. With my mysteries, I think I’ll follow your practice. Makes good sense without being overblown.

    Again, congratulations! Enjoy this day!

  8. Happy Launchiversary, Terry!

    I wish I’d used more subtitles/taglines. A True Map of the City has an Amazon subtitle, Lost in Dystopia. The poetry book cover alerts readers that Moon Over the Lost City consists of Poems of Nostromo**. My current WIQ* is titled The Perils of Tenirax: Mad poet of Zaragoza.

    * work-in-query; progress is zip
    ** Nostromo was my poet’s handle way back in my nights of Cafe Voltaire and Nicholby’s. It’s been years and years. How fast the days of now tumble away to long ago!

    • A subtitle that expands upon the genre is fine. Until recently, I’d just said something like “A Mapleton Mystery” but expanded them enough to show what kind of a mystery it was.
      But no book touting. Those are reviews or taglines, not subtitles, at least from my standpoint.

  9. I stop paying attention to book selling for five minutes and subtitle is now the name for a descriptive promotional line that goes on the cover instead of what follows a colon in nonfiction? Okay.

    Happy Book Birthday! May you have many more.

    • Thanks, Marilynn.
      On the marketing side of the business–don’t blink or you’ll miss something.
      I believe the process of moving through the traditional side is still sloth-like.

  10. Happy Book Birthday yesterday, Terry! For some reason I get TKZ a day late. Anyway, In the Crosshairs dropped into my inbox yesterday. Hoping to read it over the weekend…if I get my word count today and tomorrow!

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