Choosing an author name, choosing a book title

Advice from a New York Times Bestselling Author, Part 1

pick your title
This guest post was written by Victoria Twead, the New York Times bestselling author of Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools and the ever-growing Old Fools series. Victoria also has her own small publishing company, Ant Press, which feeds her passion for helping authors reach bestseller status. Find her at victoriatwead.com and antpress.org

There has never been a better time to write and publish a book, thanks to the Indie revolution. We no longer need to depend on agents and traditional publishers to take on our books. We writers can do everything ourselves, and it isn’t difficult.

However, even if you’ve written and published a sensational book, it’s very easy for it to drown in the ocean of new books that are being published daily. The last time I looked, I saw that Amazon already offered about six million books for sale and 10,000 new ones were being published every month. I believe the figures are much higher now.

Scary.

Established authors will tell you that writing and publishing your book is the easy part. Getting it noticed is much harder. But there are tricks you can employ which will help you.

For instance, dozens of people have asked me whether they should write under a nom de plume. My advice is yes, unless you are some kind of celebrity, in which case your name will sell books.

If your book becomes a bestseller, do you really want your privacy compromised? Do you want to be accosted by well-meaning fans when you go grocery shopping? Do you want your family pestered? Signing autographs may seem glamorous at first, but how quickly will you tire of it?

Picking Your Author Name

So, what author name should you choose?

Try to pick both a first name and surname that begin with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet. If your books are ever displayed on bookstore shelves, having a name like Andrew Barnes will ensure yours will be one of the first books customers see as they scan the shelves looking for a good read. Likewise, with a name like Amy Atkins, you’ll be near the top of any list that is ordered alphabetically while few people ever reach poor Xavier Winters. It’s too late for me now, but I’d heed this advice if I were ever to change my name.

Choose a short name because it uses fewer characters, very handy if you create a Twitter account in your author name.

Picking Your Book Title

Just as important is picking a strong title for your memoir. Research shows that the shorter the title, the more memorable it is and the better it sells. Titles with three or four words are supposed to be the best.

I called my first book Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools. Much too long, probably, but it quickly became an Amazon bestseller and has sold many thousands. So I guess you can break the rules. Readers have written to me telling me that it was the quirky title of Chickens that attracted them in the first place, so a long title worked for me although I wouldn’t recommend it.

Memoir writers are lucky because it’s quite acceptable, even expected, to have a subtitle. Subtitles clarify and expand the main title of a book. A good example is the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. The main title is short and snappy, and the subtitle describes exactly what the book is about. This book has become so well known that most people now just refer to it as Eat, Pray, Love but the subtitle undoubtedly helped when it was first published.

When people use a search box on a book site, they will type in a few words to describe the book they are seeking. These are keywords. Include some memorable keywords in your subtitle, and your book will pop up.

By the time I was writing my third book, I had learned an enormous amount. I discovered that it’s helpful to squeeze some keywords into our title or subtitle if you can. For example, my third book, Two Old Fools on a Camel ~ from Spain to Bahrain and Back Again, often appears when anyone types in the keyword “Bahrain”. I believe that keywords have been a huge help in getting my books found although I understand that it is not so easy with fiction titles that have no subtitle. With my own new fiction series, I tried to think of a unique series title, and Sixpenny Cross seems to be working for me as memorable keywords. 

Another thing worth mentioning. Before finalizing your author name and book title, Google them and also type them into the Amazon search box. Check that no other authors have the same name. Do any other published books already have that title, or something similar? If so, let it go, and think again.

Be as original as you can, and that will not only get you noticed but remembered.

Victoria Twead is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools.

Living in a remote mountain village in Spain, and owning probably the most dangerous cockerel in Europe, inspired Victoria to write a memoir describing life amongst their colorful neighbors. Chickens immediately shot to bestseller status and the Old Fools series was born. The writing bug had bitten and Victoria began penning the Sixpenny Cross fiction series, a children’s comedy play script, and non-fiction works.

Victoria and Joe retired to Australia to drool over grandchildren and run Ant Press, where they indulge their passion for writing and publishing. Another joyous life-chapter has begun.

Contact Victoria at victoriatwead.com or antpress.org.

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