by John Foxjohn
Copyright © 2013 John Foxjohn
Originally Published by 1st Turning Point
A funny thing happened to me on the way to publication—I began to realize that I needed to know some things about self-promotion. Honestly, I wished I had known that how I wrote, what I wrote, and even the title of the book had a lot to do with promotion.
My novel Cold Tears sold more books than I could have ever dreamed, and continues to sell. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it won the reader’s award for the best mystery in the world. Readers naming me the author of the year also didn’t hurt.
However, Cold Tears is a great title. It makes people think-how can tears be cold? The title in itself almost chills you. It says suspense.
While writing the book, I thought about changing the title. The reason? An agent told me that I needed to. She said, “Men aren’t going to buy a book with tears in the title.”
This seemed like good advice to me, and then I started learning things about promotion. One of the first things I learned was that men don’t buy books. Over the years, I have found that if a writer gears a book toward men, they are going to have a tough row to hoe. Sorry, guys, but this is just the truth.
Second, I think the blanket statement that men won’t buy a book with tears in the title doesn’t give reading men a lot of credit. To the best of my knowledge, I am a man and definitely a reader, and the word tears in the title doesn’t bother me at all. This was one of the reasons the agent’s statement surprised me.
However, when she told me this, I didn’t know much about these things. As it turned out, she knew as much about being an agent as I did promoting, and I knew about nothing about promoting.
She was wrong about the Cold Tears title, and I am so glad I didn’t listen to her. However, she was right in one regard-the best way to promote a book begins with the title.
A good example of what I am talking about is my historical fiction, Journey of the Spirit. Many readers have told me they think this is my best one, but because of the title, and the genre, I have a hard time getting people to read it.
When people read it, they find a tragic love story intermingled with the history of a great man and the epic struggle of a race of people, and all this told by a little boy who has to endure and overcome a tragedy that few of us would ever hope to envision.
This is a book that John Jumps, the Lakota Tribal Chief said, “If you didn’t like this story, you don’t have a soul.”
I teach adults to read at the Lufkin Adult Learning Center, and at the moment I am teaching a forty-three year-old man who is a carpenter and spent four years in prison. When we began, he had a fourth grade reading level. As he progressed, I asked him what he liked and he told me history.
I brought in a copy of Journey of the Spirit and we are reading it now. Last Thursday, this man began to cry as we read.
This is how emotionally appealing this book is. However, most people don’t get to see why John Jumps said what he did, or what is in this book that would bring this man to tears.
Because of the title and the genre, people don’t pick it up.
This is a funny story about this book. My editor didn’t want it. She had read the first three chapters of Cold Tears and was dying to get her grubby little hands on that book, and as it turned out, for good reason.
When I was talking to her, I told her about Journey of the Spirit. She told me she didn’t read westerns. This should have clued me in, but it didn’t. I told her, “Good, because it isn’t a western-it’s a historical fiction.”
She told me she didn’t read them, either. Now, most people would be smart enough to pick up on this. However, I am not all that bright. Because she wanted Cold Tears so badly, I talked her into looking at Journey of the Spirit.
She told me to send it to her by e-mail, and she’d look at it in three or four weeks. I sent it and about three hours later, I received an e-mail from her that she’d read the first sixty-two pages of the book and really loved it, but had too much work to do and would have to put it aside.
A few hours later, she called me. She had to have the book. Later, I had to remind her about Cold Tears.
So, why don’t people rush to buy the book? One reason is the title—it doesn’t tell anything about anything that I just listed. Many people think it’s a book about religion. Some call it an Indian book. They get this from the title and the cover.
Second is the genre. Women on average don’t read historical fiction.
There is much more to this book than just the history, but I don’t convey that in the title or the genre.
Hey, look at the title of my upcoming book, Tattered Justice. This is absolutely one of the best titles I have ever come up with. Not only does it convey what the book is about, but it just reaches out and grabs the reader.
I wanted the word justice in the title, and the rest came from my trusty Thesaurus.
I began with the title Torn Justice, but that just didn’t have that special feeling that reflected the book. I needed a title that was representative of what I thought the book would be.
I put torn in the Thesaurus and kept coming up with different combinations until I hit Tattered. When it hit, I knew. Tattered Justice represented my story well.
Here is my best advice on promotions—start before you write the book, and start with what readers see first—the title.
Now, what does all this have to do with your sex life? Nothing, but did the title get your attention?
John Foxjohn, the author of the best-selling true crime, Killer Nurse, epitomizes the phrase "been there--done that." Born and raised in the rural East Texas town of Nacogdoches, he quit high school and joined the Army at seventeen: Viet Nam veteran, Army Airborne Ranger, policeman and homicide detective, retired teacher and coach, now he is a multi-published author.
Growing up, Foxjohn developed a love of reading that will never end. In fact, he refers to himself as a "readalcoholic." He began with the classics and still lists Huckleberry Finn as one of his all time favorites. Later, he discovered Louis L'Amour and besides owning every book he wrote, Foxjohn says he's read every one of them at least five times.
However, when he was twelve, Foxjohn read a book about Crazy Horse, and decided right then he would also write one about the famous Lakota leader. After many "yondering" years as L'Amour called them, he spent ten years researching his historical fiction, Journey of the Spirit, now titled The People's Warrior.
Maybe because of his eclectic reading habits John has not limited himself to publishing in one genre. In fact, he has published mysteries, romantic suspenses, historical fiction, legal thrillers, and nonfiction Killer Nurse.
When he's not writing, teaching writing classes, or speaking to different writing groups and conferences, Foxjohn loves to spend time square dancing, working in his rose garden, or in his garage doing woodwork. However, his passion outside of family and writing is without a doubt, anything to do with the Dallas Cowboys.
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