Sean Hoade, Super Genius

Yes, I just made a Wile E. Coyote reference in regards to my friend, but damn, he’s smart.

Wow, did I just get off of an amazing phone call. I just spent the last hour talking to my buddy and fellow author, Sean Hoade. The original purpose of my call was to see when he would be in town. About a month ago, my pal had reached out to me about potentially meeting up when he was in town next, and I wanted to know when that would be. The conversation, as it usually does with Sean, quickly turned into me fangirling over his novels, and sales-envying several of his titles. Unlike usual conversations with Sean, though, I was able to finally to accurately form my thoughts into a coherent sentence.

“Sean, I want to work with you to develop whatever your business model is into a business model that fits my different writing style and mobility.” Mobility specifically because Sean travels a lot more than I can currently afford (both time and money) to, and writing style because while Sean and I both love each other’s works, we’re entirely different authors who’s audiences are ven diagrams that only mingle once in a while. That doesn’t change that I desperately need to learn from the man, because he has a lot to teach.

I think that his most valuable lesson in our conversation today was to avoid Texas travel… not really, but he was cruising the roads in Texas today and I found it quite entertaining to hear him yell at his GPS “There’s no place to turn, why would you tell me to turn.”

In all seriousness, though, his most valuable lesson to me today was about Titles.

In my mind, Titles of my stories were always meant to tell you what the story was about. Even as a dedicated business to business sales person, I had never thought about the impact of a title on the sales of our book. Which, in hindsight, is the dumbest thing I’ve ever said. Of course your title will directly impact sales, it’s the firs tthing that anyone sees aside from the cover.

In regards to my own writings, Sean pointed out that my titles (for the most part) include the names of the main characters, which directly leads toward a disinterest in my books. Specifically, nobody cares who the hell Andrew Doran is, but if the title of “The Statement of Andrew Doran,” was instead (as an example, not an actual option…yet) “The Search for the Book of Power,” or “The Dream Cult of the Third Reich,” than the title would be actually working for me and selling my books. How? By creating interest and curiosity in the minds of those who glanced the titles.

I’ve been thinking of a similar rebranding of my Abstract Series (Random Stranger and Stranger Books), and had even discussed as much on multiple occassions. Even with those discussions of rebranding, I never thought about changing the titles…

Which is SOOOOO RIDICULOUS!!! It’s common sense, and I’m kicking myself for not thinking it. In my quest to make a product that is the best quality that I can produce (multiple cover changes, multiple edits, storyboarding for months, back of the book copy, etc) at some point in my life I “phoned it in” on the titles.

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to go back and start changing all of my book titles either. While I might not have the sales that my colleague does, I do have fans who expect every Andrew Doran pulp story to have his name in the title. And Broken Nights, while it has the name of the character in the title, doesn’t necessarily tell people “Hey, here’s a guy you know nothing about.” But this is definitely something that I’m going to have to keep in mind as I publish and market my other books.

It also is something that can help give me direction in the potential rebranding of the Abstract Series.

I know what I was thinking when I came up with these titles, but now I know what I should have been thinking. My thoughts are always on being more creative, when I’m thinking on titles. Such as, “How can I make it so that this book is obviously part of the rest?” or “How can I make sure that no one has any doubts about what this book is about?” But, as my editors tell me when I am working on dialogue, I need to have more faith in my audience to put two and two together.

In other words, I need to stop sacrificing the marketability of my stories in exchange for creativity. Find the balance, and sell more books.

By the way, that wasn’t all that Sean and I talked about, and Texas’ distant towers from his location ended up cutting us off, so I’m expecting much more conversation with my good buddy in the future. Maybe together he and I can finally find a winning solution that we can bottle and drink whenever we’re putting out our next work.

Either way, the discussions are inspiring, and I encourage everyone to sit down with someone and start talking about how to optimize their current products. You need to, because no matter how well you are doing, you can do better.

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