Archive for the book titles Category

The Trigger: An Agent Dallas Thriller

I’ve had a title for my new thriller for months—The Trigger. But I started considering those powerful one-word thriller titles: Stolen, Missing, Inferno, Bombshell, Shiver, Dust (seriously, a new Patricia Cornwall), and I thought maybe I should title it just Trigger.

We developed a cover, and the single-word title looked great. I asked people in my house what they thought, and everyone said, “Yeah, I like Trigger better.” But it bothered me. Whenever I would talk about the story, I would stumble over the title. It started to sound funny.

Then my editor questioned the new title and said it made her think of a name, like the horse. So I knew it wasn’t right. Especially for people who might only see the title in text (sans cover) and be confused by it.

So I’m back to The Trigger, which works well with the story. If you’re interested, here’s the back cover copy:

Agent Jamie Dallas loves undercover assignments that get her out of the Phoenix Bureau. But when a woman and her baby disappear from an isolated community of preppers in Northern California, she knows the risk of infiltrating the armed group is dangerously high.

Inside the compound, she discovers that the brothers who founded Destiny are scheming something far more devious than kidnapping or murder. Meanwhile, her local FBI contact, Agent McCullen, is pulled from her team and assigned to investigate the murder of a woman with phony ID, found at the bottom of a motel pool.

Soon Dallas finds herself in deeper trouble than she’s ever encountered—with no way to reach her contacts. Can she break free of the brothers’ grip and stop their bizarre end-of-world plans? Will Agent McCullen identify the killer in time to help?

The Trigger is a gripping story that highlights our greatest fear—how a hacker and a fanatic with grandiose ideas can threaten civilization as we know it.

The book is scheduled for release January 1, and I have a great contest planned with a huge prize—a trip to Left Coast Crime. Get more details here.

If you’re interested in an early copy of The Trigger (ebook and some print) and are willing to be on my street team to help launch it, please email me. ARCs will be ready in about a month.

So what do you think of the title? The cover? Story concept?

The Importance of a Title

The numbers don’t lie. When my thriller was called The Arranger: A Futuristic Thriller, I couldn’t give the book away. After three days on Amazon’s free list (through the Select program), The Arranger managed a mere 1535 downloads, despite a 4.5-start rating and rave reviews. I’d already given away two books that racked up 55,000 downloads between them ,so I understood just how pathetic that number was, and I instinctively knew the problem was the title.

I originally came up with the title because it fit the antagonist, Paul. When I bounced it off my husband, he loved it and pushed for it. I keep thinking about The Gauntlet and he kept saying, “No, it’s been done.” So I put the book out as The Arranger, and that was clearly a mistake, especially when you consider I spent more on promotion for that book than any I’d ever done. <Sigh>

But the giveaway taught me that I needed a new name. And with your help, we came up with one: The Gauntlet Assassin. I made the changes, waited for the ebook to be reformatted with the new cover, and reloaded it to Amazon. Fortunately, I’d saved two days of the five-day giveaway, so I was able to list The Gauntlet Assassin for free for two days. In that time, it had nearly 15,000 downloads, and is now selling well.

Same cover, same description, same great reviews. But clearly the new name appealed to people in a way the original had not. I purposely took “A Futuristic Thriller” out of the title. I think the word future turned a lot of people off and made them think sci-fi or dystopian novel. The book is neither and set only 13 years from now.

The lesson here is that being independent allows me to makes changes and correct my mistakes.

In other news, an established production company saw a review of The Arranger and contacted me about film/TV rights. They’re reading the manuscript now. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this strange little story were made into a blockbuster film? My husband is  counting on it. 🙂

Writers: Have you changed a story’s title or cover to make it marketable?
Readers: How do you feel when writers make such changes?

Sex Sells—Or Does It?

Sex sells. That’s what marketers always say. And it seems to be true for tight-fitting jeans and toothpaste. But it is true in crime fiction? In my experience—not necessarily.

Some of the best reviews I received for my novel, The Sex Club, started out with a disclaimer like this: “I didn’t think I would like this book, but . . .” The readers/reviewers went on to say that the title (and sometimes the cover) had originally turned them away, but that they’d read it because another reader raved about it. They ended up loving the story, but still, their initial aversion concerned me. So I asked members of Dorothly L (a mystery discussion forum) what they thought about the title. Many said they would never pick up the novel in a bookstore or library because of the title.

So then I wondered: How many bookstores and libraries had decided not to stock my novel because of the title? From the comments of a few, I believe there might be many. After realizing this painful reality, I started adding this footnote to all my communications about the novel: “Despite the title, the story isn’t X-rated.”

It is not a good sign when you have to explain or make excuses for your title.

On the other hand, many writers on the CrimeSpace and Facebook networking sites have posted great comments about The Sex Club’s cover and title. One writer posted, “Judging by the title, that’s a book I HAVE to read RIGHT NOW.” Many others have simply said, “Love the cover!”

During a discussion with writers about the word sex in a crime fiction title, the reaction was also mixed. One writer said, “If sex is in the title, isn’t that a lot of emphasis, leading the buyer to think the book might be in the wrong section of the bookstore?” A quick search of Amazon brought up only one other mystery title with the word sex —Sex and Murder (A Paul Turner Mystery). But at least that author was smart enough to get the word murder in the title too.

My conclusions: 1) If I had it to do all over again, I’d change the name, 2) Bookstores and libraries are critical to sales, and authors can’t afford to alienate them or their patrons, 3) Mystery readers prefer dead bodies to warm ones.

What’s your reaction? Do you shy away from books with sex in the title? Do you mind a little sex in your mysteries or do prefer that the characters stay on task?

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LATEST REVIEWS

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
~Michelle Gagnon, author of Boneyard
The author expertly intertwines multiple story lines, presents readers with fully realized characters that readers will feel they know, and keeps the action and suspense levels high. That’s a lot to expect from an author but L. J. Sellers delivers.” ~OverMyDeadBody
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