Okay, so I go to the grocery store today and I am in the checkout lane. Impulse buy Hell, you’ve all been there. So, I’m looking at magazines and something catches my eye, hmm, Ronald Reagan at 100. Hey wait one damn minute! Ronald Reagan isn’t 100, he’s DEAD!!!!! Okay, so you must be thinking, oh that pesky National Enquirer, no my friend, this is LIFE magazine. They have done an entire special edition on a man who has been dead for…well, a long time!!
LIFE, really??? You can’t find anything else to put on the newsstand than an entire magazine devoted to a dead man? This really pissed me off. In fact, so much so that two hours later, I am sitting at my desk still seething and blogging about it. What the heck does it matter to me? It really doesn’t, not like you would think. It did, however, get me to thinking about how authors and publishers market books.
As a publisher, I try to be careful in my keywords and search options when marketing our books. I want people to be able to find them when they are looking for them. For example. We just released OUTWITTED, book two in the Sadie Witt Mystery series, by Beth Solheim. So how do you think we should make this book searchable? It’s about a senior citizen, female, who can see and talk to the dead. So I use keywords like seniors, afterlife, senior citizens, female sleuths, women slueths. It is set at a resort in Minnesota that is owned by two sisters who have a dog (Belly Lugosi) that plays pretty prominently into the stories. So I also use words like Minnesota, MN, dogs, dog lovers, mystery, mysteries, sisters, family business. All of these words would (or should) increase the chance of readers finding this book if they are searching any of these terms. This can only increase our chance of being discovered.
What is happening thought is that authors and publishers seem to want to get the most exposure they can, so they put in these random words that have nothing to do with the book because those words might lead to very active searches. I went into Kindle when I got home to see what mysteries with women sleuths were out there. I found some. But I also found J.A. Konrath? Women sleuth? Really? How about hard-boiled thriller. In my opinion Jack Daniels is a detective/cop, not a sleuth. I also found several Harlen Coben (Myron Bolitar, not a woman sleuth), Stuart Woods (Stone Barrington, so not a woman sleuth), James Patterson (Alex Cross, not a woman sleuth), J.R. Rain (Jim Knighthorse, not a woman sleuth), and numerous others who are not even close to being books about women sleuths. The ONLY thing I can figure these books have in common with that phrase is that the books actually have women in them. Many of them are dead, but they are women nonetheless.
Why does this matter? Well, to me, as a reader, it matters because it wastes my time when I go searcing for something specific and I have to wade through a bunch of crap (not that these books are crap, some of them are quite good, but that is beside the point right now) that is irrelevant to my search. It pisses me off in a big way that of the top 100 selling books at Amazon.com in the women sleuth category, over half of them are incorrectly catagorized. Where the hell are the actual books featuring women sleuths? It really irritates me that Beth Solheim’s book about a frisky 60+ woman who talks to the dead is not in that list because it has been bumped down by thrillers, police procedurals, horror, and all manner of other genre books that do not feature women sleuths, or in many case living women.
Authors and publishers note: If you want people to find your books when they are looking for a specific genre, you might actually want to mention those genres and keywords in your search functions. What happens if you don’t? You run the risk of pissing off the readers who are looking for something else and then I promise you, we will remember your names and in my case and that of many of my friends who I have whined to about this, we will not buy your books or suggest them to others just because you wasted our time and pissed us off.
Use your power for good when setting up the parameters for how readers find your book. You also should consider that if readers are looking for something tame and easy to read without having nightmares for months after reading, by misleading them into assuming that you told the truth when you classified your book as a woman sleuth book, you will lose that reader the first time your serial killer cuts out someone’s tongue and hangs in on a chain around his neck. I’m just saying.
As for you, LIFE magazine. What the hell are you thinking? Probably most of the info you killed however many trees to publish in this special edition about Ronald Regan at 100 can be found on the Internet or already in the library where more trees did NOT need to die. Come on!!!