Tuesday, June 3, 2014

SEO Butchery for Your Fantasy Novel

How many keywords can you cram into your title? I had to wonder after doing a recent Amazon search.

But first, a quick primer for the SEO uniniated: SEO is Search Engine Optimization. A fancy way to say that a search engine is more likely to find your site (or in this case: book) than someone else’s.
1) Use meaningful descriptions. As in, don’t title your website “Clifton’s Hair-Brained Adventure”, call it “A Fantasy Writer’s Adventure”. Boring, yes, but it is what a lot of people swear by.
2) Add lots of keywords that relate to your craft, site, book, whatever, and voila! You have SEO.
I was doing some research for my book’s release and searched for "epic fantasy" on Amazon. I found The Way of Kings (yes!), some Kindle e-books promoted as Free (to be expected) and a new series titled: An Epic Fantasy.

What? They really called it An Epic Fantasy? That just strikes me as odd. Clicking over, the book descriptions for ALL of the author’s work included SEO keywords galore.

Now, I'm not judging, but I wouldn't want to read something like that, nor title my own book like that. Maybe I’m making the poor business choice. Maybe this fellow is onto something. Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but what I want is a lyrical, beautiful title (The Name of the Wind, Spellwright) or something rugged, short & blistering (Feed, Low Town). Just don't call it A Novel of Epic Fantasy.

SEO could makes sense for a book, but Jordan, Tolkien, Rowling, Martin, etc. didn't set out to use popular terms, they made their own.

I say: Strive for brilliance and make your own fire. If you steal a little bit of someone else's, you may start a blaze, or you may just get burned.

All of the above said, it looks like it worked. The book was on the first page of results when I searched “epic fantasy”. They’re gaming the system and in some ways they are winning. I won’t name the author, I’m not interested in lambasting someone for the choices they’ve made. I’m just stating my opinion. If you can—in a word—“twist” your title, your characters, or your book into something else to better fit a perceived market, a demographic, or to adopt a different…something. Then I have to question how passionate you are about your creation. I can certainly change some things about my novels, but the series title? And for an indie author that holds the handles to their own business, answering to no one but themselves, it seems like a sad thing.

Yes, it is true that Google rules us all with their One Site, but in a world where everyone harkens to artificially rise in the ranks, One Thing will have to eventually differentiate. And it will have to be quality. And it will either come first, or like the crash of the videogame industry in the 80’s (with the proliferation of poor quality titles), the book industry will implode.

Not to be fatalistic or anything… Unoriginality just annoys me, and while I appreciate the fact that there are no “new” stories out there, the purpose of storytelling is still to strive forward.

Lastly: I make no judgement about the fellow using SEO in his book promotion. I don’t say that he has an inferior book, or cheap prose. I don’t know. I haven’t read it. But I will say that the way he presents the work, I am left uninterested in checking it out. And that is all that I can say.

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