Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kiss Me or Die: Reconstructing a failed ebook

The digital age is one of great experimentation. And I've experimented wildly. I've re-edited texts, added alternate endings, changed cover art multiple times, and even changed titles, all while the book remains on sale!

My rule of thumb is, if something isn't working for readers, it's either because (a) the work sucks, which is probably the right answer but not the one I can do much about, or (b) the presentation is off. And I can do something about (b).

Sometimes the changes work, such as with The Harvest, originally published in paperback and given its title by the publisher in 2003. I never cared much for the title, which I thought was generic, so when I re-released it as an ebook, I called it Forever Never Ends, one of my original working titles for the manuscript, which was based on a song I'd written in a previous life. But the title and cover art veered from the book's real personality--which is a sci-fi/horror B-movie in text. When I finally went back to the publisher's title and gave it B-movie art, it found its audience (hit #1 in horror in the UK) and has gone on to fairly steady sales.

I changed covers for Disintegration, even though it was a Top 30 Kindle bestseller, and I even added a new ending (leaving the original as an alternate ending if people wanted to read it.) The new ending isn't a betrayal of the narrative, but rather a slightly less cynical view which better allows the readers to get what they want out of it. The book saved my sanity while I wrote it and was the bestseller that allowed me to make the move to full-time writing, so I am grateful. But I still changed the cover!
My latest re-imagining of failure is Kiss Me or Die. That is the original title of the first novel I ever wrote (not counting a Vonnegut knockoff in high school). But when I published it, I tried to get clever and call it As I Die Lying, punning on the Faulkner title. But people confused my book with the Faulkner book (I've never written anything remotely close to a Faulkner sentence--the only thing we have in common as writers is English, and that only barely), and I was too clever by half. Even my cheesy cover with the scantily clad woman (a sad ploy to cash in on the John Locke era) didn't work, nor the previous freaky cover that employed fractals and eyeballs. I was overreaching. What I was probably trying to do was scare readers away--"This book is too tricky for you."

But a book without readers is no book at all. It was so much my first love that I couldn't admit to the ugly. So I gave it a more conventional thriller cover, retitled it, and banged it back out there. As of this writing, it is still grinding through the Amazon KDP platform, so everything isn't matched up--but since the file is overwriting the existing one, no buyers or readers will be able to get it under the new title if they already own it--so I won't be inadvertently tricking anyone (the product description also notes the original title).

Changing titles is a last resort, something I only do if a project is headed for oblivion before its natural time. I don't know if Kiss Me or Die works (I used the art for a German short story, too), but with nothing to lose, I am spinning the roulette wheel. The digital age is ever moving, and ebooks are living things. And to those who liked an earlier cover better, all I can say is, "You had your chance to tell 10,000 friends to buy it!"

Of course, if this incarnation fails, this conversation never happened. If you don't love me, you die. Not much gray area there.

Free for Kindle, June 11-12 in Amazon US and Amazon UK.


E Astle said...

I read Disintegration and I did not see a new ending---I did read the original chapter 6 which went back in time of Jacob and Renee when they first met. Where can I read the new ending? The one I read was pretty interesting, I really liked the story and I am always interested in reading what other possible ending there may be (sort of like the Skull Ring and how it left you hanging---is there more to come? Is Walter part of the cult?)

obsessive compulsive dawn said...

I'm just now discovering As I Die Lying. I honestly see no reason you should have had to change it. If people are too lazy to read the title correctly, that is ridiculous. But also, I'm enjoying it as the orginial title with the weird cover art.

My wife has been a fan for quite some time and has only recently gotten me to read your stuff. Burial to Follow was awesome, and The Red Church is up next on my list.

Author Scott Nicholson said...

E,send me your address and I will send you the book with the alternate ending. It really is only a few paragraphs but it changes the mood a little. I believe I changed it in early-to-mid 2011.

OCD, yeah, I think maybe I could have made it work. Several agents liked the book, as well as a former book editor. So the "pros" thought it would do well yet it hasn't found an audience--and that is the key to everything, so it is worth it to me to change things up and try again. Thanks for the kind words and I hope you leave reviews for the books you like!

Brenda Wallace said...

You're an innovator, who is open to change, Scott, which is why you survive and thrive. I always learn something new from you.