So I rented John Carter this weekend as a last resort. There was nothing else that appealed to me, so I shrugged and added it to my cart. It’s only about $1, right? Well, it was actually pretty entertaining. I liked the concept and it had some cool twists near the end. So, why was it a last resort movie? I have two reasons.
1. The title! Sure, it’s the guy’s name, but it’s a really generic, boring name. It’s not like Xena: Warrior Princess. Though, even then, we’re given a succinct description. When I hear John Carter, well, I just hear John Carter. And I’d never heard of the books, so it meant nothing to me.
2. The preview clips left me completely befuddled. Is it sci-fi? Is it YA? Is it Star Wars? I had no clue and even less interest in spending $12 to find out. All I saw in the previews was that guy who played Gambit in Wolverine flying through the air in a loin cloth. I shook my head and went to see something else.
Now, I know I’m not the only one who passed on John Carter because I read it flopped at the box office, despite a lot of promotion and the name Disney attached to it. As indie authors, what can we learn from this? Packaging (primarily the title, cover, and description) should appeal to your audience and offer a clear glimpse of what they can expect.
If you think sales might improve with a new cover, description, or even title, go for it! Your book is not a one-shot deal like John Carter. They made mistakes, unfortunately, and now it’s too late. But you have the power to start afresh when something isn’t working.
I’ve remodeled the covers and descriptions of two books, and I’m now brainstorming a new title for one of them. My first book, Dead Locked, started to sell steadily once I revised the cover and blurb.
It may take more than one revision to get everything right, but the beauty of it is that you have the chance. So embrace it. And then for goodness’ sake, go rent John Carter.