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Category Archives: Naming And Branding Books

“X is for Xenophobe, or, ‘You’re Welcome, Ms. Grafton.’”

In developing a previous post on this blog (“On The Level(s)”), Athol and I fell into a colloquy on the use of the letter “X” in naming. I liked the name (but not the content) of FX Network’s Brand X, starring Russell Brand. Athol mentioned The X Factor, which I thought sounded like a ripoff of The X Files…and we were off to the races.

It occurred to me that any letter of the alphabet might have its own resonance, which could be leveraged in naming. “X”, with connotations of adult content on the one hand, and the unknown on the other, seemed like an especially strong candidate. I thought of comic books and movies about X-Men, and then I remembered…

Dead-perfect cover art conveys Sheckley’s off-kilter sensibility

In the thick of James Bond mania in the mid 1960s, the very talented writer of (mostly) science fiction, Robert Sheckley, came out with a spy novel, The Game of X. Sheckley took Hitchcock’s theme—ordinary man, wrong place-wrong time, finds it in himself to perform extraordinary deeds—and took it just as far as it could go. The Game of X tells the story of an average Joe, who, through a combination of extraordinary luck and perfect decision making, becomes a super secret agent. The general effect is as though Jimmy Stewart had morphed into Roger Moore by the end of North By Northwest.

Hmm…books with capital letters in the title…our next stop has to be Sue Grafton, who started her series about spunky female P.I. Kinsey Milhone with A is For Alibi, and has since worked her way through V is for Vengeance. (BTW, if you’re wondering about our choice of words in the title: turns out that “Xenocide” is not actually a word, though it has been used as the title of a 1991 science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card!)

How do I judge Grafton’s choice, purely as a marketing technique? I’d say pretty good, and we have that rarity in marketing: a side-by-side with something close to scientific precision.

 

World’s easiest graphic design gig: book covers for Sue Grafton

Karen Kijewski is a California-based author of a series of mysteries featuring tough-as-nails Sacramento resident amateur sleuth Kat Colorado…any of this sounding familiar? It should; if you read either Grafton or Kijewski, you’ll find yourself on to the ultimate Amazon “If you liked this…you’ll also like that.” IMO, the Kat Colorados are every bit as good (and individual) as the Kinsey Milhones… so why is one much more famous than the other, even though they’re working the same territory in a way we haven’t seen since The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean?

Here’s one theory: take a look at the following table…

Grafton Kijewski
  • “F” Is for Fugitive (1989)
  • “G” Is for Gumshoe (1990)
  • “H” Is for Homicide (1991)
  • “I” Is for Innocent (1992)
  • “J” Is for Judgment (1993)

 

  • Katwalk (1989)
  • Katapult (1990)
  • Kat’s Cradle (1991)
  • Copy Kat (1992)
  • Wild Kat (1994)

 

…and ask yourself the following question: I’m looking to pick up a work I know I’ll like at an airport books store, between flights; how can I remember whether or not I’ve already read a work by one of my favorite authors?

Answer: Grafton gives you an ordered taxonomy of titles, and helps you out. Kijewski…not so much.

Travis McGee, John D. MacDonald’s…

…color-coded P.I.

I first ran across the airport bookstore theory a while back when I read an article about how the novels in the Travis McGee series (by the late, lamented John D. MacDonald) got their names. (Since his passing, his works no longer dominate airport book shops, so some “high concept” for our younger readers: imagine Robert B. Parker’s Spenser gets an epiphany that he has no earthly reason to put up with New England winters and his over-educated girlfriend, and moves his operations to a Florida houseboat. A little over-simplified, but you get the idea.)

For purposes of comparison, consider these five McGee titles:

  • The Turquoise Lament (1973)
  • The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1974)
  • The Empty Copper Sea (1978)
  • The Green Ripper (1979)
  • Free Fall in Crimson (1981)

Though the colors are not in any particular order (cf. Grafton), they have the advantage of cuing people whose memories and thought processes are more visual than verbal; you don’t even need to remember the title of the last one you purchased, just whether or not the color on the cover looks familiar.

Can hardly wait for “Negroni” to come out

Let’s finish it out with one more recommendation of a personal favorite…and maybe yet another sensory-based title sequence. Though I’m far from a feminist, I can certainly enjoy a well-written work about a strong female protagonist, be she Kinsey Milhone, Kat Colorado…or my all-time favorite in this category, Chicago PD Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels. The truly amazing writings of J.A. Konrath include, among others:

  • Fuzzy Navel (2008) – 5th in Jack Daniels series
  • Dirty Martini (2007) – 4th in Jack Daniels series
  • Rusty Nail (2006) – 3rd in Jack Daniels series
  • Bloody Mary (2005) – 2nd in Jack Daniels series
  • Whiskey Sour (2004) – 1st in Jack Daniels series

Trust me on this…check these out.

Well, time for me to get back to the old Mechanical Turk, top up my Amazon account so I can order up a new “Jack” Daniels—even though Konrath has somewhat broken the pattern by calling #7 Shaken. Good or bad marketing? We shall see…

–Greg Marus

Your brand is the most powerful SEO factor

In the rush to win the search engine wars, it seems to me so many people are missing the old basics. After all, when we walk into a store and are confused by all the generic offerings, what are we likely to buy? A known brandname item of course. My book Brighter Branding: Best practices for the smaller businesses, recently released in print version, is designed to help the new businesses as well as smaller ones understand the value of consistency (and not money) in building their brand.

A great recent example of this was when I started looking online for artist painting supplies – an area I know very little about incidentally. Just when I was about to pull my hair out I saw the names and logos for Dick Blick and Utrecht. Somewhere long ago those names were branded on the back of my brain. Now I can shop in peace and compare these two only. I trust them both and don’t even want to hear about better deals at other places. Sorry folks.. but I am human too.

This doesn’t mean that leaders and brandnames in a given field can abdicate on properly setting up and registering their websites and blogs and social media. But it does show that a lot of SEO practitioners are not properly advising their clients as they are so obsessed with Google Analytics and dashboard scores etc., that they are ignoring branding.  Your search engine optimization has to take into account so much more than special words and layouts on your website. In fact, in the next version of my own eBook Brighter SEO: Organic search engine optimization I might even go back and pump up the branding section or offer the two books mentioned here as a paired deal.

 



Can young kids have fun with naming too?

The Chimona Chronicles is a new series of kids books by Rosie Reay which are set in real locations (mostly Canada) but are a delightful mixture of children plus critters that come to life. The illustration here is part of the cover picture of the first book How Kelvyn Got His Name showing Chimona (a chipmunk) working on his MacBook. Guess what he is doing? Working on a spreadsheet of names!

Throughout this book, as well as the second book Salquin to the Rescue, characters are introduced that all have interesting names and personalities that kids can relate to. Plus the accompanying website provides more  details for the older children, or their parents, who want to know their favorite characters better. It also includes a glossary for some of the more unusual place names and international words, as this book is written and released for a global audience.

We do not often see or hear of any new naming book, let alone an early reader for kids novel, so we must nominate this book for a big name award. By day, Rosie Reay is a professional namer for Brighter Naming, so there is a lot of reality tied up in this naming process which she describes for all the critters of Okanagan Lake.