Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A New Title for a Terrific Book:

by Libby Sternberg

Joyce Yarrow is a wonderful mystery writer whose Jo Epstein books featuring a female poetry-writing private investigator remind me of Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series with its quirky female protagonist and layered mysteries. Although Joyce's books are fully her own imaginative creation, they should appeal to the same readers of the bestselling alphabet-titled Grafton series.

In other words, Joyce Yarrow's mystery-writing skills deserve a big audience.

The second in Joyce's Jo Epstein series is released through Istoria Books in digital format. In it, PI Jo attempts to clear her Russian emigre stepfather of a murder he didn't commit, an investigation which takes her to New York and ultimately Russia where she unearths secrets about his past. It's as intricate and layered as the Russian nesting dolls in its original title, The Last Matryoshka.

Personally, I loved that title--once I figured out how to pronounce it! (Mah-troo-shkah is close.) But therein lies the rub. Would other readers stumble over its title, too, not bothering to learn more about the book?

We began to wonder if the title's unpronounceability was a barrier to purchasers. Readers browsing mystery titles for ones they might like encounter a compelling cover with some Russian onion domes, a female PI....and...what is that title again?  Hmm...on to the next one...

For some speedy book buyers, an unfamiliar, unpronounceable title might have them skipping quickly to other selections, in other words, before reading more about Joyce's great book.

So....we've done something that would be extremely difficult to impossible in the print world but is fairly easy in the digital world--we've officially retitled the book CODE OF THIEVES, taking the book off digital shelves and reloading it with its new title, but keeping it linked to the hardcover version that carries the other title.

CODE OF THIEVES communicates mystery and the underlying premise of the book, the inner workings of the Russian criminal class, the vory.

We're hoping that this new title -- CODE OF THIEVES (we love it so much, I have to repeat it!) -- will keep mystery lovers on the page to read more about the book, its terrific reviews and Joyce Yarrow.

This is one of the benefits of digital publishing--it allows publishers to be nimble, to experiment, to never give up on a book that deserves as wide an audience as possible.

Now, go on over and pick up a digital copy of CODE OF THIEVES by Joyce Yarrow! Now that you can pronounce the title, what are you waiting for?

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