My solo show “Year of the Slut” was a hit on stage. I performed the show in Los Angeles and New York City and even won an audience choice award for the production. I had no problem purchasing ads in The Village Voice and Time Out NY. I actually had the title first and wrote the show around the title. “Year of the Slut” instantly grabbed people’s attention and was enough to get them out of the house into the theatre. I was proud of how clever and catchy it seemed to me and at all the reactions I got when people heard it.
After the show’s success in New York I was encouraged to adapt the story into a novel, the title was so compelling people said they would buy the book based on the title alone. Fast forward to October 2018, I launched my debut novel “Year of the Slut” on Amazon and Kindle and was overwhelmingly excited to be a published (albeit self-published) author. I hired a marketing manager to help me with some social media ad campaigns. This is where it all went south.
Due to the word slut the book was censored from getting any ads approved on all social media platforms and we couldn’t find any way around it. We tried for months. How can you sell a book when you can’t advertise? We couldn’t. I was able to get into some chick lit book promos that send eblasts directly to their subscribers, but that was not a viable solution, without access to reaching a wider audience with Amazon, Facebook and Instagram ads it felt impossible to get the word out beyond my friends and family. I was even turned down by two publicists because of the title.
After about a year of struggling with the title, my colleague Stacy Dymalski (www.thememoirmidwife.com) suggested I change the title. My entire body went tense at this suggestion. I had the title before I even had the story, and the title was why the show was so successful (at least that’s what I believed). First of all, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of changing the title, it fit too perfectly with the story, and second I didn’t want to! I was beyond resistant. Sure I believed the show was good, but that doesn’t matter if no one comes; people came to my show because of the title. I felt the book’s success was dependent on the title, only I was wrong, the title was a huge obstacle standing in the way of its success. It took me some time to realize this.
It was January 1st 2020. My book was dead in the water. I was in the middle of rereading Napoleon Hill’s “Think And Grow Rich” as I do from time to time and was already a few chapters in. That morning when I opened the book I was finally able to accept the message I didn’t want to listen to…The chapter talked about an author that couldn’t sell his book and ultimately decided to change the title. That one change allowed the book to become a huge success. It was too much of a coincidence that on the first day of the new year that was the first thing I read.
I got over myself, I got over my ego and I got over my attachment to my title. I got over my idea of how I wanted things to be and took a good look at what was. I remembered the statement ‘you can be right or you can be happy’ and meditated on that for a while; fighting for my title was a fight to be right, changing the title to make way for success would be letting go to allow happiness (or success). The title change also meant an entire rebranding was in order and this would be costly, new artwork, new domain and website, new ISBN and the list goes on. I resolved to do what I had to do for the book’s success.
It took a while, I was able to come up with a title I was happy with, got all my ducks in a row and re-launched the book in November of 2020. I was able to purchase ads, work with a publicist and in less than one year “Year of the What?” was a #1 Best Seller on Amazon and awarded the Literary Titan Silver Book Award.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons in this process, the title that made the show successful on stage is what killed the story in print. This is a challenge I never would have anticipated. Had I not been open, persistent and flexible this book would still be dead. Thanks to some wise colleagues, Napoleon Hill, and getting over myself I was able to turn a failure into a success.