SO WHAT’S IN A TITLE? SALES, FOR ONE THING
Lately, I’ve been asked a lot if the ongoing Ebola crisis–tentacles of which have slithered into our homeland–have done much for the sales of Plague. In short, no.
I suspect the reason for that is that people don’t know the novel is about Ebola. It’s certainly not obvious from its title. If you don’t know, Plague is about bioterrorism, specifically weaponized Ebola.
My other books, Eyewall, Supercell and Blizzard, leave little doubt about the theme of the book. Well, little doubt if you’re at all attuned to the weather. One of my friends, without knowing any other details, thought Supercell might be a medical drama.
Anyhow, in an effort to keep the title of my books to one word (easy to remember), my publisher and I struggled with the title of Plague. The working title of the novel was The Koltsovo Legacy. That was too long, didn’t convey what the book was about, and might have led people to think the novel was set in Russia. (The Koltsovo Institute of Molecular Biology in Russia was once a factory of death, a center for bioweapons research.)
We finally settled on Plague, and I don’t think anyone was happy with that, but it was the best we could come up with. That was over two years ago, long before Ebola became a household word in America. In retrospect, from a purely commercial standpoint, i. e., sales, we should have just named the thing Ebola and let it be done. Of course, not many people knew what Ebola was then, and we certainly had no idea it would become headline news in the U. S.
So what about Ebola as a bioweapon? It’s certainly possible, but not in the way I envisioned it: a bioengineered virus. It’s much simpler than that. There’s talk now of “Ebola bombers” from ISIS or other of our Middle Eastern friends targeting Europe and North America.
I guess if people are willing to strap on a vest filled with C-4 and shrapnel, and fragment themselves and whoever else is nearby, it’s not much of a stretch to envision individuals so warped or brainwashed they load themselves up with a deadly virus and walk among us.
What a world we live in.
I love the book! It is a true shame with all the ebola panic it didn’t translate into sales for you. I’d love to see you getting the recognition I feel your books deserve. Can you retitle the book, or is that major effort or not possible?
Thanks, Michael. I guess I feel ambivalent about the Ebola panic translating into book sales for me. On the one hand, I hate to capitalize on other people’s fear and misery. On the other, it is what it is, and I wrote the novel long before current events. Although the pub date was 2012, I think I had an initial draft of PLAGUE as early as 2005.
It’s probably not worth changing the title at this point. I suspect by the time a change could be effected and an advertising campaign mounted (assuming my publisher had money to do that in the first place), Ebola probably would have faded from the headlines. We seem to live in a crisis-of-the-month world.
Anyhow, I appreciate your support and hope you’re looking forward to BLIZZARD.