Singing The S.E.O. Blues

Okay, I admit it. I’m a hypocrite. I google stuff, and like being able to find things with ease. But when it comes to my own writing, I resent submitting to the tyranny of search engine gods.

A quirky, cantankerous individualist and psychotherapist both, I’d be equally at home leading or participating in a group for obsessive neurotics. That seemed like a good premise for a humorous memoir. So I wrote one. Now it’s time to come up with a title.

The internet, and search engine optimization, has fucked this up no end.

As one who remembers “Wonderama” and Mike Douglas (I know I didn’t just admit that), I’m wildly dismayed that choosing a title revolves around search words. It puts an effective kibosh on all of my ideas, ranging from the cute to the cryptic to the edgy. Except, of course, for the one that I hate. But I’ll return to that later.

Consider this: In today’s world of S.E.O., a book titled “Catcher in the Rye,” “The Bell Jar,” or “Wuthering Heights” would never find readers. “The Sun Also Rises” would get hits from people seeking a weather report, and “Moby Dick” would attract perverts.

Here are some of my ideas for my own book’s title, all of which have been squashed:

1. “Both Sides Of the Couch.” Can’t have it: I’m told it’s not funny, and will probably just draw people who are carpet hunting. Even with a subtitle (“Tales of a neurotic psychotherapist in need of a personality reduction”) I’m warned strongly against.

2. “Off Kilter.” This is summarily disallowed. No one googles “Off Kilter.”

3. “Striving For Kilter.” I like it, but wouldn’t dare suggest it.

4. “Askew” or “Unglued.” Disposition-wise, I generally alternate between the two. But some days I’m both. Either title would do me proud. They’re both waved out of the park.

5. “Where’s My Other Sock?” I think it’s cute, but the mere thought would give an agent or publisher night terrors.

The title I thought of but can’t stand is “Coping Is for Losers.” Amusing, perhaps, but from a literary standpoint, a sure mark of disgrace.

Search engine optimization is one of my top banes, right up there with asshole parkers, wailing babies, and the price of pretzel M&M’s.

It does, however, present one gleaming positive.

Finally, I get to throw my arms up and declare, “I can’t work like this.”

Love On the Fire Escape II | The Beet Green Incident

28 Responses to “Singing The S.E.O. Blues”

  1. Lynne Favreau says:

    WTF? I realize I’m nursing a two day hangover and my head was primed for wanting to explode anyway, but why the hell would you be considering SEO for your book title? Or let me rephrase that, I know why, you’ve been brainwashed, but why are you falling for it?

    Titling your book based on SEO is a big problem. You aren’t selling your book to a search engine. Your selling it to people, to readers, who will find you through friends and family and personal connections. They will sell your book-you know, if it’s any good.

    Show me the data that getting your book to pop up in the first five spots of a search engine translates into a readership. Which is not the same as selling a few more units that never get read.

    Your title should be about your book, be funny (cause I’m assuming it will be) and convey a message. I’m already going to buy it because I love your writing so what you title it should be a reflection of you, the person we are all following.

    BUYERS-your READERS will not be finding your book via SEO. Only by the most happenstance (the title of my first novel) of circumstances can I see finding a book that way. Do you ever find a book that way? I’ve never put in humorous memoir looking for something to read.

    I mean, who do you imagine reaching with a SEO Title?

    Next thing your going to do is tell me your selling it for 99.cents and Amazon is going to “LET” you give it away for free. Gah! my head.

    I loved Mike Douglas! And Merv. Tootie Fields was so funny.

    • I love what Lynne said here:

      You aren’t selling your book to a search engine. Your selling it to people, to readers, who will find you through friends and family and personal connections. They will sell your book-you know, if it’s any good.

      And I second that!

  2. June O'Hara says:


    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support in trusting my gut. You said,”Show me the data that getting your book to pop up in the first five spots of a search engine translates into a readership.” I think you’re absolutely right. And yes, it’s been suggested that I consider the $.99 Amazon thing. Ugh. This stuff makes me nuts, mostly because I don’t know whose advice to trust.

    Thank you again for your honest thoughts and support. I appreciate it.

  3. Nicky says:

    What Lynn said? Ditto.

    Seriously, why don’t you email Jayne over at InJaynesWorld and Margaret from Nanny Goats In Panties? Besides being incredibly talented, they’ve both self-published, hard copies as well as ebook versions, and they could both probably offer some good advice.

    And I know it wasn’t a title choice, but for what it’s worth, I think “I Can’t Work Like This” is pretty catchy.

  4. Kat Ward says:

    When I read your post, I kinda freaked, thinking that my novel “Amy’s Own” is doomed! So in regard to fending off an impending angina attack, I’m really liking Lynne’s response!

    I actually like “Askew” and “Unglued.” And what about a combo title:

    “Where’s My Other Sock? Coping is for Losers, by a Neurotic Psychotherapist.”

    Whatever you come up with, I’m looking forward to reading your book!

    • June O'Hara says:

      Kat, I know. The happiness at reading Lynne’s answer! And I’m glad for your input. I do rather like “Unglued” (in fairness I must admit, my boyfriend came up with that one.) But a combination is a great idea. Something to think about.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Cheryl P. says:

    I would buy it with any of the titles but I esp. like Coping Is For Losers. Shows what I know…nothing about publishing a book. Leah over at Eating Life Raw is just getting through the self publishing route with her novel. She too is very nice and might be a source of information.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  6. June O'Hara says:

    Cheryl, How funny that you like “Coping is for Losers.” I’d love it on another book, but on mine it just doesn’t quite fit.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and for your input! It would be great to see you again.

  7. First of all, can’t wait to read it. Second, you mean I was supposed to do all that SEO crap before I picked a title? I don’t dare run “Suitable for Giving” by Google now. I’m sure the response will be Suck City. Wait. That may be a good title. Wish I could give you some advice, but SEO is all Greek to me.

  8. June O'Hara says:


    I’ll be thrilled to have you read my book.

    Suck City! I hate to say it, but LOL!

  9. Babs says:

    Though I’ve never written a complete book yet and certainly never published, I do agree totally with what Lynne Favreau said. Google is not so important that it determines your success. It’s bad enough trying to make a blog title SEO friendly, but a book is worthy of better. YOUR book is worthy of a title you like, not SEO.

    If I was looking to buy a book, Google would be the last place I would go. If I was searching for something and a book title showed up, I would bypass the link and go for what I was looking for in the first place.

  10. Ditto again (is that redundant) on the SEO b.s. It’s all messing with the artist in us. Your gut will never steer you wrong. Personally, I really like Coping is For Losers. I’d pick it up. It’s catchy, sarcastic, my kind of humor.

    • June O'Hara says:

      Girlfriend Mom,

      Yes! This stuff can really mess with your mind! And I think “Coping is for Losers” is a great book title, I just don’t like it for mine.

      Thanks for your opinion!

  11. PS: I love the title “Both Sides Of the Couch.”

  12. Brenda says:

    Writing books (to me) is like raising a child. Bare with me, think of little Joey. When I had my first baby, I was ever in those damn how to books. I was clueless about being a mom so I continually looked up this and that… honestly, it was exhausting. Fast forward a few years to when I take up the passion to create, to write, there I am again, opening books, how to, this and that… Am I exhausted? O.M.G. YES. Now we blog. We blog – for brand recognition, to have a platform, for numbers, for followers, for …. . No, I am not done bitching nor have I made my point. All of this writing for others to take notice is part of the process for undiscovered talent. We are the marketing department for our selves, so yes, we have to do it. BUT.. we don’t have to follow the books by verse and chapter, sometimes we have to just trust our intuition, go with it. As I did with my daughter. I stopped looking up how to and went with my gut, which is what I do with my writing.

    OK.. fame and the agent isn’t mine yet, but I am not interested in writing a post that conforms to yet another rule. Also, I don’t find SEO engines all that sexy. Give me a real reader any day.

  13. June O'Hara says:

    Thanks so much for such for your wonderful comment, Brenda. You’re spot on. And an absolute gem.

  14. Ben Ellard says:

    Coping is for Losers is a winner.

  15. June O'Hara says:

    Oh boy. Maybe I’ll have to consider it. Ugh!

  16. Lauren says:

    Listen to Lynne! I wouldn’t worry about a title until you start querying agents. Honestly, the title will probably pop into your head while you’re doing dishes or taking a shower. Don’t sweat it! As a respected armchair shrink, I would say that you’re looking for a distraction. : )

    Very funny post.

  17. June O'Hara says:

    Thanks, Lauren! And yes, I should turn my attention elsewhere…

  18. I personally like “Coping is for Losers”

  19. June O'Hara says:

    Thanks for the input, Lisa!

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