What was that book with the cowboy on the cover? Or maybe it had “duke” in the title. Maybe there was something about a wallflower? Or a courtesan? The Courtesan Wallflower? The Wallflower Courtesan and the Cowboy Duke? Or maybe it wasn’t a cowboy, but a highlander? Maybe it was both? I think there was something about scandal, too. Scandals of a Highland Cowboy? Do any of those sound interesting, or does it all feel a bit much, all together?
Take a look at any bookshelf stocked with new releases, be it library, brick and mortar store,or ebook retailer and you’re likelyl to see a few familiar words. Not the author names, though zooming in on the names of authors we’ve loved before is one of the mst natural thingin the reading world. This time, I’m talking about those clues the publishers, big, small, or indie, drop, to let us know what kind of story, and characters, we might be likely to find inside.
With the hectic pace of most of our lives, hours of casually browsing potential reads are a luxury we can’t often afford. More likely, it’s a world of one clicks and power walks through the library. Without a lot of time to make our selections, or when it’s time to pick books out for others, buzzwords or keywords, can be extremely useful. Let’s play a game, and pick out a few books from these entirely fictional titles pulled out of thin air,:
If I’m looking for a sensual Regency romance, where, out of the following, am I most likely to find that type of story?
- The Ortega Agenda
- The Real Deal SEAL
- Rogue’s Redemption
Number one might have a Spanish hero or heroine, with a plan, but it’s not our most likely prospect out of these four. Number two is a possibility, as there were knights in the Regency era, or Knight could refer to a family name, so we’ll keep a sticky note on that one. Number three sounds more contemporary and snappier with the triple rhyme, and the mention of at least one SEAL, shifting optional, but very possible. Number four, though, let’s see, we know there’s a rogue, and he’s going to find some sort of redemption. My money’s on number four, for this one.
What if I want to get a gift for a friend who loves sweet, small town contemporaries? Which one of the following are they most likely to curl up with on the porch swing?
- The Werewolf and the Unicorn
- Spotlight on Passion
- The Amish Widow’s Revenge
- Christmas on Smithton Mountain
Unless this particular small town is really diverse, number one may be a stretch on this quest. Number two’s use of “spotlight” tells me this may be a theater or Hollywood themed book, and the use of the word “passion” tells me it’s probably hotter than my friend prefers. Number three has me intrigued, so I might snag it for myself. One doesn’t see “Amish” and “revenge” in the same title, and since we know the heroine is a widow, we can get an idea of what sort of score it is she’d like to settle. How is she going to do that? Have to read it to find out.
This time, I’m sick in bed, with a twisted ankle, and the only thing that will make me feel better (besides a coconut milkshake) is a good, old-fashioned historical romantic saga. The only four books in the store that are clearly romance novels are:
- Good Girls Don’t Wear Denim
- Love Bites
- The Billionaire’s Triplet Bonus
- For His Lady’s Favor
All right, if you’ve been paying attention to patterns, you’ve likely guessed that the answer is, yet again, number four. “Lady” connotes nobility, and when we see “lady’s favor,” this is starting to sound medieval, which is a setting often used in those sweeping sagas. Just to be safe, though, let’s look at the others. Number one sounds pretty modern, and fits with the “Good X don’t Y” trope that tells us this good X is definitely going to find themselves Y-ing by the time they reach the end of the book, and odds are, they’re going to like it. This phrasing also lends itself well to series use. Did this author also write Good Cowboys Don’t Wear Gray Flannel? Sounds like some fish out of water hijinks are about to ensue. Number two packs a lot into a two word title. “Love,” of course, tells us this is romance, but that “bites” part means the hero or heroine is a dentist, right? What? Vampire? Are you sure? Okay, if you say so. Number three is pretty self-explanatory. There’s a billionaire, there are some triplets, possibly secret, and they are above whatever was expected in the normal course of things.
Buzzwords do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to attracting readers to the stories they’d like to read the most. Often, they can tell us something about the characters, setting, or tone of the book, and, if the same words are repeated through the work of the same author, we’ve got probable cause to suspect we may be in series territory. If Suzy Author’s titles include McLellan’s Lady, McLellan’s Lover, McLellan’s Leman, and McLellan’s Legacy, we can be pretty sure that those titles are linked by family. If it weren’t for the use of “leman,” which sets us in a particular time and place, we might need to look for clues as to time period and geographical setting, to see if these specific McLellans are living in the modern age, the past, or even the future. If the series really takes off and covers all of the above, you’d better be sure we’ll have our eyes peeled for McLellans on the new release shelf, no matter the setting.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you look for buzzwords when shopping for books, for yourself, or for others? If so, which buzzword will catch your eye quickest? Are you all about the dukes? Sheriffs more your style? Something else? Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us al about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.