Adding subtitles to your ebook on Kindle Direct Publishing

A year or or two ago, indies started adding subtitles to their books. Not to say any subtitle that pertained to their book in a way we would think. Particularly in nonfiction like:

This isn’t an endorsement. I’ve never read this book before. Shown for example.

Something like that. You have to wonder what “well” means in this instance. He publishes beautifully put-together books? Or he’s making money? Or both? Not sure. But I am glad he’s not trying to sell fake advice. So many people are these days. (Cue laughter.)

If you think about it, a fiction novel doesn’t need a subtitle, especially when you publish on Amazon where they give you space for a series name and book number.

But indies started adding subtitles to their books, and I resisted for a long time. I thought it looked tacky and I always felt if you have a specific-to-genre cover, a good blurb, and the actual title of your book makes sense, a potential reader will know what your book is about.

“Oh you poor summer child!” you’re saying. And you’d be right!

Did you ever notice that if the majority starts something, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to make them stop?

Subtitles for fiction books aren’t going away and even though I don’t like the look of them, the consensus has turned into, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Some authors started doing it to improve the discoverability of their books, but adding a subtitle may not do as much as adding pertinent keywords to your books when you publish. What a subtitle does do is tells a potential reader what subgenre your book is in, or what tropes the book has inside.

Recently I added subtitles to some of my books like All of Nothing.

What I have also seen authors do as well is add if their book is a standalone–which is actually smart and something I could/should add, too, but then you run the risk of having a lot of gobbledy-gook at the top of your product page.

If we know anything about people, it’s that they are lazy and if they see a ton of words blaring at them, that could be a turn-off, too.

Long story short: I see the value in adding a subtitle to your book–just keep the adjectives to a minimum.

If I were looking for a mystery/thriller, should I buy the one that’s only enthralling, or is the totally enthralling book better? It has a stunning ending, but the one that’s slightly less enthralling is full of twists. It’s such a hard choice!

The subtitle can’t do the heavy-lifting of a well-written blurb, but when you’re writing in a genre that has plenty of tropes, it makes sense to use a subtitle to quickly indicate what’s inside your book.

It’s a bit wordy, and I wouldn’t want to add anymore to the subtitle. It’s also a holiday wedding romance, but HIS FROZEN HEART: A STEAMY, SMALL-TOWN HOLIDAY CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE seems a bit much. Besides, I don’t play up Christmas, don’t even play up the wedding, and I figured the small-town aspect of it holds the most weight in the plot. I do like that Amazon lets you add the word STEAMY to indicate that there’s going to be sex. I’ll never get a bad review from a reader who thought it was sweet or clean.

Whether you agree with something like this or not, and whether indies are to blame for this or not, this is an area where you don’t want to be left behind. We are training readers to expect the subtitle to reveal subgenre and tropes the book holds and if your doesn’t have it, you could be setting your book up for readers to pass by.

Not everyone is going to resist as strongly as I did at first, and some of you are probably heading to your KDP dashboard right now. But if you’re having second thoughts, maybe consider the fact that traditionally published books are starting to add subtitles too.

Lisa Jackson’s books are both riveting and heartbreaking. That’s good to know! (I’ve read some of her books, and they’re also a little wordy if you ask me.)

If you want to add a subtitle to your book, you can add it to your ebook only. To add it to your paperback you have to republish your book, so it’s not worth the time (or the expense if you buy your ISBNs.) I was able to add some subtitles to a few of my books without any hassle. I also assign ISBNs to my ebooks and that didn’t prevent me from doing this. If you happened to have protected your work that way and need to know. Keep in mind this is for KDP. I have no idea how you would add a subtitle if you fulfill your orders with IngramSpark and I don’t know if this craze has bled over into other platforms like Kobo and Nook. I don’t read on those platforms and I don’t publish there.

Please remember you publish changes and you’ll be locked out of that book for about 48 hours. It has been taking KDP a little longer to process requests than it has in the past.

How do you feel about subtitles? Are you going to add them to your books? Let me know!


Writing with tropes in mind. What I learned from reading Zoe York’s Romance Your Brand

Last weekend I read Romance Your Brand: Building a Marketable Genre Fiction Series by Zoe York.

I love reading nonfiction by indie authors. It’s like being able to pick their brains without actually bothering them. An author shared a screenshot of the books on her Kindle in one of the Facebook groups I’m in, and Zoe’s book caught my eye. Zoe is a well-known in the indie publishing space as a contemporary romance writer. I first heard of her when she was a contributor of the now defunct podcast Self-Publishing Round Table, one of the first podcasts I listened to about self-publishing.

I was excited to see that she started writing nonfiction and I purchased her book right away.

I’ve written two series: one trilogy and another with four books. They don’t sell that great, but though to be fair, I don’t promote them much, either, and I thought Zoe could share some things that worked for her.

She goes through the reasons why a series is good–namely read-through and creating a world fans can fall in love with. I already know that, which is why I tortured myself all of 2019 writing one. It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but there are things you have to consider like consistency and bringing other characters into the story of the main couple because they’re all friends and people simply don’t disappear when you don’t need them at the moment.

Zoe goes into some of the planning, encouraging you to draw a map of where your series is going to take place. She writes small-town romance, and my Rocky Point Wedding Series is placed in a small town, too. I knew my series wasn’t going to be very long — I don’t have an attention span for several books, so I trusted myself to keep Rocky Point’s details in my head without writing them down. But if you plan to write 5+ books, it may be advantageous to treat your setting like a character and write a detailed sheet to keep facts straight.

Other tips she offers are keywords, naming your series, and plotting out the books. This is where my ears perked up so to speak because Zoe is a genre fiction author. She subscribes to the Venn Diagram where you need to write to market while writing what you love and finding that sweet spot to sustain a lucrative, but happy and satisfying, career for yourself.

When I plotted my series, I started with setting first. For me that’s the easy part. I set the books in a fictional small town in Minnesota based on my hometown. I even gave my town the same attributes — along the Canadian border, a shut-down paper mill, and a similar Main Street. I’ll probably always set my stories in Minnesota. I love the seasons and the variety they can bring to the plots.

Then I move onto characters. I think this is where I dropped the ball and Zoe opened my eyes that actually when I plan out my books I don’t keep tropes in mind.

Every romance novel is based on a trope or two, and while you might scoff or want to deny it because your books are better than that drivel, I need to remind you readers love tropes. The kind of trope the book contains is why the reader chooses to read your book.

While plotting my series I forgot that, and it’s why my books aren’t as strong as they could and should be. Of course my books contain tropes, but I assign the tropes after the fact when I should be planning my stories around them. Knowing the tropes I want to include beforehand will give my books a stronger spine.

What are some romance tropes? These are from Zoe’s book:

  1. friends with with benefits
  2. married to the enemy
  3. marriage of convenience
  4. enemies to lovers
  5. fish out of water (new town, fresh start)
  6. forced proximity
  7. bad boy
  8. ugly duckling
  9. unrequited love
  10. friends to lovers
  11. strangers to lovers

There are more, these is only a sample. A Google search can come up with a couple more:

  1. forbidden love
  2. age gap
  3. secret baby
  4. fake date
  5. fake marriage

You can have a lot of fun with tropes. Take forced proximity. Maybe two strangers have to share a shelter during a tornado, or the elevator stalls (that’s pretty popular) or there’s only one bed (another that’s popular). Anything where the characters need to spend a lot of time together in a close space with no chance of escape. Like a cabin during a blizzard.

Zoe encourages you to list the tropes as you plan the books in your series and I’m going to start doing that with all my books. For now I can list the tropes that my books do contain (I can list them for marketing and ad copy purposes) and going forward use new tropes as I plot.

Knowing what tropes your books includes can help with blurb-writing and writing ad copy. As Jami Albright says, tropes sell. If you can make the tropes easy for readers to see, you’ll be more apt to make a sale.

Writing a series takes a bit of planning. At least the first few books so you can fit the pieces of each book together like a puzzle. Some series can go on for a while see (Robyn Carr) and there is no way to plan twenty books at one time. But if you can list the elements you want to include in the first few hopefully consistency won’t be too big of an issue and you (and your characters) can find a groove.

Zoe’s book gave me a new perspective and I feel there are things any genre writer could benefit from. I encourage you to pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.


A note about sub-genre and tropes.

Some writers blur the line between sub-genre and tropes. The easiest way to explain the two is to give an example.

Take Aidy Award’s books. She writes curvy-girl romance. That’s her sub-genre. You know when you grab one of her books the heroine will be voluptuous. But that can’t be the plot. The plot will contain tropes that pertain to genres that aren’t only curvy-girl. Like close proximity or enemies to lovers.

Billionaire romance is another example. Maybe every single male character an author writes will be a billionaire, but those characters will have their own plots that contain their own tropes.

I have noticed that some of the bigger in the writers like Aidy focus on one sub-genre. Then they have fun with the tropes. They have an easier time branding their books and that helps marketing and sales. It’s something to think about moving forward.


If you want to grab Zoe’s book, look here. She has another book related to this one, and I’m going to grab it as soon as it’s available.

To check out her Amazon author page, and take a peek at her contemporary romance books, look here.


Thanks for stopping by!