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6/4/2011 4:12:31 PM
A Title By Any Other Name
Since many of us are not only authors now, but are acting as our own publishers, we sometimes need to change hats when necessary to achieve our goals.
This is where I'm lucky to have worked in marketing-oriented jobs for so long. I saved the hat, and it's fairly easy for me to dust it off and put it back on whenever necessary.
As writers, our goals are to write good, satisfying stories and top them off with titles that sound pretty to our ears. As publishers, our goal is to sell books. Sometimes these two goals can be at odds. Sadly, your favorite title may not be the one that gets the point across best to potential readers.
So far, I think most of the novels on my hard drive have had about 3 titles each. I tend to remember the original name and the final one, but sometimes I forget the middle one.
Not Dreaming of You started out as Finding Kiki's Caveman, but at some point I realized the title focused on only one or two lines of the story. (I'm a sucker for rhyme and alliteration, so I think I just loved the "K" sound, followed by the "C" sound.) I can't remember what the middle title was, but I finally settled on one that focuses on the central plot, which involves a dream, and still sounds like a romantic comedy.
Don't Make Me Make You Brownies began life as Acting Like Abbie. (Note the alliteration again.) I realized that title sounded pretty old-fashioned, so I tried Escaping the Chupacabra on for size. The Chupa is a thread that runs throughout the story--Abbie uses it as a metaphor for having her soul sucked out by the TV biz, then possibly having the rest of her life sucked away as a suburban housewife if she chooses Rick. However, I soon learned that a lot of people didn't know what the chupacabra was, so I moved on.
After Don't Make Me Make You Brownies started finaling in contests, I was contacted by people I didn't even know telling me how much they loved the title, and it really encompasses the theme. Abbie is struggling with what many women do--the desire to be with and take care of the people she loves, without allowing her whole life to be swallowed up by their needs.
I can't remember the original name for Always Dreaming of You, but the first title for Mia Like Crazy was On Impulse. I later decided that sounded like a suspense novel, instead of the women's fiction/romance hybrid it is.
The bottom line is, when I put my publisher's hat on, I need to use titles that are representative of the content, mood, and genre of my stories while keeping in mind what might spark someone's interest and speak to those who are most likely to become my core readership.
My advice to other authors is to take a step back from your book and think what type of book a person would imagine that title to represent. If your story is action packed, but your title sounds like it's a book of romantic poetry, you might want to rethink.
And what if you decide your title isn't spot on? How can you come up with another after all this time?
One way to do this is to make a list of all the words you can come up with that relate to your story and then try to put them together in the most compelling way.
Example: Pirate, captain, ship, sails, sword, fighting, blood, medallion, treasure, noose, love...
If you've written a gritty, action-packed pirate romance like Jennifer Bray-Weber, you might call it Blood and Treasure and use the image to convey the romance part. (See next blog about covers.)
The trick is not to get so attached to a title as an author that you can't do what's best for sales as a publisher. Because in the end, after I write the story that makes me happy, I want to sell books.