A Title by Any Other Name . . .

While at Barnes & Noble recently I overheard a conversation between two teenage girls in the Young Adult section. It went something like this:

“You know how they say you can’t judge a book by its cover?” Girl #1 said.

“Yeah?” Girl #2 said.

“That’s so not true. You totally can.”

“I know, right?”

I agree—at least as far as being able to judge whether a book is the kind you generally like to read, which is what I think these girls were talking about. The content, of course, has to be read to be judged fairly.

Today I want to talk about book covers and more specifically, book titles. Cover art is usually not something an author has any control over. And while publishers do change titles, at least there’s a chance that they might actually like your original title and stick with it. Especially if it’s catchy and attention-getting.

For example, a YA novel by Lish McBride has a title I love—Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. I have no idea if it’s her original title or not. I checked the book out from the library just because of the title. It’s paranormal, I think, or maybe just horror, and that’s definitely not the type of book I usually pick up. But with a title that good, I have to read it. I also think the title is funny because I doubt most teenagers even get the joke. (Please forgive my ageism!)

So how do you come up with a catchy title? I don’t know. Maybe that’s something for creative marketing people to do. But I figure a writer should give it her best shot. A title needs to reflect the genre and tone of the story. With my historical fantasy novels, An Inherited Evil and Magic’s Lure, the titles came relatively easily. I just played around with theme and the ideas in the stories. With my contemporary YA romance, Counting Winks, the title jumped out at me while I was writing. I wanted it to be fun and maybe whimsical, and I hope it is. But it also suggests romance.

Still, as much as I like these titles, I’m keeping an open mind. Who knows if a better idea might come along? Or if a future publisher will ask for several more options for titles?

Finding just the right title isn’t always easy. Many writers struggle with this. We work and brainstorm, yet still nothing seems to fit. But take heart! There are a lot of resources out there. Sometimes you’ll find the perfect title through a classic novel—Pride and Prejudice, anyone? (How many variations on that title are there now?) Or poetry, or the bible, or Shakespeare. The bard’s words boast an amazing number of book titles—The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, Perchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker, The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth, and tons more.

So, writers, how do you come up with titles for your work? Where do you go when you’re stuck?


6 Responses to A Title by Any Other Name . . .

  1. Kirby Larson says:

    I believe Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions; would we still be reading it today, if so? I wonder!!!

  2. Tricia says:

    I wonder, too, Kirby. And would “First Impressions and Zombies” have worked as well? 😀

  3. Kate says:

    How do I come up with titles? Well . . . they either come to me like magic. ^_^ Or, I ask mom. Or I ask other people. Or, (like some novels) they wander around with nothing more than a working title and have the title changed all the time when it suits me for pitching. Someone else is going to have final say on it anyway, right? ^_^

  4. Tricia says:

    Yes, someone else will have the final say on it. But I find having a title I like helps me envision the final product. Also, asking mom is always a good thing! 😉

  5. Sometimes a title will just pop into my head, but often I’ll ask my writing buddies for a brainstorming session. They know the story, and are so creative!

  6. Tricia says:

    I agree, Leslie. Writing buddies are creative and great for brainstorming with!

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