Friday, 26 June 2015

What's In a Title?

For the last couple of months my publishing team and I have been talking titles. Primarily the title for my debut novel that will be released in April since it needed to be locked in this month to enable it to start the production process. (Side note: yes, you heard me right, ten months out from release is when the process of producing the book kicks off!)

I had given it a title but I've been writing long enough to know that publishers frequently change titles, so I did my best to hold it pretty lightly. My publishing contract means that while I get consulted on the title, I don't have veto powers, ultimately it's my publisher's decision.

Over the last few weeks we have churned through a range of possibilities from the potential through to the crazy (it featured glow worms and no, there are no glow worms in the book!). We played with the seasons the story is set in, the locations, and the themes. We wanted something that was romantic but not sappy, contemporary but not complicated. We worked through titles of other recently released and soon-to-be released titles of other contemporary romances to try and avoid anything too similar.

Which got me think about titles in general. What I love (whimsical, easy to remember, identifies the genre) and what I don't (tells you nothing about the genre, too complicated, super sappy). So let's talk. What are your favourite book titles ever? And what kind of title would make you not even interested in reading the back cover?

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To Youis about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. It will be an April 2016 release from Howard Books. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac

10 comments:

  1. Hmmm it's hard choosing titles I love out of so many books - I liked 'The Light Between the Oceans' (M L Stedman) - because its intriguing and original, refers to the setting (the Lighthouse situated between the Indian and the Great Southern Ocean) and also hints at the theme (an ethical dilemma). Much the same with 'The Book Thief' (Mark Zusak) or 'A Face Like Glass' (Frances Hardinge) gets you wondering, yet goes to the heart of the story. Any title with the F-bomb in it is likely to turn me off.

    Being a huge Tolkien fan - I love the premise of your book. That makes me want to read it though maybe the Tolkien is only a small part of the book? The title Close to You - not so much. Yet perhaps it would appeal more to avid romance readers?

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    1. Hi Jeanette, those are all great original titles! Tolkien is definitely a huge component of the book. You'd probably struggle to get through more than a few pages without some there being some kind of connection :) Yup, titles are hard. Ultimately, I had to trust my publisher that they're the expert at this and want my book to succeed as much as I do!

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  2. Yes, it's a tricky journey, choosing a title, Kara--and I'm glad you checked other novels currently or about to be out there as that can be confusing. Like Jeanette, I tend to be drawn to titles that intrigue me, such as Anthony Doerr's Pullitzer prizewinner 'All the Light We Cannot See'. It made me ask, 'Why couldn't they see the light? What is this light he is referring to?' etc. I like Kate Morton's titles that hint at some secret or mystery too eg 'The Forgotten Garden' or 'The Secret Keeper'. Why was that garden forgotten? What happened there? What is this secret that is being kept? I used to like using just the first name of my heroine as a title too, as with my earlier novels 'Helena', 'Laura' and 'Jenna', but realised after a while that that could alienate some male readers--hence I chose to call my last novel 'The Inheritance'. But there are other novels called that out there too ... sigh. There are bound to be objections, whichever one you choose, Kara, so I'd say stand firm for the one you really want, if you can!

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    1. I'm a huge Kate Morton fan too, Jo-Anne! One of the thing that often intrigues me with her books is how they're sometimes retitled for different markets. For example, in New Zealand her first book was titled The Shifting Fog, but in the UK it's the House at Riverton.

      I definitely stood firm on a few ideas that I just couldn't reconcile myself with as a title. Ultimately, I had to trust my publisher that they're the expert at this and want my book to succeed as much as I do!

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  3. 'Close to You' has me singing the old song by the Carpenters - a good thing, but it shows my age, lol.

    I really like that title. The short, punchy three-worders seem to be in vogue at the moment and I really like them. Can't wait to read yours!

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    1. That was the first thing my agent said too, Andrea! Thanks so much :)

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  4. Choosing titles has always been a problem for me. I've only had one changed by a publisher. I called my fourth Harlequin medical romance Change of Pace but it became Trusting Dr Scott. The third book apparently did not have a good rating. I had called it simply Burnout and the editor told me afterwards that in hind-sight it was too "negative' a title for a medical romance. Guess the Harlequin surveys and knowing their readers is so VERY important. However, the overall sales actually were a little over my other books.

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    1. Hi Mary, that's pretty impressive that you got to keep three out of your four titles. I was told the odds are over 50% that a book's title changes from what an author called it to what it's published as.

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    2. Kara, I'm glad you're happy with your title :) My Heartsong title stats were 2 out of 6. It wasn't until book #3 that I started to really understand the marketing hooks they were looking for in their title choices. Plus, they already had over 1000 previously used titles that couldn't be used again. Books #4 and #6 were also my first choice for titles.

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  5. I think it's even more difficult to write the title for the first book in a series. Not only do you have that title, but it is the 'model' for the others that follow, especially if some sort of branding or pattern is a concern. And then there is the name of the series.

    I cannon say that I have a favorite novel title. Maybe Red Storm Rising.

    Of my novels, maybe Relic Tech, although Flank Hawk is a close second, being my first published novel.

    Short stories seem to be easier for me to title. "Tethered in Purgatory" is the favorite of mine I've named. Unlike with novels, magazines, ezines and anthologies seem to be less interested in selecting or influencing a story's title.

    My favorite short story title?" Either "A Pail of Air" or "To Build a Fire."

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