A few years back Jennifer Ashley and I did a workshop on Title & Premise and how writers could get the interest of editors, agents or readers before they even started the book. Today, I want to concentrate on the title part.
A lot of writers skip skip working on a title or figure that it’s not that important because it’s only likely to change anyway. And while it’s true that the writing is what will sell your book, the title can lay a lot of groundwork for you.
I’ll never forget the day colleague Chris Keeslar swung by my office all excited: “I just got this proposal called THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER. I haven’t even started it yet, but don’t you just love that title?” Fortunately, Leanna Renee Hieber‘s writing lived up to it.
A good title will:
- Indicate the genre
- Give a sense of the tone
- Provide continuity for similar/series titles
- Intrigue the reader
Julie Kenner (The Givenchy Code, Carpe Demon) and Katie MacAlister (Love in the Time of Dragons; Sex, Lies and Vampires) are some of my ultimate heroes when it comes to clever titles. But a title doesn’t have to be particularly clever or humorous. Because, remember, it has to fit the tone of the book.
How to come up with a good title:
- Figure out what best conveys your style. Is it sexy? Funny? Dark? (all three?) Are you trying to convey a certain time period?
Let’s use Jennifer Ashley’s paranormal-historical Nvengarian series as an example. Our theme: Fairy Tales
- Brainstorm lists of words that convey the style you’ve chosen.
- Prince Charming, Once Upon a Time, Happily Ever After
- Start playing around with those words and combining them with other aspects that make your work unique. Look for rhymes, alliteration, wordplay. Keep in mind that it needs to be able to fit on a mass-market cover and still have room for the art.
- Penelope & Prince Charming has great alliteration and works in the fairy-tale theme.
- The second book in the series was tougher. Nothing in the list above sounded original enough. So Jennifer concentrated on the time period with a rhyme and came up with The Mad, Bad Duke. It’s clearly Regency set–a play on Lady Caro Lamb’s words about Byron “He was mad, bad, and dangerous to know”—which Regency readers recognize. It also sounds playful and sexy.
- With the third book featuring a fun-loving Scot, we came up with Highlander Ever After, again pulling in that fairy-tale theme.
Where to find inspiration for your titles:
- imdb.com – The Internet Movie Database
- your CD collection
- rhyming dictionaries
- regular dictionary
- advertising slogans
Most of all, brainstorming should be a fun process, not a hair-pulling one–even if it feels like it sometimes. Just stick with it, don’t be afraid to ask everyone you know for suggestions, and go with what feels good.
And a totally shameless plug that has more to do with art than titles: Check out Jennifer’s PRIDE MATES on Clash of the Covers this week.