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Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, October 22 2016

Our Round Robin Blog for October is How important is a title? What attracts you to a certain title, and how do you determine what to title your book?

One of the first books that I wrote bore the title WORRY STONE while I was writing it and right up to the moment when my publisher decided all the books in that series had to have a similar sound to them. It got renamed, and I’m only partly reconciled, but my editor has more experience in what catches someone’s eye and makes sales than I do, so I bowed to her wisdom. But that title was important to me because the small smooth stone that sat on my desk while the book was being written was a worry stone – as my heroine explained it to my hero when she gave it to him, a small stone you carry in your pocket to feel and fiddle with when you’re worried or stressed. That little stone was my writing talisman, and it appeared many times in the book, mostly when my hero was stressed about something, and tying it to his relationship with her. But maybe I’m the only one for whom that title would be important.

Sometimes I think titles catch one’s interest because they provoke a question. Like THE THINGS THAT THEY CARRIED. The title is intriguing, but it really doesn’t tell you much of what the story is about. Neither does OUTLANDER which is even less attention getting without the cover art to draw the eye. Back when Books like YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, or GONE WITH THE WIND were first published, most books were in hard cover and didn’t have elaborate cover art to draw attention, so the title was the entire first impression one got. Today things are very different and I think the title is far less important than the art it is printed against.

Take BLACK ICE – there are probably a number of books by that title, but the one I read was about Detective Harry Bosch, the other cover I saw was for a very different kind of story and the two very different covers were far more influential than the title of the book. My first mainstream novel was WHATEVER IT TAKES. Not being very savvy about titles, I didn’t realize there were half a dozen books by the same title and my book didn't appear until page 2 or 3 on the Amazon listing if you didn't include my name. Other covers with that same title were a wide range of genres and many were romance, which mine definitely was not. When my publisher re-released it earlier this year, we chose to retitle it as well, changing it to THE CANDIDATE, which was a lot more specific to the story line.


I think when I used to find nearly all my reading choices at the local library where books are shelved spine out and only the title was showing, I paid a lot more attention to titles as a reader. Today it’s the cover art that captures my attention, in spite of the old adage about judging a book by its cover. I think some authors go out of their way to make titles obscure - GIRL ON A TRAIN leaps to mind. And the cover art is just as obscure. It's been a hit, but I doubt the title had much to do with its ratings. The kinds of titles that do grab my interest when it's not an author I'm already following promise me something I'm pretty sure I'm going to like. One recent non-fiction title that caught my interest was DUSTOFF 7-3. I know what a Dustoff is and I know I'm probably going to enjoy reading the exploits of a pilot who risks his life to save wounded soldiers. My most recent release is titled HEALING A HERO, a title that would have attracted my interest as a reader and I hope any other reader of romance who is touched by heroes who might have a vunerable spot either physically or emotionally. But I think, with all the graphics available now, both on the printed cover or online, an intriguing title is a lot less important than a unique title and an eye-catching cover.   

But that's just my take on titles - check out how these other authors view the importance of titles.

A.J. Maguire
Helena Fairfax
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Margaret Fieland
Rachael Kosinski
Rhobin Courtright

Marci Baun

Judith Copek

Victoria Chatham

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  8 Comments  |  Email
We had much the same take on titles, and I think cover images are important, too.
Posted by Rhobin on 10/22/2016 - 09:31 AM
There have been times when I've chosen a book just from the title and the cover art. Both are important.
Posted by Margaret Fieland on 10/22/2016 - 10:15 AM
I think cover art is as important as the title. For me, even if the cover art is good, if it's a lame title, I won't buy it. What's a lame title? That's objective. :) Personally, I have no interest in reading Girl on a Train. First, the title. Second, not my genre. :)
Posted by Marci Baun on 10/22/2016 - 11:36 AM
Skye, I'd get very upset indeed if my publisher changed the title of one of my books. It's as bad as renaming a character or something. If the title was inappropriate, likely to crash sales or something, advice to that effect would be OK, but something like "Worry stone" seems intriguing, and if it was thematic, why not leave it?
Posted by Bob Rich on 10/22/2016 - 07:11 PM
I'm up there with Margaret - I bought a book with a gorgeous cover, great title but it was the most awful mishmash and swiftly went down the tubes. I didn't finish reading it.
Posted by Victoria Chatham on 10/22/2016 - 11:13 PM
Hi Skye, I tend to go for cover art, too, rather than the title. I like your title Worry Stone but I think I'd have done the same as you if the editor suggested changing it. We have to find titles that are going to appeal to readers. I'm not very confident about doing that myself, and so I'd bow to someone's better judgment. Nowadays every title seems to have the word "Girl" in it. I guess that's what sells...
Posted by Helena Fairfax on 10/23/2016 - 08:55 AM
I loved your juxtaposing identical titles next to each other. Sometimes it's hard to come up with a title nobody else has picked. The Things They Carried was excellent once you got a little ways into the book. It was a wonderful, heart-breaking novel. Thanks for a good post.
Posted by Judith Copek on 10/23/2016 - 11:25 AM
Loved the juxtaposition of the identical titles. I thought The Things They Carried was an excellent title and once one got into the book it was very meaningful.
Posted by Judith Copek on 10/23/2016 - 11:27 AM

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