Monday, December 5, 2011

Don't Judge a Book by its Title

As a reader, a good title will catch your eye. As a writer, we slave over finding the best one possible, and even then, somewhere during the process of writing, revising, editing, it will get changed.



I'm not good with titles. Never have been. As a matter of fact, some have said my titles are boring.

Titles need to convey, not only the spirit of the book, but possibly a hint to the climax as well. Take these titles, for example --

WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY Kieran Kramer
WED HIM BEFORE YOU BED HIM Sabrina Jeffries
WHEN HE WAS WICKED Julia Quinn
CONFESSIONS OF A LITTLE BLACK GOWN Elizabeth Boyle

Don't they just want to make you pick them up and read them all in one sitting?

My titles are just very basic things. They don't really stand out, they don't really "do" anything. It's like I just slapped any old title on them for the sake of having one.

THE LADY'S MASQUERADE
THE LADY'S FATE
THE DUKE'S DIVORCE
THE CAPTAIN'S LADY
THE EARL'S ENIGMA

And this wasn't because I didn't try to come up with a decent title, I did. For the longest time THE LADY'S MASQUERADE was going to be THE STEWARD AND MISS HIGGINS. But then who would want to read a book about these two people when the whole premise of the book was about masquerading as someone else, and the climax does indeed take place at a masquerade ball.

The same with THE LADY'S FATE. That title originally was FOR THE LOVE OF JANE. This did nothing exciting for the plot, or the characters because Jane is a little girl and the story revolves "around" her, but is not necessarily "about" her. Know what I mean? However, I would like to add THE LADY'S FATE is particularly ambiguous as well, but it does convey a sort of little mystery -- what is her fate?

I've also been waffling back and forth with THE DUKE'S DIVORCE these days. Divorce was hardly EVER done way back when, the social mores of the time were strict, and parties involved would rather suffer through abuse, abandonment, and monetary irresponsibility than get a divorce. Hence, the idea of THE DUKE'S DILEMMA. Same premise, less harsh reality. Then again, for those of my readers who do know the era, a divorce is surely to intrigue enough to read.

So the next time you see a book with a so-so title, don't pass it by, give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes writers use up all their creativity in the writing of their books and have nothing left for the title.

At least that's what I tell myself.

Tell me -- Do you judge a book by its title?

14 comments:

  1. Your titles are short, simple, and to the point. I like that. Some titles try too hard. Fortunately, I'm not a harsh judge when it comes to titles. Probably because I'm not very good at coming up with decent ones!

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  2. I love choosing titles and am fond of alliteration. One of my next books contains the word Masquerade in the title but I'm combining it with another 'M' word. I think your titles are good as they give a flavour of what it will be about, and you're setting up a kind of brand for yourself - which is supposed to be the thing to do!

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  3. Alex -- I remember well the pain you went through with CassaFire, but that worked out really well in the end.

    Rosemary -- The titles I usually love are mostly always taken by someone else, hence my short, sweet, simple. Never thought of it as my brand, but I guess you're right! Thanks for that.

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  4. I think you titles speak to period you're writing about. They give a certain elegance and mystery.

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  5. Thanks Bish. Elegance and mystery huh? I'm all for that!

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  6. I enjoy a good title but I don't usually pick up (or put down)books because of them. I'm usually drawn to the cover and the blurb. The blurb is the biggie.

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  7. Rula -- Yeah, me too. The blurb is the draw for me as well.

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  8. Hey, I really like your titles. They're simple yet contain something in them that intrigues me.

    Last time I was killing time at the library I realized that most of the books I was drawn to were because of their titles. So I agree it can be as important as cover. And me without a title for my current WIP... :/

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  9. Nicki -- Simple. That's me. I think I would be hard pressed to decide which is the factor that sways me the most -- title, cover, blurb. I think a combo of all three really. But the blurb would have to be the final push.

    And don't worry, your title will come. And if not, your editor will give you one.

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  10. If a book has a title that intrigues, that actually says something about what's between the covers, I'm more likely to take a closer look. But often, the title has little to do with the story.

    If it's a series and it has a title scheme like Evanovich's Stephanie Plum: Sizzling Sixteen, Smokin' Seventeen, Explosive Eighteen, etc., that's a total turn off. If the titles are boring and tedious, what does that say about the story?

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  11. Viva -- I'm afraid to ask what you think about my titles. Plain and basic, yet elegant and mysterious? Hmmm...

    The only series I ever liked the titles of were Sue Grafton's. Takes a lot of gumption to be able to pull off the alphabet like that.

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  12. I love your titles, and I LOVED The Lady's Fate! I still can't wait to read A Wife for Winsbarren, it's been crazy around here lately, but it's already on my Kindle!

    I like titles that have a catchy, somewhat musical or poetic sound to them when you read them- something out of the ordinary (my first novel is called, for example, Fireworks Flowers; the second was a play on an old term: Hopeful Romantic, and the third title is currently long but may be shortened to just one word, we'll see. It depends on whether I decide to self publish or not, and what is out there at the time...

    ~bru

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  13. I think your titles fit your genre. I look back at mine and wish my YA series had a different title. It's not catchy like most of the YA series.

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  14. I don't judge it perse, but it is part of the choosing. I'm accustomed to Regencies being titled such as yours.

    If I'm looking for a new author to read, the first thing I do is look at the cover, then title, and if that catches my interest I read the back cover blurb. I do look through the book in a brick and mortar store. Online I want to see a sample of the author's writing.

    Friend recommendations (either personally or through a blog) will incline me toward a new author. I like to keep an eye on new authors and books. I've found some great storytellers that way.

    Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

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