Friday, July 10, 2009

Let's Talk About Titles

I was browsing around Borders last night with a friend and a S’More Mocha thinking, So many books, so little time, when one book’s title jumped off the shelf at me: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Have any Edit Café readers read this book? I think that’s such an intriguing title and the story sounds pretty good, too.

I’m curious how you come up with your titles. Do they come easily or do you agonize over them? I know I sometimes find it difficult to help brainstorm with an author for the best title, and other times the ideas flow quickly. I guess it depends on how creative I’m feeling, but it can be so hard to sum up a book in just a few short words.

Often when a book is accepted, especially in the full-length line, the title needs to be changed. Reasons for that can include the title being the same or too close to another Barbour has published, the title isn’t doing its best to represent the story, and most often because the title needs to have a certain ring to it that has appeal for the market. In Heartsong, of course, that “ring” needs to be a romantic sound that readers are drawn to.

Here are some recent and upcoming Heartsongs that I particularly like the titles of:
The Superheroes Next Door by Andrea Boeshaar
Remembrance by Janet Spaeth
Stillwater Promise by Becky Melby and Cathy Wienke
Under the Tulip Poplar by Diane Ashley and Aaron McCarver
All That Glitters by Lynette Sowell
Finding Home by Jennifer Johnson
Picture Bride by Yvonne Lehman
The Bartered Bride by Erica Vetsch
Autumn Rains by Myra Johnson
Fire and Ice by Susan Page Davis

Based on how well they fit the story and/or how well you think they attract a reader to the book, what are some of the best titles you’ve read or seen?


Aaron McCarver said...

Wow, thanks JoAnne! Titles can be so difficult as they are so important. We chose the titles for our Tennessee stories based on symbols from the state. The tulip poplar is the state tree, so we picked "Under the Tulip Poplar." We then worked and planned on how to incorporate the symbol into the story without referring to it as the symbol as it was not yet adopted as such when our story takes place. We use the state flower, iris, and the state bird, mockingbird, for books #2 and #3. A title I have really loved lately is "Petticoat Ranch" by Mary Connealy. That title says it all--historical and hysterical. The others in the series, "Calico Canyon" and "Gingham Mountain," are great, too. I also really like the title of the upcoming release by Annalisa Daughety, "Love Is a Battlefield." Perfect for a romance in a national park. The series title is great, too, "A Walk in the Park," as is the title of book #2, "Love Is Monumental." Barbour, including Heartsong Presents, is doing a great job with this!

Mary Connealy said...

I really liked the titles of Carol Cox's "A Fair to Remember" series.
Loved the series title, too.

Ticket to Tomorrow

Fair Game


A Bride so Fair

I am partial to the title of the second book in my Montana Marriages series, The Husband Tree. Becuase The Husband Tree is where Belle Tanner buries all her worthless husbands when they die. Thus the name of the tree.

And through-out the book she and her daughters refer steadily to 'the husbands' as if they were one entity rather than three individuals. When the new man comes along, he's got his work cut out for him to find his place in this family.

Susan Page Davis said...

I think the trend right now is toward short titles, but I find longer ones (like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) are sometimes a better fit and give the reader a better picture of the story. I don't like it when my titles are changed, especially when I think I have a unique one and the editor wants to change it to something generic. (I am not talking about any Barbour editors here). I understand about similar titles and trends, though. One odd thing--I recently found myself changing my story so that it better fit the "new" title the editor chose. One of my titles that I like is Trail to Justice, my May Heartsong. It refers to both the setting (a 100-mile trail ride) and the suspense elements of the book. And although I haven't read this book (and can't vouch for content), I saw a review and LOVED the title: Agnes and the Hitman.

Vickie McDonough said...

Some titles come easy, and others are like nailing Jello to a moving wall. I'm working on a proposal for a sequel to a book I'm writing now called The Anonymous Bride. I wanted each story to be the same except for a different 'A' word. I sat down with a dictionary and thesaurus and hunted for words that fit my story. I found two that are pretty good.

For one book, I thought up a title--The Bounty Hunter and the Bride--and wrote a book to go along with it. I sure was glad my editor didn't change it. :)

I always try to make my titles have something to do with the story or the characters.

Edna said...

A title can draw you to a book, I know because they do me. It is the first thing you will look at and then the author, May God bless all of you.


Erica Vetsch said...

Yay! I'm so glad you liked The Bartered Bride for a title. Not sure what we'd have come up with otherwise. It must be getting more difficult the more the line grows.

Some of my favorite titles are from Dick Francis books and Sarah Graves books.

Dick Francis's titles always have at least two meanings. One for horse racing and one for a mystery. Like his latest two, DEAD HEAT which is about a celebrity chef who caters to the racing world in England, and SILKS, about a lawyer in England. (When you get high enough in the legal world in Britain, they call you a Silk.)

Sarah Graves's debut novel, THE DEAD CAT BOUNCE (which is actually a stock market term for a stock that is losing value quickly but rallies briefly before plunging to the basement) caught my eye because of the title. The heroine is a former money manager on Wall Street and the book is a mystery.

Titles come to me usually before I start writing the book, and so far, I haven't had to change any, but I'm sure the day's coming. :)

Diane Ashley said...

I am so glad you like "Under the Tulip Poplar." One of the advantages of writing as a team, as well as being part of a fantastic writers' group, is being able to kick around ideas until the perfect title is found. Two of my all-time favorite titles are "Abomination" and "Anathema" by Colleen Coble. They were each single words with such a wealth of meaning. As a beach lover, I also often choose titles that mention the ocean, ships, islands, etc. And if the cover shows a tropical beach, the book is usually going home with me.

Myra Johnson said...

I'm honored to see my title included in your list, JoAnne--thanks! I confess I do struggle to come up with just the perfect title for a manuscript. Often it's based on the thematic Scripture (as is Autumn Rains). Sometimes I have to get a big chunk of the book written before a symbol or idea catches hold and sparks a title idea.

In any case, I do think titles are a vital selling point. I love all Mary Connealy's titles. A novel I recently read with an intriguing title is Joyce Magnin's The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow.

Lynette Sowell said...

JoAnne, I'm glad you like my title! I have to say, I like short titles, or titles that are a play on words without being too hokey. I also like poetic titles that roll off the tongue but aren't too long. If I'm not familiar with an author, a catchy title will grab me and make me pick up the book and turn it over to see if that blurb grabs me too. Sometimes titles come easily, sometimes as you said, it's not so simple.

Lance said...

For me titles are the best part. Some of my deepest ponderings are on the two, three or more words that define a work I've poured so much effort into. On the other hand, sometimes it's like grabbing the can of whip cream, anticipating the lucious foam that will complete my bowl of strawberries, and finding it empty.