Title Terrors

Cat 243 Dover by Mary Jo

I’m madly trying to finish my first young adult historical fantasy, so today I’ll attempt to do something that we Wenches have talked about on our private loop, but seldom manage to do in practice:  Talk short. <g>

I’m not sure I’ll be successful, but I’ll try, using a topic suggested by Wench regular Maggie Robinson, who asked this:

“I have a question about book titles. How successful are you in naming your own books, or must you submit to editors' titles? Is it a group consensus thing? Have you ever had a title assigned to you that you absolutely hated? And since you Wenches are so prolific, can you remember all your titles? *g*"

By chance, as I was drafting this blog another question about titles came in from Joan Woods:

“I would like to know who has the final say about the title of a book. The Author or Publisher?”

So I’ll address all the questions, and Maggie and Joan have both earned a a free book from me.

On to the topic:  Get a group of romance writers together, especially historical authors, and the topic of cover art will come up pretty fast, often accompanied by howls of misery.  There have been multiple WW blogs on the subject, including superb deconstructions of paintings by our art history experts. 

Anne George But titles?  I don’t recall that we’ve ever discussed the subject, yet like cover art, titles are a potent aspect of marketing a book successfully.  At the very least, a title needs to define what genre a book is in.  Hence, mysteries frequently have Death or Murder in the title, or some other crime-ish word.  (A Is for Alibi, Murder on a Girl's Night Out, et al.) 

Likewise, romance novel titles often have words like love and passion, and symbols like fire and flowers.  But a really good title goes beyond that to become memorable, and better yet, sounds like a particular author.  Diana Gabaldon does Fiery Cross great, distinctive titles: Dragonfly in Amber, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, etc.

For mass market, it can be handy to have a short title so the letters can be large and easy to read on a smallish cover.  Nora Roberts’ early single title contemporaries had great, punchy titles based on Honest Illusions  contradictions: Hot Ice, Honest Illusions, and others.)

"Dark" these days often means intense paranormal romance with sexy monster heroes, while Dixie Cash is branded as comic country contemporary with titles like Since Yo'u're Leaving Anyway, Take out the Trash. 

The current trend in historical romance is toward fairly wordy titles, which at least allows more possibilities.  My next book had a working title that was reasonably good and accurate: Always a Lady.  But it didn’t have a huge amount of zip, so I suggested Never Less Than a Lady, which means the same thing but is maybeNEVERLESSTHANALADYART punchier (and which doesn’t seem to have been used before.)

So you can see how complicated it is to come up with a bare handful of words that defines genre, tone, author—and will look good on a cover  Ideally, title and cover art work together to make a total package that will leap into the hands of potential readers.  And if all this makes the process of finding a title nightmarish—that is exactly right! 

Maggie: “I have a question about book titles. How successful are you in naming your own books, or must you submit to editors' titles? Is it a group consensus thing?”

Joan: “I would like to know who has the final say about the title of a book. The Author or Publisher?”

In most cases, finding a title is a collaborative process.  Some editors will accept an author’s working title pretty easily, while others will torture authors endlessly to find a better title.  This necessitates a Great Title Hunt, where the author e-mails her best buds and says, “Help! I need a title!”  Brainstorming and lists ensue, the author goes back to the editor with new choices—and one may or may not be accepted.  A few rounds of this and the author will be shrieking, “I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU CALL THE !#$%&! BOOK, JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Some authors have a real knack for titles.  Others—not so much.  Sometimes a great title that everyone loves will be accepted from the beginning, other times half the publisher's employees and all the author’s friends are enlisted without success.

Authors can become very attached to titles that aren’t very good.  Other times, the author, editor, and agent might agree on a title they love—and the publisher’s sales department nixes it, saying something snappier is needed.

I want to be clear that when editors or sales departments reject a title, it’s because they genuinely believe a different title will work better for the author in the marketplace.  And often they’re right.  Telling a great story doesn't automatically mean one can come up with great titles.

So in general, finding a title is a group process.  Sometimes contracts specify that titles must be mutually agreed upon.  But basically, it is the publishers who have the ultimate say because they're in charge of production. Very few authors have the clout (or the contractual power) to say “No WAY will my book be titled Lust's Flaming Fling!"

Luckily, it’s much more common to have a title that everyone is okay with, even if not everyone loves it. 

Maggie: “Have you ever had a title assigned to you that you absolutely hated? And since you Wenches are so prolific, can you remember all your titles?”

For my part, I’ve had some titles I didn’t love, but none that I really hated. Sometimes it takes a while for the official name to sink into my mind, especially if there have been several working titles before reaching a final choice, but eventually the official title is how I remember the book.  And yes, I do recall all my titles, though I can’t say whether that’s true of all the Wenches. <G>

So that’s the behind the scenes story of finding titles.  Are there particular titles or series of titles that you’ve loved?  That you’ve hated?  Titles that have made you want to pick up a book, or titles that have made you refuse want to pick one up?  I’m looking forward to what you come up with! 

ONEPERFECTROSEART Mary Jo, who has reasonable success with her titles (including One Perfect Rose), but is far from batting 1.000.

100 thoughts on “Title Terrors”

  1. Oh, wow! I was so excited to open up my e-mail (something has to excite me at 4:30 AM) to find the feed from WW and see my question! When I asked it, I really didn’t have a clue, but now that I have book deals, I’m slightly more savvy, LOL. MJ, you answered everything perfectly, and I think “Lust’s Flaming Thing” will be the next big thing.*w* Thanks so much for picking my question, and I’m thrilled to get a book.
    I was very fortunate to keep all my titles for my upcoming Kensington trilogy, except the first book, Mistress by Mistake, shares the same title as Susan Gee Heino’s book coming out this December (she won the GH w/it as Mistaken by Moonlight). Oops. But mine’s not out until April 27, and everyone should just buy both of them. :)I found out later there’s an HQN contemp w/ the same name too. And here I thought I was so original.
    I know there are keywords, wicked being one of them, that turn up on titles with great regularity (I just wrote one).What else is overused?

    Reply
  2. Oh, wow! I was so excited to open up my e-mail (something has to excite me at 4:30 AM) to find the feed from WW and see my question! When I asked it, I really didn’t have a clue, but now that I have book deals, I’m slightly more savvy, LOL. MJ, you answered everything perfectly, and I think “Lust’s Flaming Thing” will be the next big thing.*w* Thanks so much for picking my question, and I’m thrilled to get a book.
    I was very fortunate to keep all my titles for my upcoming Kensington trilogy, except the first book, Mistress by Mistake, shares the same title as Susan Gee Heino’s book coming out this December (she won the GH w/it as Mistaken by Moonlight). Oops. But mine’s not out until April 27, and everyone should just buy both of them. :)I found out later there’s an HQN contemp w/ the same name too. And here I thought I was so original.
    I know there are keywords, wicked being one of them, that turn up on titles with great regularity (I just wrote one).What else is overused?

    Reply
  3. Oh, wow! I was so excited to open up my e-mail (something has to excite me at 4:30 AM) to find the feed from WW and see my question! When I asked it, I really didn’t have a clue, but now that I have book deals, I’m slightly more savvy, LOL. MJ, you answered everything perfectly, and I think “Lust’s Flaming Thing” will be the next big thing.*w* Thanks so much for picking my question, and I’m thrilled to get a book.
    I was very fortunate to keep all my titles for my upcoming Kensington trilogy, except the first book, Mistress by Mistake, shares the same title as Susan Gee Heino’s book coming out this December (she won the GH w/it as Mistaken by Moonlight). Oops. But mine’s not out until April 27, and everyone should just buy both of them. :)I found out later there’s an HQN contemp w/ the same name too. And here I thought I was so original.
    I know there are keywords, wicked being one of them, that turn up on titles with great regularity (I just wrote one).What else is overused?

    Reply
  4. Oh, wow! I was so excited to open up my e-mail (something has to excite me at 4:30 AM) to find the feed from WW and see my question! When I asked it, I really didn’t have a clue, but now that I have book deals, I’m slightly more savvy, LOL. MJ, you answered everything perfectly, and I think “Lust’s Flaming Thing” will be the next big thing.*w* Thanks so much for picking my question, and I’m thrilled to get a book.
    I was very fortunate to keep all my titles for my upcoming Kensington trilogy, except the first book, Mistress by Mistake, shares the same title as Susan Gee Heino’s book coming out this December (she won the GH w/it as Mistaken by Moonlight). Oops. But mine’s not out until April 27, and everyone should just buy both of them. :)I found out later there’s an HQN contemp w/ the same name too. And here I thought I was so original.
    I know there are keywords, wicked being one of them, that turn up on titles with great regularity (I just wrote one).What else is overused?

    Reply
  5. Oh, wow! I was so excited to open up my e-mail (something has to excite me at 4:30 AM) to find the feed from WW and see my question! When I asked it, I really didn’t have a clue, but now that I have book deals, I’m slightly more savvy, LOL. MJ, you answered everything perfectly, and I think “Lust’s Flaming Thing” will be the next big thing.*w* Thanks so much for picking my question, and I’m thrilled to get a book.
    I was very fortunate to keep all my titles for my upcoming Kensington trilogy, except the first book, Mistress by Mistake, shares the same title as Susan Gee Heino’s book coming out this December (she won the GH w/it as Mistaken by Moonlight). Oops. But mine’s not out until April 27, and everyone should just buy both of them. :)I found out later there’s an HQN contemp w/ the same name too. And here I thought I was so original.
    I know there are keywords, wicked being one of them, that turn up on titles with great regularity (I just wrote one).What else is overused?

    Reply
  6. Great post, Mary Jo. I’ve been lucky in that the titles of both my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, and my upcoming release, Coming Home, were accepted without question. With Sunshine, I wanted something that would sound “Irish” – and I thought what better than lyrics from “Danny Boy.” Coming Home was a little more complicated, but I finally came up with it when I thought of my hero returning to Ireland, which is his heart’s real home.
    Yes, there are key words, but I prefer a title that will tell a bit about the book.
    Love the cover for Never Less Than A Lady!

    Reply
  7. Great post, Mary Jo. I’ve been lucky in that the titles of both my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, and my upcoming release, Coming Home, were accepted without question. With Sunshine, I wanted something that would sound “Irish” – and I thought what better than lyrics from “Danny Boy.” Coming Home was a little more complicated, but I finally came up with it when I thought of my hero returning to Ireland, which is his heart’s real home.
    Yes, there are key words, but I prefer a title that will tell a bit about the book.
    Love the cover for Never Less Than A Lady!

    Reply
  8. Great post, Mary Jo. I’ve been lucky in that the titles of both my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, and my upcoming release, Coming Home, were accepted without question. With Sunshine, I wanted something that would sound “Irish” – and I thought what better than lyrics from “Danny Boy.” Coming Home was a little more complicated, but I finally came up with it when I thought of my hero returning to Ireland, which is his heart’s real home.
    Yes, there are key words, but I prefer a title that will tell a bit about the book.
    Love the cover for Never Less Than A Lady!

    Reply
  9. Great post, Mary Jo. I’ve been lucky in that the titles of both my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, and my upcoming release, Coming Home, were accepted without question. With Sunshine, I wanted something that would sound “Irish” – and I thought what better than lyrics from “Danny Boy.” Coming Home was a little more complicated, but I finally came up with it when I thought of my hero returning to Ireland, which is his heart’s real home.
    Yes, there are key words, but I prefer a title that will tell a bit about the book.
    Love the cover for Never Less Than A Lady!

    Reply
  10. Great post, Mary Jo. I’ve been lucky in that the titles of both my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, and my upcoming release, Coming Home, were accepted without question. With Sunshine, I wanted something that would sound “Irish” – and I thought what better than lyrics from “Danny Boy.” Coming Home was a little more complicated, but I finally came up with it when I thought of my hero returning to Ireland, which is his heart’s real home.
    Yes, there are key words, but I prefer a title that will tell a bit about the book.
    Love the cover for Never Less Than A Lady!

    Reply
  11. Perfect post followed by Sherry filling in for Jo. For some reason it appears that British publishers and American publishers will not use the same title. Case in point My Lady Notorious v. Lady Notorious, Gabaldon’s Outlander v. Cross Stitch and one of the Harry Potter novels. Is this some sort of back lash over our gaining our independence? 🙂

    Reply
  12. Perfect post followed by Sherry filling in for Jo. For some reason it appears that British publishers and American publishers will not use the same title. Case in point My Lady Notorious v. Lady Notorious, Gabaldon’s Outlander v. Cross Stitch and one of the Harry Potter novels. Is this some sort of back lash over our gaining our independence? 🙂

    Reply
  13. Perfect post followed by Sherry filling in for Jo. For some reason it appears that British publishers and American publishers will not use the same title. Case in point My Lady Notorious v. Lady Notorious, Gabaldon’s Outlander v. Cross Stitch and one of the Harry Potter novels. Is this some sort of back lash over our gaining our independence? 🙂

    Reply
  14. Perfect post followed by Sherry filling in for Jo. For some reason it appears that British publishers and American publishers will not use the same title. Case in point My Lady Notorious v. Lady Notorious, Gabaldon’s Outlander v. Cross Stitch and one of the Harry Potter novels. Is this some sort of back lash over our gaining our independence? 🙂

    Reply
  15. Perfect post followed by Sherry filling in for Jo. For some reason it appears that British publishers and American publishers will not use the same title. Case in point My Lady Notorious v. Lady Notorious, Gabaldon’s Outlander v. Cross Stitch and one of the Harry Potter novels. Is this some sort of back lash over our gaining our independence? 🙂

    Reply
  16. As a writer, I can see the virtue of being flexible about titles, and perhaps there are times when publishing/marketing knows best. But, as a reader, I have to admit that generic titles often make me cringe–it does seem as though far too many romance titles contain the words “wicked,” “sinful,” “tempt,” or “seduce.” Eventually, they all begin to run together in my mind and it becomes harder to remember which title belongs belongs to which story. And then there are the alliterative titles, which I can no longer take seriously after reading a spoof entitled “Love’s Reckless Rash.”
    How established does a writer have to be before she becomes the equivalent of the 800-pound lion and can call her books whatever she likes?

    Reply
  17. As a writer, I can see the virtue of being flexible about titles, and perhaps there are times when publishing/marketing knows best. But, as a reader, I have to admit that generic titles often make me cringe–it does seem as though far too many romance titles contain the words “wicked,” “sinful,” “tempt,” or “seduce.” Eventually, they all begin to run together in my mind and it becomes harder to remember which title belongs belongs to which story. And then there are the alliterative titles, which I can no longer take seriously after reading a spoof entitled “Love’s Reckless Rash.”
    How established does a writer have to be before she becomes the equivalent of the 800-pound lion and can call her books whatever she likes?

    Reply
  18. As a writer, I can see the virtue of being flexible about titles, and perhaps there are times when publishing/marketing knows best. But, as a reader, I have to admit that generic titles often make me cringe–it does seem as though far too many romance titles contain the words “wicked,” “sinful,” “tempt,” or “seduce.” Eventually, they all begin to run together in my mind and it becomes harder to remember which title belongs belongs to which story. And then there are the alliterative titles, which I can no longer take seriously after reading a spoof entitled “Love’s Reckless Rash.”
    How established does a writer have to be before she becomes the equivalent of the 800-pound lion and can call her books whatever she likes?

    Reply
  19. As a writer, I can see the virtue of being flexible about titles, and perhaps there are times when publishing/marketing knows best. But, as a reader, I have to admit that generic titles often make me cringe–it does seem as though far too many romance titles contain the words “wicked,” “sinful,” “tempt,” or “seduce.” Eventually, they all begin to run together in my mind and it becomes harder to remember which title belongs belongs to which story. And then there are the alliterative titles, which I can no longer take seriously after reading a spoof entitled “Love’s Reckless Rash.”
    How established does a writer have to be before she becomes the equivalent of the 800-pound lion and can call her books whatever she likes?

    Reply
  20. As a writer, I can see the virtue of being flexible about titles, and perhaps there are times when publishing/marketing knows best. But, as a reader, I have to admit that generic titles often make me cringe–it does seem as though far too many romance titles contain the words “wicked,” “sinful,” “tempt,” or “seduce.” Eventually, they all begin to run together in my mind and it becomes harder to remember which title belongs belongs to which story. And then there are the alliterative titles, which I can no longer take seriously after reading a spoof entitled “Love’s Reckless Rash.”
    How established does a writer have to be before she becomes the equivalent of the 800-pound lion and can call her books whatever she likes?

    Reply
  21. Just wanted to say right off the bat that the covers of MJP’s “Never Less than a Lady” and “One Perfect Rose” are both quite lovely.
    As for titles, I like them to have something that links them to the story so that I can remember them later. For example, “The Rake and the Reformer” is about just that, and I’d never confuse it with any of MJP’s other books, or books by any other author. “Love’s Lustful Thing”, on the other hand, is too generic, as most romance novels are about love and lust and other things. My poor brain needs a hook, and far too many titles today do not provide one.
    As for words or titles I avoid, I don’t buy books with “virgin” in the title. Despite my one-woman protest, they must sell well, since every 5th Harlequin has it. It’s not that I mind virginal heroines, it’s that putting it into the title raises that aspect of the heroine’s character to supreme importance. You don’t see titles like “The Billionaire’s Smart, Compassionate Mistress”, even though I think that tells far more about her worthiness to be the heroine than whether or not she’s ever had sex.

    Reply
  22. Just wanted to say right off the bat that the covers of MJP’s “Never Less than a Lady” and “One Perfect Rose” are both quite lovely.
    As for titles, I like them to have something that links them to the story so that I can remember them later. For example, “The Rake and the Reformer” is about just that, and I’d never confuse it with any of MJP’s other books, or books by any other author. “Love’s Lustful Thing”, on the other hand, is too generic, as most romance novels are about love and lust and other things. My poor brain needs a hook, and far too many titles today do not provide one.
    As for words or titles I avoid, I don’t buy books with “virgin” in the title. Despite my one-woman protest, they must sell well, since every 5th Harlequin has it. It’s not that I mind virginal heroines, it’s that putting it into the title raises that aspect of the heroine’s character to supreme importance. You don’t see titles like “The Billionaire’s Smart, Compassionate Mistress”, even though I think that tells far more about her worthiness to be the heroine than whether or not she’s ever had sex.

    Reply
  23. Just wanted to say right off the bat that the covers of MJP’s “Never Less than a Lady” and “One Perfect Rose” are both quite lovely.
    As for titles, I like them to have something that links them to the story so that I can remember them later. For example, “The Rake and the Reformer” is about just that, and I’d never confuse it with any of MJP’s other books, or books by any other author. “Love’s Lustful Thing”, on the other hand, is too generic, as most romance novels are about love and lust and other things. My poor brain needs a hook, and far too many titles today do not provide one.
    As for words or titles I avoid, I don’t buy books with “virgin” in the title. Despite my one-woman protest, they must sell well, since every 5th Harlequin has it. It’s not that I mind virginal heroines, it’s that putting it into the title raises that aspect of the heroine’s character to supreme importance. You don’t see titles like “The Billionaire’s Smart, Compassionate Mistress”, even though I think that tells far more about her worthiness to be the heroine than whether or not she’s ever had sex.

    Reply
  24. Just wanted to say right off the bat that the covers of MJP’s “Never Less than a Lady” and “One Perfect Rose” are both quite lovely.
    As for titles, I like them to have something that links them to the story so that I can remember them later. For example, “The Rake and the Reformer” is about just that, and I’d never confuse it with any of MJP’s other books, or books by any other author. “Love’s Lustful Thing”, on the other hand, is too generic, as most romance novels are about love and lust and other things. My poor brain needs a hook, and far too many titles today do not provide one.
    As for words or titles I avoid, I don’t buy books with “virgin” in the title. Despite my one-woman protest, they must sell well, since every 5th Harlequin has it. It’s not that I mind virginal heroines, it’s that putting it into the title raises that aspect of the heroine’s character to supreme importance. You don’t see titles like “The Billionaire’s Smart, Compassionate Mistress”, even though I think that tells far more about her worthiness to be the heroine than whether or not she’s ever had sex.

    Reply
  25. Just wanted to say right off the bat that the covers of MJP’s “Never Less than a Lady” and “One Perfect Rose” are both quite lovely.
    As for titles, I like them to have something that links them to the story so that I can remember them later. For example, “The Rake and the Reformer” is about just that, and I’d never confuse it with any of MJP’s other books, or books by any other author. “Love’s Lustful Thing”, on the other hand, is too generic, as most romance novels are about love and lust and other things. My poor brain needs a hook, and far too many titles today do not provide one.
    As for words or titles I avoid, I don’t buy books with “virgin” in the title. Despite my one-woman protest, they must sell well, since every 5th Harlequin has it. It’s not that I mind virginal heroines, it’s that putting it into the title raises that aspect of the heroine’s character to supreme importance. You don’t see titles like “The Billionaire’s Smart, Compassionate Mistress”, even though I think that tells far more about her worthiness to be the heroine than whether or not she’s ever had sex.

    Reply
  26. I do believe MJ may have been referring to me when she said not all of us remember all our titles. “G” I’m not certain I can even remember all my books!
    Keywords tend to be market driven and cyclical. Back in the 80’s, “Love” was almost an absolute. These days, we’re apparently into sin and wickedness in our romance. I’d like to know how these trends develop, but I’m clueless.
    Stephanie, I’m not entirely certainly even an 800 pound gorilla would walk over a suggestion by marketing (usually backed by a bookstore chain’s buyer) to change the title. It would take immense arrogance to think our concept is better than one from people who have to go out and sell the book.
    And I totally agree that a title hooked to the story is ideal, but as MJ points out, the title also has to foreshadow the genre, so it’s tricky. While I’ve had my fair share of “hook” titles without the romance innuendo (Blue Clouds, Indigo Moon–hmm, maybe “blue” is a romance indicator?), it’s truly hard to say that those titles did better than more obvious ones.

    Reply
  27. I do believe MJ may have been referring to me when she said not all of us remember all our titles. “G” I’m not certain I can even remember all my books!
    Keywords tend to be market driven and cyclical. Back in the 80’s, “Love” was almost an absolute. These days, we’re apparently into sin and wickedness in our romance. I’d like to know how these trends develop, but I’m clueless.
    Stephanie, I’m not entirely certainly even an 800 pound gorilla would walk over a suggestion by marketing (usually backed by a bookstore chain’s buyer) to change the title. It would take immense arrogance to think our concept is better than one from people who have to go out and sell the book.
    And I totally agree that a title hooked to the story is ideal, but as MJ points out, the title also has to foreshadow the genre, so it’s tricky. While I’ve had my fair share of “hook” titles without the romance innuendo (Blue Clouds, Indigo Moon–hmm, maybe “blue” is a romance indicator?), it’s truly hard to say that those titles did better than more obvious ones.

    Reply
  28. I do believe MJ may have been referring to me when she said not all of us remember all our titles. “G” I’m not certain I can even remember all my books!
    Keywords tend to be market driven and cyclical. Back in the 80’s, “Love” was almost an absolute. These days, we’re apparently into sin and wickedness in our romance. I’d like to know how these trends develop, but I’m clueless.
    Stephanie, I’m not entirely certainly even an 800 pound gorilla would walk over a suggestion by marketing (usually backed by a bookstore chain’s buyer) to change the title. It would take immense arrogance to think our concept is better than one from people who have to go out and sell the book.
    And I totally agree that a title hooked to the story is ideal, but as MJ points out, the title also has to foreshadow the genre, so it’s tricky. While I’ve had my fair share of “hook” titles without the romance innuendo (Blue Clouds, Indigo Moon–hmm, maybe “blue” is a romance indicator?), it’s truly hard to say that those titles did better than more obvious ones.

    Reply
  29. I do believe MJ may have been referring to me when she said not all of us remember all our titles. “G” I’m not certain I can even remember all my books!
    Keywords tend to be market driven and cyclical. Back in the 80’s, “Love” was almost an absolute. These days, we’re apparently into sin and wickedness in our romance. I’d like to know how these trends develop, but I’m clueless.
    Stephanie, I’m not entirely certainly even an 800 pound gorilla would walk over a suggestion by marketing (usually backed by a bookstore chain’s buyer) to change the title. It would take immense arrogance to think our concept is better than one from people who have to go out and sell the book.
    And I totally agree that a title hooked to the story is ideal, but as MJ points out, the title also has to foreshadow the genre, so it’s tricky. While I’ve had my fair share of “hook” titles without the romance innuendo (Blue Clouds, Indigo Moon–hmm, maybe “blue” is a romance indicator?), it’s truly hard to say that those titles did better than more obvious ones.

    Reply
  30. I do believe MJ may have been referring to me when she said not all of us remember all our titles. “G” I’m not certain I can even remember all my books!
    Keywords tend to be market driven and cyclical. Back in the 80’s, “Love” was almost an absolute. These days, we’re apparently into sin and wickedness in our romance. I’d like to know how these trends develop, but I’m clueless.
    Stephanie, I’m not entirely certainly even an 800 pound gorilla would walk over a suggestion by marketing (usually backed by a bookstore chain’s buyer) to change the title. It would take immense arrogance to think our concept is better than one from people who have to go out and sell the book.
    And I totally agree that a title hooked to the story is ideal, but as MJ points out, the title also has to foreshadow the genre, so it’s tricky. While I’ve had my fair share of “hook” titles without the romance innuendo (Blue Clouds, Indigo Moon–hmm, maybe “blue” is a romance indicator?), it’s truly hard to say that those titles did better than more obvious ones.

    Reply
  31. From MJP:
    Lyn–LOL about the Brits changing our titles as payback for the Revolution. *g* I think it’s more a matter of audience taste, though. THUNDER AND ROSES was an appropriate, romance-identifiable title for when it was first published in the US in the ’90s, but it doesn’t actually mean much of anything, so when the UK publisher asked what it meant, I couldn’t give him a good answer. *g* He liked FALLEN ANGEL and it was not inappropriate, so I was fine with it.
    As Pat said, title buzzwords are cyclical, and sin is definitely in.
    Linda, I’ve never had a title that was really deeply connected to the book that was changed–at least, not that I can remember. But there are occasions when I’ve liked my titles better than the final one. As Pat said, sales has to get the books out there, so they get a big vote.
    An 800 lb. gorilla could probably get away with his or her title. But when people are so well known, the title doesn’t matter as much. JK Rowling could have titled her later books “The Newest Harry Potter” and they would have sold just fine. *g* Of course, really successful authors tend to be competent businesspeople as well, so they’re not likely to demand something really awful.
    The less known an author, probably the more important title and cover art are.
    Mary Jo, who is assured that yes, those category books with “Virgin” in the title really do sell well.

    Reply
  32. From MJP:
    Lyn–LOL about the Brits changing our titles as payback for the Revolution. *g* I think it’s more a matter of audience taste, though. THUNDER AND ROSES was an appropriate, romance-identifiable title for when it was first published in the US in the ’90s, but it doesn’t actually mean much of anything, so when the UK publisher asked what it meant, I couldn’t give him a good answer. *g* He liked FALLEN ANGEL and it was not inappropriate, so I was fine with it.
    As Pat said, title buzzwords are cyclical, and sin is definitely in.
    Linda, I’ve never had a title that was really deeply connected to the book that was changed–at least, not that I can remember. But there are occasions when I’ve liked my titles better than the final one. As Pat said, sales has to get the books out there, so they get a big vote.
    An 800 lb. gorilla could probably get away with his or her title. But when people are so well known, the title doesn’t matter as much. JK Rowling could have titled her later books “The Newest Harry Potter” and they would have sold just fine. *g* Of course, really successful authors tend to be competent businesspeople as well, so they’re not likely to demand something really awful.
    The less known an author, probably the more important title and cover art are.
    Mary Jo, who is assured that yes, those category books with “Virgin” in the title really do sell well.

    Reply
  33. From MJP:
    Lyn–LOL about the Brits changing our titles as payback for the Revolution. *g* I think it’s more a matter of audience taste, though. THUNDER AND ROSES was an appropriate, romance-identifiable title for when it was first published in the US in the ’90s, but it doesn’t actually mean much of anything, so when the UK publisher asked what it meant, I couldn’t give him a good answer. *g* He liked FALLEN ANGEL and it was not inappropriate, so I was fine with it.
    As Pat said, title buzzwords are cyclical, and sin is definitely in.
    Linda, I’ve never had a title that was really deeply connected to the book that was changed–at least, not that I can remember. But there are occasions when I’ve liked my titles better than the final one. As Pat said, sales has to get the books out there, so they get a big vote.
    An 800 lb. gorilla could probably get away with his or her title. But when people are so well known, the title doesn’t matter as much. JK Rowling could have titled her later books “The Newest Harry Potter” and they would have sold just fine. *g* Of course, really successful authors tend to be competent businesspeople as well, so they’re not likely to demand something really awful.
    The less known an author, probably the more important title and cover art are.
    Mary Jo, who is assured that yes, those category books with “Virgin” in the title really do sell well.

    Reply
  34. From MJP:
    Lyn–LOL about the Brits changing our titles as payback for the Revolution. *g* I think it’s more a matter of audience taste, though. THUNDER AND ROSES was an appropriate, romance-identifiable title for when it was first published in the US in the ’90s, but it doesn’t actually mean much of anything, so when the UK publisher asked what it meant, I couldn’t give him a good answer. *g* He liked FALLEN ANGEL and it was not inappropriate, so I was fine with it.
    As Pat said, title buzzwords are cyclical, and sin is definitely in.
    Linda, I’ve never had a title that was really deeply connected to the book that was changed–at least, not that I can remember. But there are occasions when I’ve liked my titles better than the final one. As Pat said, sales has to get the books out there, so they get a big vote.
    An 800 lb. gorilla could probably get away with his or her title. But when people are so well known, the title doesn’t matter as much. JK Rowling could have titled her later books “The Newest Harry Potter” and they would have sold just fine. *g* Of course, really successful authors tend to be competent businesspeople as well, so they’re not likely to demand something really awful.
    The less known an author, probably the more important title and cover art are.
    Mary Jo, who is assured that yes, those category books with “Virgin” in the title really do sell well.

    Reply
  35. From MJP:
    Lyn–LOL about the Brits changing our titles as payback for the Revolution. *g* I think it’s more a matter of audience taste, though. THUNDER AND ROSES was an appropriate, romance-identifiable title for when it was first published in the US in the ’90s, but it doesn’t actually mean much of anything, so when the UK publisher asked what it meant, I couldn’t give him a good answer. *g* He liked FALLEN ANGEL and it was not inappropriate, so I was fine with it.
    As Pat said, title buzzwords are cyclical, and sin is definitely in.
    Linda, I’ve never had a title that was really deeply connected to the book that was changed–at least, not that I can remember. But there are occasions when I’ve liked my titles better than the final one. As Pat said, sales has to get the books out there, so they get a big vote.
    An 800 lb. gorilla could probably get away with his or her title. But when people are so well known, the title doesn’t matter as much. JK Rowling could have titled her later books “The Newest Harry Potter” and they would have sold just fine. *g* Of course, really successful authors tend to be competent businesspeople as well, so they’re not likely to demand something really awful.
    The less known an author, probably the more important title and cover art are.
    Mary Jo, who is assured that yes, those category books with “Virgin” in the title really do sell well.

    Reply
  36. I’ve been asked to change very few titles over the years, and the reasons always made sense.
    In several instances, my title was already being used, for example; and since two books with the same title easily get mixed, everyone prefers to avoid that. (One reason we often -do- see two books with the same title is just that so many books are released by so many different outlets that accidents do happen.)
    In another instance, the editor thought my working title was misleading; the book was a contemporary romance, and the editor thought the title made it sound like a Regency. Once she pointed this out to me, I realized she was right. So I changed it.
    I write an epic fantasy series where the titles work best, IMO, if they’re simple and grand. Ex. IN LEGEND BORN, THE WHITE DRAGON, THE DESTROYER GODDESS, THE PALACE OF HEAVEN, etc.
    I write an urban fantasy series where the titles are word-puns with a fantasy element, and coming up with those makes my little blonde brain hurt a lot: DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY, DOPPELGANGSTER, UNSYMPATHETIC MAGIC, VAMPARAZZI, etc. I just keep scribbling down words (sometimes for months) before I come up with something that works.

    Reply
  37. I’ve been asked to change very few titles over the years, and the reasons always made sense.
    In several instances, my title was already being used, for example; and since two books with the same title easily get mixed, everyone prefers to avoid that. (One reason we often -do- see two books with the same title is just that so many books are released by so many different outlets that accidents do happen.)
    In another instance, the editor thought my working title was misleading; the book was a contemporary romance, and the editor thought the title made it sound like a Regency. Once she pointed this out to me, I realized she was right. So I changed it.
    I write an epic fantasy series where the titles work best, IMO, if they’re simple and grand. Ex. IN LEGEND BORN, THE WHITE DRAGON, THE DESTROYER GODDESS, THE PALACE OF HEAVEN, etc.
    I write an urban fantasy series where the titles are word-puns with a fantasy element, and coming up with those makes my little blonde brain hurt a lot: DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY, DOPPELGANGSTER, UNSYMPATHETIC MAGIC, VAMPARAZZI, etc. I just keep scribbling down words (sometimes for months) before I come up with something that works.

    Reply
  38. I’ve been asked to change very few titles over the years, and the reasons always made sense.
    In several instances, my title was already being used, for example; and since two books with the same title easily get mixed, everyone prefers to avoid that. (One reason we often -do- see two books with the same title is just that so many books are released by so many different outlets that accidents do happen.)
    In another instance, the editor thought my working title was misleading; the book was a contemporary romance, and the editor thought the title made it sound like a Regency. Once she pointed this out to me, I realized she was right. So I changed it.
    I write an epic fantasy series where the titles work best, IMO, if they’re simple and grand. Ex. IN LEGEND BORN, THE WHITE DRAGON, THE DESTROYER GODDESS, THE PALACE OF HEAVEN, etc.
    I write an urban fantasy series where the titles are word-puns with a fantasy element, and coming up with those makes my little blonde brain hurt a lot: DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY, DOPPELGANGSTER, UNSYMPATHETIC MAGIC, VAMPARAZZI, etc. I just keep scribbling down words (sometimes for months) before I come up with something that works.

    Reply
  39. I’ve been asked to change very few titles over the years, and the reasons always made sense.
    In several instances, my title was already being used, for example; and since two books with the same title easily get mixed, everyone prefers to avoid that. (One reason we often -do- see two books with the same title is just that so many books are released by so many different outlets that accidents do happen.)
    In another instance, the editor thought my working title was misleading; the book was a contemporary romance, and the editor thought the title made it sound like a Regency. Once she pointed this out to me, I realized she was right. So I changed it.
    I write an epic fantasy series where the titles work best, IMO, if they’re simple and grand. Ex. IN LEGEND BORN, THE WHITE DRAGON, THE DESTROYER GODDESS, THE PALACE OF HEAVEN, etc.
    I write an urban fantasy series where the titles are word-puns with a fantasy element, and coming up with those makes my little blonde brain hurt a lot: DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY, DOPPELGANGSTER, UNSYMPATHETIC MAGIC, VAMPARAZZI, etc. I just keep scribbling down words (sometimes for months) before I come up with something that works.

    Reply
  40. I’ve been asked to change very few titles over the years, and the reasons always made sense.
    In several instances, my title was already being used, for example; and since two books with the same title easily get mixed, everyone prefers to avoid that. (One reason we often -do- see two books with the same title is just that so many books are released by so many different outlets that accidents do happen.)
    In another instance, the editor thought my working title was misleading; the book was a contemporary romance, and the editor thought the title made it sound like a Regency. Once she pointed this out to me, I realized she was right. So I changed it.
    I write an epic fantasy series where the titles work best, IMO, if they’re simple and grand. Ex. IN LEGEND BORN, THE WHITE DRAGON, THE DESTROYER GODDESS, THE PALACE OF HEAVEN, etc.
    I write an urban fantasy series where the titles are word-puns with a fantasy element, and coming up with those makes my little blonde brain hurt a lot: DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY, DOPPELGANGSTER, UNSYMPATHETIC MAGIC, VAMPARAZZI, etc. I just keep scribbling down words (sometimes for months) before I come up with something that works.

    Reply
  41. Oh, P.S. on that. I like thinking up titles. But we have a fairly widespread custom in the fantasy genre of also have titles for our SERIES, and series themselves are very common in the fantasy genre; and I have a hell of a time with thinking up -series- names.
    I think the difference for me is that a novel (or short story, or essay, or article) has a core theme, and that leads me to finding the right title. But a series doesn’t have that kind of thematic cohesion. “Series” is a question of continuing characters, consistent tone, and setting, but the books within the series will have a variety of individual themes and storylines.
    I also think that =readers=, in any case, tend to wind up referring to a series by the name of the first book (ex. the “Outlander” novels) or by the names of the lead character(s) (ex. the “Jamie & Claire” books). Which is why I’m not in favor, in any case, of beating my head against a wall trying to think up a clever series name. And THIS, rather than individual book titles, is where I’ve had arguments with publishers, because they (at least in my experience) -do- tend to favor elabarate series names.
    Ironically, Tor insisted I choose a series name… then didn’t put it on any of the book’s covers. Luna insisted I pick a series name… then didn’t put it on the cover. So when my next publisher tried to insist on an elaborate series name, I dug in my heels, held my ground, and insisted we JUST call the series, officially as well as casually, by the lead character’s name.
    Laura

    Reply
  42. Oh, P.S. on that. I like thinking up titles. But we have a fairly widespread custom in the fantasy genre of also have titles for our SERIES, and series themselves are very common in the fantasy genre; and I have a hell of a time with thinking up -series- names.
    I think the difference for me is that a novel (or short story, or essay, or article) has a core theme, and that leads me to finding the right title. But a series doesn’t have that kind of thematic cohesion. “Series” is a question of continuing characters, consistent tone, and setting, but the books within the series will have a variety of individual themes and storylines.
    I also think that =readers=, in any case, tend to wind up referring to a series by the name of the first book (ex. the “Outlander” novels) or by the names of the lead character(s) (ex. the “Jamie & Claire” books). Which is why I’m not in favor, in any case, of beating my head against a wall trying to think up a clever series name. And THIS, rather than individual book titles, is where I’ve had arguments with publishers, because they (at least in my experience) -do- tend to favor elabarate series names.
    Ironically, Tor insisted I choose a series name… then didn’t put it on any of the book’s covers. Luna insisted I pick a series name… then didn’t put it on the cover. So when my next publisher tried to insist on an elaborate series name, I dug in my heels, held my ground, and insisted we JUST call the series, officially as well as casually, by the lead character’s name.
    Laura

    Reply
  43. Oh, P.S. on that. I like thinking up titles. But we have a fairly widespread custom in the fantasy genre of also have titles for our SERIES, and series themselves are very common in the fantasy genre; and I have a hell of a time with thinking up -series- names.
    I think the difference for me is that a novel (or short story, or essay, or article) has a core theme, and that leads me to finding the right title. But a series doesn’t have that kind of thematic cohesion. “Series” is a question of continuing characters, consistent tone, and setting, but the books within the series will have a variety of individual themes and storylines.
    I also think that =readers=, in any case, tend to wind up referring to a series by the name of the first book (ex. the “Outlander” novels) or by the names of the lead character(s) (ex. the “Jamie & Claire” books). Which is why I’m not in favor, in any case, of beating my head against a wall trying to think up a clever series name. And THIS, rather than individual book titles, is where I’ve had arguments with publishers, because they (at least in my experience) -do- tend to favor elabarate series names.
    Ironically, Tor insisted I choose a series name… then didn’t put it on any of the book’s covers. Luna insisted I pick a series name… then didn’t put it on the cover. So when my next publisher tried to insist on an elaborate series name, I dug in my heels, held my ground, and insisted we JUST call the series, officially as well as casually, by the lead character’s name.
    Laura

    Reply
  44. Oh, P.S. on that. I like thinking up titles. But we have a fairly widespread custom in the fantasy genre of also have titles for our SERIES, and series themselves are very common in the fantasy genre; and I have a hell of a time with thinking up -series- names.
    I think the difference for me is that a novel (or short story, or essay, or article) has a core theme, and that leads me to finding the right title. But a series doesn’t have that kind of thematic cohesion. “Series” is a question of continuing characters, consistent tone, and setting, but the books within the series will have a variety of individual themes and storylines.
    I also think that =readers=, in any case, tend to wind up referring to a series by the name of the first book (ex. the “Outlander” novels) or by the names of the lead character(s) (ex. the “Jamie & Claire” books). Which is why I’m not in favor, in any case, of beating my head against a wall trying to think up a clever series name. And THIS, rather than individual book titles, is where I’ve had arguments with publishers, because they (at least in my experience) -do- tend to favor elabarate series names.
    Ironically, Tor insisted I choose a series name… then didn’t put it on any of the book’s covers. Luna insisted I pick a series name… then didn’t put it on the cover. So when my next publisher tried to insist on an elaborate series name, I dug in my heels, held my ground, and insisted we JUST call the series, officially as well as casually, by the lead character’s name.
    Laura

    Reply
  45. Oh, P.S. on that. I like thinking up titles. But we have a fairly widespread custom in the fantasy genre of also have titles for our SERIES, and series themselves are very common in the fantasy genre; and I have a hell of a time with thinking up -series- names.
    I think the difference for me is that a novel (or short story, or essay, or article) has a core theme, and that leads me to finding the right title. But a series doesn’t have that kind of thematic cohesion. “Series” is a question of continuing characters, consistent tone, and setting, but the books within the series will have a variety of individual themes and storylines.
    I also think that =readers=, in any case, tend to wind up referring to a series by the name of the first book (ex. the “Outlander” novels) or by the names of the lead character(s) (ex. the “Jamie & Claire” books). Which is why I’m not in favor, in any case, of beating my head against a wall trying to think up a clever series name. And THIS, rather than individual book titles, is where I’ve had arguments with publishers, because they (at least in my experience) -do- tend to favor elabarate series names.
    Ironically, Tor insisted I choose a series name… then didn’t put it on any of the book’s covers. Luna insisted I pick a series name… then didn’t put it on the cover. So when my next publisher tried to insist on an elaborate series name, I dug in my heels, held my ground, and insisted we JUST call the series, officially as well as casually, by the lead character’s name.
    Laura

    Reply
  46. I was so intrigued by the gorgeous cover of Never Less
    Than a Lady that I Googled it since it wasn’t on MJP’s home site. First hit on Google was an article on Lady Gaga. The jump my mind is doing between one of MJP’s elegant novels and Lady Gaga is not to be born. Oh well. It is off to a bubble bath with a glass of wine.

    Reply
  47. I was so intrigued by the gorgeous cover of Never Less
    Than a Lady that I Googled it since it wasn’t on MJP’s home site. First hit on Google was an article on Lady Gaga. The jump my mind is doing between one of MJP’s elegant novels and Lady Gaga is not to be born. Oh well. It is off to a bubble bath with a glass of wine.

    Reply
  48. I was so intrigued by the gorgeous cover of Never Less
    Than a Lady that I Googled it since it wasn’t on MJP’s home site. First hit on Google was an article on Lady Gaga. The jump my mind is doing between one of MJP’s elegant novels and Lady Gaga is not to be born. Oh well. It is off to a bubble bath with a glass of wine.

    Reply
  49. I was so intrigued by the gorgeous cover of Never Less
    Than a Lady that I Googled it since it wasn’t on MJP’s home site. First hit on Google was an article on Lady Gaga. The jump my mind is doing between one of MJP’s elegant novels and Lady Gaga is not to be born. Oh well. It is off to a bubble bath with a glass of wine.

    Reply
  50. I was so intrigued by the gorgeous cover of Never Less
    Than a Lady that I Googled it since it wasn’t on MJP’s home site. First hit on Google was an article on Lady Gaga. The jump my mind is doing between one of MJP’s elegant novels and Lady Gaga is not to be born. Oh well. It is off to a bubble bath with a glass of wine.

    Reply
  51. From MJP:
    Laura, thanks for giving some insight into fantasy titles, since that is a somewhat different beast. I love your urban fantasy pun titles. I think they prove what a great title can do, though they’re not easy to come up with.
    Lyn–Me. Lady Gaga. As you say, the comparison boggles. *g*
    I won’t put anything about Never Less Than a Lady up on my website until maybe three months before the book comes out next May, since I don’t want the info to get stale. But I’ll be talking about it then!
    As to the times–Typepad, our blog server, is on Pacific time, hence three hours earlier than us East Coasters.
    I trust you had a lovely bath with the wine!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  52. From MJP:
    Laura, thanks for giving some insight into fantasy titles, since that is a somewhat different beast. I love your urban fantasy pun titles. I think they prove what a great title can do, though they’re not easy to come up with.
    Lyn–Me. Lady Gaga. As you say, the comparison boggles. *g*
    I won’t put anything about Never Less Than a Lady up on my website until maybe three months before the book comes out next May, since I don’t want the info to get stale. But I’ll be talking about it then!
    As to the times–Typepad, our blog server, is on Pacific time, hence three hours earlier than us East Coasters.
    I trust you had a lovely bath with the wine!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  53. From MJP:
    Laura, thanks for giving some insight into fantasy titles, since that is a somewhat different beast. I love your urban fantasy pun titles. I think they prove what a great title can do, though they’re not easy to come up with.
    Lyn–Me. Lady Gaga. As you say, the comparison boggles. *g*
    I won’t put anything about Never Less Than a Lady up on my website until maybe three months before the book comes out next May, since I don’t want the info to get stale. But I’ll be talking about it then!
    As to the times–Typepad, our blog server, is on Pacific time, hence three hours earlier than us East Coasters.
    I trust you had a lovely bath with the wine!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  54. From MJP:
    Laura, thanks for giving some insight into fantasy titles, since that is a somewhat different beast. I love your urban fantasy pun titles. I think they prove what a great title can do, though they’re not easy to come up with.
    Lyn–Me. Lady Gaga. As you say, the comparison boggles. *g*
    I won’t put anything about Never Less Than a Lady up on my website until maybe three months before the book comes out next May, since I don’t want the info to get stale. But I’ll be talking about it then!
    As to the times–Typepad, our blog server, is on Pacific time, hence three hours earlier than us East Coasters.
    I trust you had a lovely bath with the wine!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  55. From MJP:
    Laura, thanks for giving some insight into fantasy titles, since that is a somewhat different beast. I love your urban fantasy pun titles. I think they prove what a great title can do, though they’re not easy to come up with.
    Lyn–Me. Lady Gaga. As you say, the comparison boggles. *g*
    I won’t put anything about Never Less Than a Lady up on my website until maybe three months before the book comes out next May, since I don’t want the info to get stale. But I’ll be talking about it then!
    As to the times–Typepad, our blog server, is on Pacific time, hence three hours earlier than us East Coasters.
    I trust you had a lovely bath with the wine!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  56. A fun post, Mary Jo. You are so right—cooking up a title requires a complex chemistry of ingredients. And I have to admit that once or twice it’s blown up in my face. (Oh, don’t get me started . . . the book shall remain nameless, with good reason.) But most of the time, the results are just fine.
    One trend I’ve noticed in romance books is that there is a lot of “sameness” to the titles. In fact, when you look at the shelves of new releases, the same words seems to be popping off the covers. I think that perhaps editors and maketing depts are less willing to try something “different.” Personally, I really like evocative titles, like “A Breath of Snow & Ashes” or “One Perfect Rose.” IMO. Fantasy and mystery seem to have more creative titles.

    Reply
  57. A fun post, Mary Jo. You are so right—cooking up a title requires a complex chemistry of ingredients. And I have to admit that once or twice it’s blown up in my face. (Oh, don’t get me started . . . the book shall remain nameless, with good reason.) But most of the time, the results are just fine.
    One trend I’ve noticed in romance books is that there is a lot of “sameness” to the titles. In fact, when you look at the shelves of new releases, the same words seems to be popping off the covers. I think that perhaps editors and maketing depts are less willing to try something “different.” Personally, I really like evocative titles, like “A Breath of Snow & Ashes” or “One Perfect Rose.” IMO. Fantasy and mystery seem to have more creative titles.

    Reply
  58. A fun post, Mary Jo. You are so right—cooking up a title requires a complex chemistry of ingredients. And I have to admit that once or twice it’s blown up in my face. (Oh, don’t get me started . . . the book shall remain nameless, with good reason.) But most of the time, the results are just fine.
    One trend I’ve noticed in romance books is that there is a lot of “sameness” to the titles. In fact, when you look at the shelves of new releases, the same words seems to be popping off the covers. I think that perhaps editors and maketing depts are less willing to try something “different.” Personally, I really like evocative titles, like “A Breath of Snow & Ashes” or “One Perfect Rose.” IMO. Fantasy and mystery seem to have more creative titles.

    Reply
  59. A fun post, Mary Jo. You are so right—cooking up a title requires a complex chemistry of ingredients. And I have to admit that once or twice it’s blown up in my face. (Oh, don’t get me started . . . the book shall remain nameless, with good reason.) But most of the time, the results are just fine.
    One trend I’ve noticed in romance books is that there is a lot of “sameness” to the titles. In fact, when you look at the shelves of new releases, the same words seems to be popping off the covers. I think that perhaps editors and maketing depts are less willing to try something “different.” Personally, I really like evocative titles, like “A Breath of Snow & Ashes” or “One Perfect Rose.” IMO. Fantasy and mystery seem to have more creative titles.

    Reply
  60. A fun post, Mary Jo. You are so right—cooking up a title requires a complex chemistry of ingredients. And I have to admit that once or twice it’s blown up in my face. (Oh, don’t get me started . . . the book shall remain nameless, with good reason.) But most of the time, the results are just fine.
    One trend I’ve noticed in romance books is that there is a lot of “sameness” to the titles. In fact, when you look at the shelves of new releases, the same words seems to be popping off the covers. I think that perhaps editors and maketing depts are less willing to try something “different.” Personally, I really like evocative titles, like “A Breath of Snow & Ashes” or “One Perfect Rose.” IMO. Fantasy and mystery seem to have more creative titles.

    Reply
  61. In my experience the more people get in on the marketing act the more my titles are likely to be changed.
    Mostly I’ve had titles I was happy with. There was only one that was non-negotiable, and that was my sole contemporary romantic comedy. It was published in a two-books-in-one format, and the other author wrote a western setting and mine was in Montana, so they wanted to signal mine as a western. My title was Romancing Sheriff Stone, they changed it to How the Sheriff Was Won.
    I’ve rarely come up with a brilliant (in marketing terms) title, so these days I usually give it a working title and then when I really know what the story’s about, with the help of my friends, come up with a short list of titles. My publisher and I then go to and fro with it until we find one that works for us both. Usually this process is done before the final draft of the book, so I get a chance to tie the title in.

    Reply
  62. In my experience the more people get in on the marketing act the more my titles are likely to be changed.
    Mostly I’ve had titles I was happy with. There was only one that was non-negotiable, and that was my sole contemporary romantic comedy. It was published in a two-books-in-one format, and the other author wrote a western setting and mine was in Montana, so they wanted to signal mine as a western. My title was Romancing Sheriff Stone, they changed it to How the Sheriff Was Won.
    I’ve rarely come up with a brilliant (in marketing terms) title, so these days I usually give it a working title and then when I really know what the story’s about, with the help of my friends, come up with a short list of titles. My publisher and I then go to and fro with it until we find one that works for us both. Usually this process is done before the final draft of the book, so I get a chance to tie the title in.

    Reply
  63. In my experience the more people get in on the marketing act the more my titles are likely to be changed.
    Mostly I’ve had titles I was happy with. There was only one that was non-negotiable, and that was my sole contemporary romantic comedy. It was published in a two-books-in-one format, and the other author wrote a western setting and mine was in Montana, so they wanted to signal mine as a western. My title was Romancing Sheriff Stone, they changed it to How the Sheriff Was Won.
    I’ve rarely come up with a brilliant (in marketing terms) title, so these days I usually give it a working title and then when I really know what the story’s about, with the help of my friends, come up with a short list of titles. My publisher and I then go to and fro with it until we find one that works for us both. Usually this process is done before the final draft of the book, so I get a chance to tie the title in.

    Reply
  64. In my experience the more people get in on the marketing act the more my titles are likely to be changed.
    Mostly I’ve had titles I was happy with. There was only one that was non-negotiable, and that was my sole contemporary romantic comedy. It was published in a two-books-in-one format, and the other author wrote a western setting and mine was in Montana, so they wanted to signal mine as a western. My title was Romancing Sheriff Stone, they changed it to How the Sheriff Was Won.
    I’ve rarely come up with a brilliant (in marketing terms) title, so these days I usually give it a working title and then when I really know what the story’s about, with the help of my friends, come up with a short list of titles. My publisher and I then go to and fro with it until we find one that works for us both. Usually this process is done before the final draft of the book, so I get a chance to tie the title in.

    Reply
  65. In my experience the more people get in on the marketing act the more my titles are likely to be changed.
    Mostly I’ve had titles I was happy with. There was only one that was non-negotiable, and that was my sole contemporary romantic comedy. It was published in a two-books-in-one format, and the other author wrote a western setting and mine was in Montana, so they wanted to signal mine as a western. My title was Romancing Sheriff Stone, they changed it to How the Sheriff Was Won.
    I’ve rarely come up with a brilliant (in marketing terms) title, so these days I usually give it a working title and then when I really know what the story’s about, with the help of my friends, come up with a short list of titles. My publisher and I then go to and fro with it until we find one that works for us both. Usually this process is done before the final draft of the book, so I get a chance to tie the title in.

    Reply
  66. I love this post, Mary Jo! “What’s in a name?” indeed! I’ve been fairly lucky with titles, so far. Out of 13 published books I think I’ve had 10 of them be pubbed under my original working title; and only 3 of the 13 final titles emerged from a wrestling match/Yalta conference with my respective editors, though there were subtitle discussions related to my nonfiction titles. One of those historical fiction titles that got changed before publication was one you blurbed, MJ: do you recall when BY A LADY (and speaking of putting the word “lady” in historical fiction titles, I’ve had BY A LADY and TOO GREAT A LADY) was originally titled SENSE AND SENSUALITY?

    Reply
  67. I love this post, Mary Jo! “What’s in a name?” indeed! I’ve been fairly lucky with titles, so far. Out of 13 published books I think I’ve had 10 of them be pubbed under my original working title; and only 3 of the 13 final titles emerged from a wrestling match/Yalta conference with my respective editors, though there were subtitle discussions related to my nonfiction titles. One of those historical fiction titles that got changed before publication was one you blurbed, MJ: do you recall when BY A LADY (and speaking of putting the word “lady” in historical fiction titles, I’ve had BY A LADY and TOO GREAT A LADY) was originally titled SENSE AND SENSUALITY?

    Reply
  68. I love this post, Mary Jo! “What’s in a name?” indeed! I’ve been fairly lucky with titles, so far. Out of 13 published books I think I’ve had 10 of them be pubbed under my original working title; and only 3 of the 13 final titles emerged from a wrestling match/Yalta conference with my respective editors, though there were subtitle discussions related to my nonfiction titles. One of those historical fiction titles that got changed before publication was one you blurbed, MJ: do you recall when BY A LADY (and speaking of putting the word “lady” in historical fiction titles, I’ve had BY A LADY and TOO GREAT A LADY) was originally titled SENSE AND SENSUALITY?

    Reply
  69. I love this post, Mary Jo! “What’s in a name?” indeed! I’ve been fairly lucky with titles, so far. Out of 13 published books I think I’ve had 10 of them be pubbed under my original working title; and only 3 of the 13 final titles emerged from a wrestling match/Yalta conference with my respective editors, though there were subtitle discussions related to my nonfiction titles. One of those historical fiction titles that got changed before publication was one you blurbed, MJ: do you recall when BY A LADY (and speaking of putting the word “lady” in historical fiction titles, I’ve had BY A LADY and TOO GREAT A LADY) was originally titled SENSE AND SENSUALITY?

    Reply
  70. I love this post, Mary Jo! “What’s in a name?” indeed! I’ve been fairly lucky with titles, so far. Out of 13 published books I think I’ve had 10 of them be pubbed under my original working title; and only 3 of the 13 final titles emerged from a wrestling match/Yalta conference with my respective editors, though there were subtitle discussions related to my nonfiction titles. One of those historical fiction titles that got changed before publication was one you blurbed, MJ: do you recall when BY A LADY (and speaking of putting the word “lady” in historical fiction titles, I’ve had BY A LADY and TOO GREAT A LADY) was originally titled SENSE AND SENSUALITY?

    Reply
  71. From MJP:
    Nice of you to stop by, Leslie! I’d forgotten that BY A LADY was once SENSE & SENSUALITY. I think we all have a little mental scrapbook of titles we liked but which weren’t accepted. LOVING A LOST LORD was for a time entitled KNOW BY HEART, a great title conceived by the much missed Kate Duffy, and perfect for an amnesia book. But I suspect that marketing was right that Loving a Lost Lord had broader general appeal. sigh. Certainly LALL fit the book.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  72. From MJP:
    Nice of you to stop by, Leslie! I’d forgotten that BY A LADY was once SENSE & SENSUALITY. I think we all have a little mental scrapbook of titles we liked but which weren’t accepted. LOVING A LOST LORD was for a time entitled KNOW BY HEART, a great title conceived by the much missed Kate Duffy, and perfect for an amnesia book. But I suspect that marketing was right that Loving a Lost Lord had broader general appeal. sigh. Certainly LALL fit the book.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  73. From MJP:
    Nice of you to stop by, Leslie! I’d forgotten that BY A LADY was once SENSE & SENSUALITY. I think we all have a little mental scrapbook of titles we liked but which weren’t accepted. LOVING A LOST LORD was for a time entitled KNOW BY HEART, a great title conceived by the much missed Kate Duffy, and perfect for an amnesia book. But I suspect that marketing was right that Loving a Lost Lord had broader general appeal. sigh. Certainly LALL fit the book.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  74. From MJP:
    Nice of you to stop by, Leslie! I’d forgotten that BY A LADY was once SENSE & SENSUALITY. I think we all have a little mental scrapbook of titles we liked but which weren’t accepted. LOVING A LOST LORD was for a time entitled KNOW BY HEART, a great title conceived by the much missed Kate Duffy, and perfect for an amnesia book. But I suspect that marketing was right that Loving a Lost Lord had broader general appeal. sigh. Certainly LALL fit the book.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  75. From MJP:
    Nice of you to stop by, Leslie! I’d forgotten that BY A LADY was once SENSE & SENSUALITY. I think we all have a little mental scrapbook of titles we liked but which weren’t accepted. LOVING A LOST LORD was for a time entitled KNOW BY HEART, a great title conceived by the much missed Kate Duffy, and perfect for an amnesia book. But I suspect that marketing was right that Loving a Lost Lord had broader general appeal. sigh. Certainly LALL fit the book.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  76. Ah, the infamous title discussion.
    When I started my tattoo shop mystery series, I needed a title for the first book. I came up with 50, yes, 50, titles that were knocked down by my publisher. It was discouraging. And then my husband came up with one that I hated. But I knew my editor would love. THE MISSING INK. So that was the title. Now all my titles have INK in them. Next one is PRETTY IN INK.

    Reply
  77. Ah, the infamous title discussion.
    When I started my tattoo shop mystery series, I needed a title for the first book. I came up with 50, yes, 50, titles that were knocked down by my publisher. It was discouraging. And then my husband came up with one that I hated. But I knew my editor would love. THE MISSING INK. So that was the title. Now all my titles have INK in them. Next one is PRETTY IN INK.

    Reply
  78. Ah, the infamous title discussion.
    When I started my tattoo shop mystery series, I needed a title for the first book. I came up with 50, yes, 50, titles that were knocked down by my publisher. It was discouraging. And then my husband came up with one that I hated. But I knew my editor would love. THE MISSING INK. So that was the title. Now all my titles have INK in them. Next one is PRETTY IN INK.

    Reply
  79. Ah, the infamous title discussion.
    When I started my tattoo shop mystery series, I needed a title for the first book. I came up with 50, yes, 50, titles that were knocked down by my publisher. It was discouraging. And then my husband came up with one that I hated. But I knew my editor would love. THE MISSING INK. So that was the title. Now all my titles have INK in them. Next one is PRETTY IN INK.

    Reply
  80. Ah, the infamous title discussion.
    When I started my tattoo shop mystery series, I needed a title for the first book. I came up with 50, yes, 50, titles that were knocked down by my publisher. It was discouraging. And then my husband came up with one that I hated. But I knew my editor would love. THE MISSING INK. So that was the title. Now all my titles have INK in them. Next one is PRETTY IN INK.

    Reply
  81. From MJP:
    Ah, Karen, such a familiar title tale! I’ve produced. I’ve sent in equally long lists on occasion.
    Though you might hate it, it does work to brand a tattoo shop series, and that’s worth a fair amount. But somewhere, I’m sure, there are titles you came up with that you liked a lot better!

    Reply
  82. From MJP:
    Ah, Karen, such a familiar title tale! I’ve produced. I’ve sent in equally long lists on occasion.
    Though you might hate it, it does work to brand a tattoo shop series, and that’s worth a fair amount. But somewhere, I’m sure, there are titles you came up with that you liked a lot better!

    Reply
  83. From MJP:
    Ah, Karen, such a familiar title tale! I’ve produced. I’ve sent in equally long lists on occasion.
    Though you might hate it, it does work to brand a tattoo shop series, and that’s worth a fair amount. But somewhere, I’m sure, there are titles you came up with that you liked a lot better!

    Reply
  84. From MJP:
    Ah, Karen, such a familiar title tale! I’ve produced. I’ve sent in equally long lists on occasion.
    Though you might hate it, it does work to brand a tattoo shop series, and that’s worth a fair amount. But somewhere, I’m sure, there are titles you came up with that you liked a lot better!

    Reply
  85. From MJP:
    Ah, Karen, such a familiar title tale! I’ve produced. I’ve sent in equally long lists on occasion.
    Though you might hate it, it does work to brand a tattoo shop series, and that’s worth a fair amount. But somewhere, I’m sure, there are titles you came up with that you liked a lot better!

    Reply
  86. Mary Jo, Know by Heart is such a way better title for that book that I’m going to X out the title on my copy & change it — just as soon as I find a harmonizing Sharpie pen 😉

    Reply
  87. Mary Jo, Know by Heart is such a way better title for that book that I’m going to X out the title on my copy & change it — just as soon as I find a harmonizing Sharpie pen 😉

    Reply
  88. Mary Jo, Know by Heart is such a way better title for that book that I’m going to X out the title on my copy & change it — just as soon as I find a harmonizing Sharpie pen 😉

    Reply
  89. Mary Jo, Know by Heart is such a way better title for that book that I’m going to X out the title on my copy & change it — just as soon as I find a harmonizing Sharpie pen 😉

    Reply
  90. Mary Jo, Know by Heart is such a way better title for that book that I’m going to X out the title on my copy & change it — just as soon as I find a harmonizing Sharpie pen 😉

    Reply

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