Nicola here, with a quick and light-hearted look at title trends. I’m just back from the wonderful RNA Conference where one of the sessions I attended was on fashions in commercial fiction. There was some discussion about the importance of titles and the way that publishers brand a particular style of book. This led us on to the “girl” phenomena. It started with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I think. Then there was Gone, Girl, the Girl on the Train and many, many other girls in various situations, places and circumstances, mostly with a hint of danger about them. Last year over 60% of one UK bookseller’s top titles had a female noun in them whether it was girl, wife, mother, sister or something else.
Choosing a title for a book is a difficult business so it’s always interesting to analyse what makes a particular theme popular. I hadn’t thought that “girl titles” were particularly applicable to historical fiction until I looked at the book charts and then I realised I was quite wrong. The Girl with No Name by Diney Costelloe has spent a lot of time at the top of Amazon’s historical fiction charts. It has a nice, mysterious ring to it. There are Rose Girls, Woolworths Girls and lots of other historical girls. It’s less easy to see how a “girl” title would work with Regency romance. The Girl and the Duke doesn’t sound right at all. But now the title trend has apparently moved on and I was astonished to find that I was right in the forefront of it because the new “hot” title has the word “house” in it.
Stories built around the idea of a “big house” have always been popular, There was Manderley in Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier, Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey and many, many more. So often the house is a character in itself. It plays a central role in a story; there is the contrast of the glittering world of the family Upstairs and the servants’ hall Downstairs. Perhaps the house is hiding its own secrets. There is usually an atmosphere about it and a suggestion of mysteries that are waiting to be revealed. The “house” title works particularly well with timeslip or dual time stories – The Lake House, the House at Riverton, or versions of it such as the wonderful book The Daughters of Red Hill Hall by Kath McGurl (a very clever title because it has both a female noun and a house in it!)
It’s going to be particularly interesting to see how the “house” title is used in contemporary and other fiction because for it to become a trend it needs to be prevalent across most genres. Also, will the idea of the “house” feature in Regency romantic fiction or is there another direction that titles in our sub-genre are going? And is this purely a phenomenon in UK publishing or are titles in the US, Australia and other parts of the world following the same trend?
So do you have a favourite story involving a house? Do you feel that the houses featured in some books are characters in themselves? Do you have any predictions for the next “hot” style of titles in Regency romance and, dare I ask, do you have any pet hates in titles?