Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What's in a title?

Not a whole heck of a lot.

Regardless, I reckon a lot of time and effort goes into finding just the right title for a book. Even if the rumours are true, and the editor/publisher or even, egads, the marketing department, has the final say-so on the book's title, many writers will want at least an interim label, usueful during pitches, for example — correct me if I'm wrong, Brown— or simply when referring to the wip among writerly friends (not to mention thinking of the thing to one's self).

This past weekend I read my first Louise Allen historical, A Most Unconventional Courtship. I loved it! Louise goes to the top of my Wish List. While at Amazon, a fun place to hang out, I checked out some of her other offerings. I came across this: two titles by different authors, both of which are now sitting in said Wish List.


(Actually, I succumbed and bought Loretta's book a day or two ago. I'm trying to read it slowly because I enjoy her prose so much. Darius and Charlotte are relentless, however, forever spurring me on to read more, more, more.)

Now I think I know why the Presents line, for instance, uses so many qualifiers in its titles. We can't have simply The Defiant Mistress or The Captive Virgin; instead, it's The Italian's Defiant Mistress or The Sheikh's Captive Virgin or The Hungarian's Virgin Bride. This way, there's less likelihood of finding five books by the same name, all written by different authors.

Now I get it. Duuuhhh!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest, I don't know about the titles. I suppose if you have a truly dismal/seriously long title, the publisher would gently prod you to find something else.

I can tell you that I met an author at the Conference who pitched and was absolutely offended because one of the agents/editors wanted her to change the name of one of the characters.

The comment made was that the name conjured frivilous images, rather than the dark, dangerous images of the story and plot. The author refused, and the e/a wished her the best of luck, but didn't offer to read her work.

So, I suppose sometimes the seemingly innocuous things can be minefields while something that seems so important (i.e. a title) doesn't even cause a ripple.

6:20 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

I think the writer in question may come to regret her decision, or is she well-established at this point?

6:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion, she's well-established. Her opinion is that she needs more exposure.

Had it been me, I would have changed the name of the character. But for her, it was a point that she was unwilling to concede, and I can't help but respect her for holding to what she considers an un-negotiable issue.

1:33 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

If I were an editor, which I am definitely not, I might wonder whether this is a writer I'd want to work with. I mean, if she's that adamant about a name, how is she going to react to editorial suggestions?

5:01 pm  
Blogger Annie said...

Personally, I'd go along with whatever an editor wanted if it meant getting my book published - but then I'm cheap like that.

Happy reading!

10:22 pm  
Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Well, I always listen to my editor. Names are not suggested lightly. There is always a reason, and sometimes, finding that new name can give you insight.

Titles are a marketing decision. Pure and simple.

I come up with title that means I can write the book. Then my editor comes up with one that can sell the book. The newer you are, the more likely you are to keep your title.

Personally I like cheesy titles so I was super pleased with The Roman's Virgin Mistress. Soret of says it all. Then they are trying to market me as more Presents historicals...

12:36 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

Michelle, why "the newer you are, the more likely you are to keep your title"?

Annie, I'm with you - I have no principles whatsoever. Short of paying for the privilege of being published.

4:04 pm  
Blogger India said...

It's a really interesting point, this one Eva. I guess most of us have raised our eyebrows at the titles every now and again, but the thing is they do their job (which is selling the books) brilliantly. And I'm with Michelle-- you just know when you've got a good one. (Which The Roman's Virgin Mistress certainly is! Yay!)

4:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eva and Annie, I'm both with both of you. I'd change the hero's name, the heroine's name--hell, I'd change my name if they wanted me to! :P

Ahhh. Unpublsihed writers. We'd sell our mothers for the right price (and book cover!)!

1:29 am  
Blogger Danielle said...

Titles grab me. When I'm looking for something to read, the titles are the first thing I go for.

I was reading a blog the other day and a title popped into my head. I love the title but I don't have a story to go with it so now instead of finding a title for a story, I need to find a story to go with my title :o) Should be an interesting challenge.

5:01 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

Good luck, Danielle! Keep us posted on your progress.

2:22 am  
Anonymous Kate Hardy said...

Titles... apparently there's a three-second buying decision and therefore marketing go for buzzwords to attract the readers. These differ between lines - mistress and lover are Presents, billionaire/royal are Romance, and Doctor (that's stating the obvious, innit? *g*). There's more leeway in Modern Extra at the moment - my next one is 'Breakfast at Giovanni's', which I love. (Hated the one before it, tho!)

Re character names - hmm - there's been a debate recently among some of my friends about whether a name is sexy or not (and it's interesting to see that Brit and US takes are completely different). My agent also told me years ago that if a character isn't working, changing the name can change the character (which I think is based on your reaction to the name - Anthony was a goody-two-shoes whereas Alex was a sex-god).

I can see why an author can feel attached to a character... but if you can't work with editorial suggestions (or alternatively argue your case well enough to change your ed's mind) it doesn't bode well for a working relationship. Sometimes it's possible to be too close to your book to see its flaws, and that's where an ed can be just brilliant. (Does depend a bit on HOW they say it, thought *g*)

4:31 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

Thanks, Kate, for your insights.

I totally see myself falling for fun-loving Alex and spurning the attentions of the oh-too-serious Anthony. Now, Tony on the other hand...hmmm...he sounds like the bad boy we all love. But is he the man of our dreams...not sure.

8:19 pm  

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