Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Choosing the Right Title

Sometimes titles come easily to us, sometimes we have to search hard to find the right title for our stories.

‘His Leading Lady’ was an obvious one for me, especially as it had a double meaning. Jess was Kyle’s leading lady in the show, but who had that role in his life?

‘Fragrance of Violets’ came from a quotation by Mark Twain about forgiveness, which fitted the theme of the book. It resulted in a beautiful cover but, on reflection, was it too obscure to be the title of a romance novel?

‘Changing the Future’ again came from something I once read, not a ‘quotation’ per se, but enough for me to know this was the right title for the story.

My next release has the title ‘Her Only Option.’ I've lost count of how many titles I considered and abandoned, once I’d decided that my working title of ‘Romance on the Nile’ was too reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Poirot! I’m not happy with it, but neither my editor nor I could come up with anything better. So be it, although I admit I will never really like it.

The two WIPs I’m struggling with at the moment already have their titles – ‘Different Worlds’ (because of the very different lives of the hero and heroine) and ‘Dream of Paris’ in which the heroine’s dream of  living in the City of Love is a pivotal part of the story.

In the present climate, though, (and looking at the bestseller lists), maybe I should be thinking about ’50 Lights of Paris’ or ‘Submission by the Seine’ or ‘Vampires at Versailles'. Okay, I’m being facetious – or am I? I wonder if E.L. James agonised over her titles?

How do you choose yours?     


  1. Like you,Paula, I find sometimes they jump into my head and stay. Usually though I generate lists of possible titles - often halfway through the book or even when it's finished - and eliminate them until one just sticks. I use any old mundane working title while writing. Of course, if you have a publisher rather than DIY, they nearly always change the title anyway!

  2. I have such a hard time choosing a title. But once I figure it out, it seems like what I picked was perfect all along and I very rarely change one. Sometimes it's the title itself that gets the whole novel started.

  3. I have to say that my titles usually come to me sometime during the writing process, either by what a character says (A Heart of Little Faith) or a theme that comes through (Skin Deep and Seduction of Esther). I'm sure I'll have to agonize at some point, but right now, I'm not worrying about it.

  4. Titles can be tricky...lots of times they just come to me. Other times it takes a while. Many times I have a title before I start writing, but sometimes the title comes from the work itself.

    "Wild Wedding Weekend" had a completely different title when I submitted it ("Winner Takes All"), but that title was already being used for another story at my publishing house. So, between my editor and myself, we came up with "Wild Wedding Weekend", which is actually part of the name of a game show my hero and heroine participate in in the book. Now I can't imagine the book with any other title. It fits perfectly.

    In some publishing houses, you don't even get to keep your original title. Which is a shame when you think about all the hours we might spend agonizing over one, but then again, the titles they come up with are supposedly based on reasearch on what sells. And that's not a bad thing.

  5. I usually have a working title while I'm writing the book that is not intended to be the published title. On my debut book, my editor and I made lists and compared notes, then agreed on one. That tltle may set the paradigm for the rest of the series...we'll see!

  6. Liz, I find the ones that jump into your head are usually the best ones. Usually I get the title about half way through writing. I have more of a struggle if I get to the end without the 'right' title hitting me!

    Carrie - that's happened to me, somehow you just 'know' it's the right title when you get it!

    Jen - you've been lucky then, as I think most authors agonise over their title at some point!

    Debra - you've raised a good point about checking whether your title is already being used somewhere else. When 'His Leading Lady' was published, there was no other book with that title. About six months later, another book with the same title appeared on Amazon which miffed me slightly!
    BTW I've never ever had any of my novels re-titled, although some of my short stories were.

  7. Willa - my 'Different Worlds' originally had the working title of 'Christmas Story' until one of the characters said, 'We live in different worlds' - and then I knew I had my title.
    Best of luck with your series!

  8. I have a terrible time choosing the titles for my work. I'm never really happy with them, though my editor has never requested that I change any of them so I guess they are better than I think they are. LOL. Sometime I wish the duty of choosing the title was taken out of my hands but then if it was, I probably wouldn't like not having any say in the matter either.

  9. Katherine, seems like your titles are fine if your editor accepts them! I'm usually happy with mine once I make the decision (or the title jumps out at me) - with the exception of the title of my next novel. My editor knew I wasn't happy with it, and she tried to come up with some alternatives (without success), and the Senior Editor has accepted it, so maybe it's okay (but I still don't like it!)

  10. Sometimes I rack my brain for days or resort to the internet for ideas. But eventually the name comes to me and it works.

    I usually wait until the book is finished before I title it. But lately I've needed the title while it's still a WIP. That makes life even harder.

  11. Hi Clare
    Thanks for visiting. If I'm stuck for a title, I google quotations on what I think is the 'theme' of the novel. That's how I got my 'Fragrance of Violets' title as it's a direct quote from Mark Twain. But I've found quotations can spark off ideas in your mind even if they don't provide an actual title.

  12. I have working titles. I hear editors often change titles, so I don't want to get too attached to one.

  13. Titles are kind of weird. I have no talent for creating really good title. I do believe, though, that a title should give the reader at least a hint of the message in the book. A title either comes to me or not, and if it doesn't appear naturally...then I'm in big trouble.
    I wrote a 1500 word Free Read for The Wild Rose Press--a Christmas story. First title-A Christmas to Remember. Nope, editor said it sounded like An Affair to Remember--and my story is Nineteenth Century. Second title--Victoria's Christmas. Nope. Sounds too much like Victoria's Secret. Get the
    picture? But she would not title it for me.
    Finally, I said, Merry Christmas, Victoria. Perfect, she said--see? You can do it!
    Do I choose a book based on a title? In a way, but probably if the title seemed offensive I wouldn't want to read the book anyway.
    Good topic!

  14. Celia, that was the problem I had with my romance set in Egypt - 'A Nile Romance' seemed too bland somehow, but no other title came 'naturally' as you put it.
    Interesting point about whether you choose a book based on the title, Must confess 'Billionaire' in a title puts me off! And I agree about offensive titles too.