Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tips and Tricks for Terrific Titles

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

True, but . . . bad titles don’t sell books.

For fun, I Googled “book titles that were changed,” and here are a few well-known books and their original titles that, um, didn’t quite cut it:

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, was first called Something That Happened. Really???

The Great Gatsby
, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, had several alternate titles, one of which was Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires. Not quite the same ring, huh?

For his novel Dracula, Bram Stoker first considered The Dead Un-Dead. Not bad, but . . . not great.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, was almost called First Impressions. Would that title have made a good first impression on readers?

William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies started out as Strangers from Within. Boring . . .

And (in honor of Julie Lessman) the working title of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was Tomorrow Is Another Day. A great line for our dear, memorable Scarlett, but as the book title? Not so much.

So far, I’ve scored pretty well in keeping the titles my manuscripts were submitted under. Of my 10 traditionally published novels currently (or about to be) in print, the biggest change an editor requested was adding two letters to my original title One Perfect Christmas, making it One IMPerfect Christmas. A tiny change, but an effective one that more fully reflected what the story was about.

But let’s face it. Coming up with a killer book title is hard work. You want it to be memorable, evocative, enticing. Your title should not only match the kind of book you’re writing, but it should also strike an emotional chord with readers.

“The point to remember is that the primary function of a title is not to provide the locus of a story, but to entice the reader.”—Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

Also worth noting is that the best titles hint at more than one meaning. Mary Connealy’s book titles like Out of Control, Over the Edge, Swept Away, and Stuck Together describe not only the romance in each story but also imply something important about the central characters and their inner struggles.

As you’re casting about for title ideas, here are a few suggestions:

Song titles. Mary Higgins Clark is known for using nostalgic song titles as the titles of her novels, including I’ve Got You Under My Skin, The Shadow of Your Smile, and Let Me Call You Sweetheart. Since titles cannot be copyrighted, borrowing is perfectly acceptable. However, be careful with lyrics, which are copyrighted. The titles in my Abingdon Press historical romance series, When the Clouds Roll By, Whisper Goodbye, and Every Tear a Memory, are taken from the old World War I-era song “Till We Meet Again” (also the name for the series), but before using the phrases, I checked to be sure the lyrics were in the public domain.

Quotations. Biblical phrases or lines from famous quotes can be shaped into intriguing titles. Examples of biblically inspired titles include John Grisham’s A Time to Kill and Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. Steinbeck’s title Of Mice and Men is taken from Robert Burns’s poem “To a Mouse.” A helpful source for quotes is http://www.bartleby.com/quotations/. Enter a keyword or two based on some element of your story and see what pops up.

Word association. Quickly jot down a list of thematic words, symbols, settings, descriptions, etc., associated with your story. These words may suggest other ideas—synonyms, metaphors, word combinations. Play around with your list and see if a meaningful word or phrase stands out. The working title of my next Heartsong Presents, set in the Big Bend Country of West Texas and featuring the tiny border town of Candelaria, is Candles in the Desert.

Titles using the main character’s name.
Missy Tippens used both the character’s name and alliteration in her title A Family for Faith. Pam Hillman’s novels Stealing Jake and Claiming Mariah combine a strong action verb with the central character’s name.

Titles of similar books. Examine book titles from your target publisher. Is there a common tone or phraseology? Do certain themes or images crop up often? What’s the average length of their titles? For example, a quick perusal of Love Inspired titles reveals they are usually three to four words in length, may refer to a specific character (occasionally by name), and may include an action verb related to the development of the romance. Look at Tina Radcliffe’s Mending the Doctor’s Heart and Glynna Kaye’s A Canyon Springs Courtship. Love Inspired Historical titles follow a similar pattern, including Janet Dean’s Courting Miss Adelaide and Jan Drexler’s A Mother for His Children. Debby Giusti’s Love Inspired Suspense titles such as The Captain’s Mission and The Officer’s Secret suggest an element of danger facing the central character.

Brainstorm with your friends. Toss out your synopsis or a brief story description to a group of trusted friends (the Seekers do this regularly). You might be pleasantly surprised (or at least get a laugh or two) at the insights a fresh set of eyes and some vivid imaginations will generate!

“Most important, titles must arise from your book and reflect its theme. Titles must come from within rather than from without.”—Elizabeth Lyon, The Sell Your Novel Toolkit.

Once you have the beginnings of some title ideas, here are a few questions to ask:

Is the title easy to remember? Make sure your title is short enough and catchy enough that readers won’t forget it when they look for it in the bookstore or search online.

Is the title easy to pronounce? Avoid foreign words and phrases or difficult names that might not be familiar to most readers.

Does the title reflect the tone and genre of your book?
Cutesy won’t cut it for a suspense-filled novel, nor do you want an overly dramatic title for a humorous book.

Is your title too similar to that of a book already in print?
Search for your title on amazon.com or Google. As I mentioned earlier, titles cannot be copyrighted, but current titles that are too much alike can cause confusion for the book buyer. You also want to avoid any negative connotation between your book and a similarly titled book that your readers might find offensive.

Let’s talk! Name a few book titles that stand out in your mind. What makes them memorable? Why do you find them appealing (or not)? Do you have other suggestions for coming up with a great book title? One lucky commenter today will win a $10 Amazon gift card, so chat away!

~~~~~~~~~~~

Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Myra is a two-time finalist for the prestigious ACFW Carol Awards, and her Heartsong Presents romance Autumn Rains (November 2009) won RWA’s 2005 Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript. She’s also thrilled that her novel When the Clouds Roll By won the historical fiction category of the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best Award! Her current release, Whisper Goodbye, received a 4 1/2-star review from Romantic Times.

Married since 1972, Myra and her husband are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters who, along with their godly husbands, have huge hearts for ministry. Seven grandchildren take up another big chunk of Myra’s heart. Originally from Texas, the Johnsons moved to the Carolinas in 2011. They love the climate and scenery, but they may never get used to the pulled pork Carolinians call “barbecue”! The Johnsons share their home with two very pampered doggies who don’t always understand the meaning of “Mom’s trying to write.”
 
Find Myra online at www.MyraJohnson.com
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Twitter: @MyraJohnson and @TheGrammarQueen
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130 comments:

Helen Gray said...

All three of my titles got changed, but I got to keep the "Ozark" first word of them. The first one was too similar to another Heartsong that was to release before mine. The other two just got changed. :)

To Kill A Mockingbird is interesting.

So is coffee. It's brewing.

Loves To Read said...

I love Julianna Deering's "Murder at the Mikado" - just a great title! And Debbie Viguie using Psalm 23 as titles for her mystery series. Please enter me in the drawing.

Melissa Jagears said...

Oh boy, when you do a series also think of how they'll want them to sound similar. It took forever to come up with A Bride in Store after A Bride for Keeps though it um, was like obviously the right one as soon as someone said it, but it took forever before someone did.

And my third book title was obvious too, but thankfully it came right away. A Bride at Last.

Cindy W. said...

There are so many great titles out there. I'm looking around to the books covering my shelves and floor (need to move some) and the one that always catches my eye is a book by Jerry B. Jenkins, Though None Go With Me. I love that title, and the movie, and the book. :)

There are times I pick up a book and the title intrigues me but by the time I finish the book I'm scratching my head thinking, "Why that title" - guess I didn't 'get it'.

Would love to be in your drawing.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Jackie said...

Great post today. Definitely a keeper.

Brandilyn Collins' newest book is Sidetracked. You need to read the story to see how it fits, but it's perfect.

cathyann40 said...

This was interesting.

Debby Giusti said...

Myra, great blog on titles. So important!

My editors wanted titles that included military and suspense for my Military Investigations series. After six books, they decided to change the format. The story that comes out in May 2015 is titled STRANDED. Definitely a change, but one I like.

Love that you used phrases from a song for your titles.

Mary Hicks said...

I love the subject of titles!:-) I've bought books just because of the title.

I'm thinking of, When Hearts Entwine for the MS I'm working on... or Trespassing. :-)

Thanks for a fun and helpful post, Myra!

Kav said...

Wow -- so much goes into creating a title. Who knew?

One of the best titles ever -- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I wonder if she thought that one up?

Some of the faves in my just read pile: Chain of Mercy by Brenda Anderson -- really speaks to the story. Life Support by Candace Calvert -- medical drama but the twist is in the storyline which is all about giving support.

What about subtitles? I don't notice them as much in Christian fiction. I wonder why?

Cara Lynn James said...

I came up with the title of my first book, Love on a Dime. So the other two books in the series needed similar titles. My editor picked Love by the Book and I picked Love on Assignment. They fit together fine and so did the covers.

Some titles are really hard to come by, but some are easier and you wonder how you ever thought of them.

Vince said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vince said...

.
.
"“The ideal title will act as a hook baited with a treat from inside the story that the intended readers will find irresistible.”

Wilani Wahl said...

Three of the books I have read lately have some great titles.
The Butterfly and the Violin, The Hesitant Heiress, and The Secrets of Sloan House. The titles all fit the books perfectly.

I hope everyone is having a good day.

Please enter me in the drawing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh I love the great ideas of how to align the stars and planets of words to come up with pithy, reflective titles...

I think I've had two titles get used.... :)

And honestly, I'm okay with that.

"Waiting Out the Storm" and "Red Kettle Christmas"...

So Myra, I totally am in awe of the fact that you've kept so many! Good for you!

I use generics now while working. My computer has a file for "Julia and Tanner's Book" and the book file is named "Whole Book"...

Because I know it will be renamed and that's all right.

Helen, you and I understand that loving our titles isn't in our best interests, LOL!

Hey, we've got fresh bread from yesterday... Wait, does that make it un-fresh???

:)

Janet Dean said...

Myra, thanks for the very interesting post! I'm amazed how many titles you were able to keep. They're great so I shouldn't be surprised. It's just that I've never had my working title accepted.

Though I have suggested alternatives, thanks to Seeker brainstorming, and from the list my editor selected one. Does that count? :-)

I'm getting the feel for LIH titles so maybe next time?? Editors have far better insight on what titles will hook readers.

Adding IM to Perfect was brilliant!

I emjoyed seeing that even the great writers I admire weren't so savvy with titles. Thanks for sharing!

Though I don't read Sue Grafton, my dh does. Her ABC titles are clever.

Janet

Tracey Hagwood said...

I've read some great series and when I look at the titles on the shelf a lot of them are one, two or three word titles, but they really catch my attention and intrigue me in combination with their covers:

Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced and Sabotaged(2015)

Rekindled, Revealed amd Remembered

True Devotion, True Valor, True Honor and True Courage(True Courage interestingly enough has been changed to Kidnapped)

Surrender the Heart, Surrender the Night and Surrender the Dawn

Myra Johnson said...

Good morning, Seekerville, and thanks, HELEN, for starting the coffee! Just polished off my pot of Earl Grey so I think I'm ready to roll!

Yes, To Kill a Mockingbird was originally just Atticus. Not the same punch.

Myra Johnson said...

Oooh, Murder at the Mikado--intriguing! Thanks for mentioning it, LOVES TO READ! And the Psalms are just full of wonderful title ideas. I often go there first when I'm casting about for a new title.

Myra Johnson said...

MELISSA, that's a good point about tying series titles together somehow. I had fun selecting phrases from "Till We Meet Again" for my series titles.

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

I love titles almost as much as covers! A few that stood out to me on my kindle are "Chasing the Lion", "A Talent for Trouble" and "It Had To Be You".

Myra Johnson said...

CINDY W., I've noticed that about some titles, too. By the time I get to the end of the book, I'm wondering how the title ties in. I like it when there's a phrase or line of dialogue or scene in the book that somehow mirrors the title and all the gears in my head go "click."

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great post Myra and I"m like Ruthy--in awe that you were able to keep your titles. I love the WWII titles btw.

My hubby comes up with great titles for me. Where The Eagle Flies was one of my favorite. It so applied to the story because an eagle shows up at all the plot points. But Warner changed it to Dream Song and that was because that month the other publishers were doing SONG titles, Moon Song, Morning Song, etc. It is all about marketing.

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, JACKIE! Yes, Brandilyn's titles are always catchy and make you want to find out what the story is about.

Myra Johnson said...

Ooooh, Stranded--intriguing title, DEBBY! Can't wait to see what that one is about! Will it also be a military suspense?

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, MARY HICKS! Both those titles sound interesting. Trespassing has some especially intriguing connotation. Hmmm . . .

Myra Johnson said...

KAV, I loved A Wrinkle in Time! Yes, I wonder if that was her original title. Either way, it definitely hints at what the story is about.

Writers of medical thrillers have so many analogous possibilities. Richard Mabry's titles are always fun: Heart Failure, Critical Condition, Stress Test, to name a few.

Myra Johnson said...

CARA, the titles in your series did fit so well together. Using the same word in different contexts is a great way to link a series, just like MELISSA said earlier with her "Bride" titles.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince....

Laughing!!!! I do like good titles, and I LOVE great covers, but mostly...

I love great books.

But an evocative title and a great GRAB ME NOW!!!! cover are so good for our cause!

Myra Johnson said...

Great quote, VINCE!

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, WILANI! Yes, those are great titles! They definitely make me curious about the stories. The Secrets of Sloan House is another good example of alliteration and also a title word that implies mystery.

Myra Johnson said...

RUTHY, the titles you got to keep deserved to be kept!

Sometimes if a title doesn't jump out at me right away, I'll keep the manuscript in a generically titled file. But more often than not, the title comes to me right along with the characters and original story idea. It's like I can't fully "live" with the story until it has a name.

Myra Johnson said...

JANET, when you're writing for an established line like the Love Inspired family, the editors must really have to work hard at choosing titles that will fit with the other books in the pipeline.

And yay for the Seeker brainstorming team! We sure have come up with some doozies!

Myra Johnson said...

Excellent examples, TRACY! Notice the alliteration and repeated words. And see how easy it is to grasp the series connection between Tamera Alexander's three one-word "R" titles?

Myra Johnson said...

Great titles, ANNA! Chasing the Lion is one I'd pick up to find out more about.

Myra Johnson said...

Yes, SANDRA, it really is all about marketing, and we have to trust our publishers to have some idea of what will sell best.

Although Where the Eagle Flies really catches my attention. Sorry you didn't get to keep it!

And how nice to have a live-in title assistant!

Tina Radcliffe said...

This really got me thinking about how authors BRAND their titles. Must think more. Cool!!

Connie Queen said...

I tend to like the one-word titles even though my own are longer.

Husbands May Run but They Can't Hide is much too long, but I still use it. If it ever gets published, it'll probably get changed to The Runaway Groom or Savannah Runaway Husband or something...

I'm also a fan of Mary Higgins Clark titles.
I'd read Mary Connealy's Nosy in Nebraska just because of the title.

Myra Johnson said...

TINA, yes. Good point about branding through our titles.

Myra Johnson said...

CONNIE, I'd have to agree, your title is a bit on the long side.

FYI, I just looked up Runaway Groom on Amazon and there are already at least four or five books with that title.

Myra Johnson said...

CONNIE, meant to add that Nosy in Nebraska is a title that would get my attention, too--fun!!! Once again, we have alliteration AND the curious "mystery" word "nosy."

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Myra!

So far, I'm two for two for having my titles changed. Although I love the new titles better than my original :)

And thank you for mentioning my August release - A Mother for His Children. The working title for that one was Her Redeeming Grace, but the new title fits the story so much better.

Book titles that stand out? Helen already mentioned To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a perfect title. Another one I like is a non-fiction history of an Amish-Mennonite congregation in Lancaster County, PA: As Long as Wood Grows and Water Flows. It really captures the essence of this narrative history, and the hope of the historians that the congregation would continue long after their time.

Thank you for the good look at what makes a title!

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, JAN!

Oooh--As Long as Wood Grows and Water Flows. That's a really cool title!

I like your original title, too, but can see how A Mother for His Children sounds more "LIH."

Pam Hillman said...

I love playing Pin the Title on the Donkey...uh...BOOK!

Stealing Jake and Claiming Mariah are stand alones, but I have ideas for books sequels for both "series", but then they'll be two different rabbit trails.

I do have a couple of ideas for titles for a couple of my books with...as Myra said...strong action verb + lead character just in case my publisher wants to continue with the same type title, but I've been struggling with one particular title.

But thanks to Myra, I just downloaded a List of Action Verbs that I think will be very helpful if (when!) the need arises to brainstorm titles with an action verb. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tina made a great point... "BRANDING WITH TITLES"....

That can be an eye-opener for sure. When just seeing/reading the title makes you think of the author.

Great internal marketing.

Love Finds You did that with their titles and they had a great idea! It really worked, it was simple and memorable...

I loved the Jan Karon "Mitford" titles, they just made me happy... "Home to Mitford", "A Light in the Window", "Shepherds Abiding", "In This Mountain"....

Rarely to titles grab me but those did. I would love to move to Mitford!!!

Myra Johnson said...

Yay, PAM! Bet your next titles will be as catchy as your first ones!

The action verb/name combo sounds like it fits what TINA was saying earlier about our titles becoming a brand.

Myra Johnson said...

RUTHY, the Mitford stories were so engaging. I read the first several but I don't think I ever caught up with the rest. It was like being carried away to a peaceful, hometown setting of such interesting characters.

Myra Johnson said...

BTW, RUTHY, Mitford is "somewhere" in North Carolina. Beautiful state.

Mary Connealy said...

The title Stuck Together, well, I love it, I think it's fun.... however it makes me a little nervous.
When I type Out of Control or Over the Edge, Swept Away or Fired Up or In Too Deep... into Amazon I get like TEN or TWENTY hits. Apparently I'm not to the first to title a book this way.

But when I type in Stuck Together???

NOTHING

I am, it seems, the only person in the history of the world to title her book Stuck Together.

Hmmmmmm

Mary Connealy said...

And Bethany House is so great with Titles that I mostly just leave it to them.
My next series, starting the end of August.

Tried & True
Now & Forever
Fire & Ice

Myra Johnson said...

MARY, it's a great title! And I love the way at the end of the book you sort of mentioned all the other titles and how each of the heroes had to deal with whatever their book title referred to. Very, very cool.

Mary Connealy said...

I can't even remember what I had for working titles at this point. I've just learned to not get attached to titles.

And (thought I hate to even bring it up, honestly) does anyone remember when Petticoat Ranch had the title 'Room for God's Wrath???'

I see now that it didn't catch the lighthearted fun of the book. (duh)

Mary Connealy said...

I've been reading Michael Connelly's books and I've learned to really be curious about the titles because they always mean something.
The Drop
The Black Box
You know these aren't the most enticing collection of words, but they really fit the books and as I read I catch myself wondering what in the world 'The Drop' means. And then....I find out. And it's always a cool reading moment when I find it.

Myra Johnson said...

Um, yes, MARY, Room for God's Wrath sounds more like a "Mary Nealy" title.

Mary Connealy said...

My favorite of his titles is "A Darkness More Than Night"

Extremely evocative (ten dollar word alert)
But it's not typical of his titles so I wonder how he came up with it.

Also Julie Garwood wrote a line of books historical romance English ladies and Scottish Highlanders. Of course they are the ultimate 'lady and barbarian' romances and very funny.

HOWEVER the titles are just unfortunate. I could never keep them straight.
The titles are like...
The Bride
The Wedding
The Gift
The Secret
The Prize
And there is a bride, wedding, gift and secret in every one of them and now I can't remember what the prize is either.
The point is, titles are useless as far as connecting me mentally to a specific book.

Mary Connealy said...

I also think I've got the only 'The Husband Tree' novel ever written.

:)

Myra Johnson said...

Yes, MARY, I can't think of any other book EVER that referenced a husband tree.

Myra Johnson said...

I think it must be a lot easier to create relevant nonfiction titles. Just a quick perusal of my writing shelves:

How to Write Romances
You Can Market Your Book
Getting Published
How to Write & Sell Greeting Cards
Writing From Personal Experience
100 Ways to Motivate Yourself
Writing the Fiction Synopsis
Careers for Your Characters


I could go on and on!

LeAnne Bristow said...

I used to think finding a title would be easy. It was for my first few story ideas. But my latest story is plotted better than any story I've ever done...but no title. Nothing feels right. I'm going over your post with a fine tooth comb...maybe something will come to me. :)

Missy Tippens said...

How fun, Myra! I'm so glad you suggested doing a search for quotes and for possibly using songs and lyrics. Thanks for the ideas!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

When coming up with titles for Love Inspired books, and indies I always Google Amazon. Brilliance is shared.

For short stories, I take the theme and then brainstorm how they can work with the words love or romance. Those can be more difficult

Tina Radcliffe said...

Love Melissa Jagears book titles!!!!

And Helen's have a nice tie in theme.

Jeanne T said...

I've been looking forward to this post all week long. I'm sooo not good at coming up with titles. Thanks for all the tips, Myra!

I actually love Melissa Jaeger's title: Love By the Letter. She did a great job in the double meaning aspect. A lot of Susan May Warren's titles grab me too: Take a Chance on Me, My Foolish Heart, and others. :)

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Myra, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE talking TITLES!!!

Unfortunately, I haven't been too successful in keeping my original ones, although I sure gave it the ol' college try. :(

You see, I reallllllly wanted Scriptures for my titles, each of which was a theme for the book as well. Also, because of my love for Gone With the Wind, I realllllly, reallllllly wanted the word "wind" in my title too. For instance, A Passion Most Pure was originally A Chasing After the Wind, which was a Scripture that not only fit both the hero and the heroine, but I quoted it in the book as well.

A Passion Redeemed was Chaff Before the Wind, and A Passion Denied was On the Wings of the Wind.

BUT ... Revell wanted something with more passion in it, so I gave them over 130 title suggestions, one of which was A Passion Most Pure. After that, it was a natural transition for the next two titles, all with passion in them and ALL absolutely perfect! :)

The only original title I've been allowed to keep is for my Indie book, A Light in the Window, because by gum, that was one title nobody was going to change ... :)

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

MELISSA ... like Tina, I love your titles too, girlfriend, especially the last one!!

MARY ... I think you have some of the best titles in the biz, girl, so Bethany House knows what they're doing ... as does their sister company, Revell! ;)

DEBBY!!! LOVE the 1-word title, girl. That's really hot right now -- Dani Petry sells like hotcakes with her 1-word titles. :)

CARA ... I always LOVED "Love on a Dime." :)

TRACEY ... I agree with you on Tamera Alexander's first titles: Rekindled, Revealed, and Remembered -- EXCELLENT!!

Hugs,
Julie


Myra Johnson said...

LeANNE, I hope you'll find something helpful for your title brainstorming. It isn't easy, that's for sure! Do you have some critique partners or writing buddies you can send your synopsis to for ideas?

Myra Johnson said...

MISSY, quotations and Bible verses are usually my first stop in my title searches. But sometimes I have to get deeper into the story before I come up with the best thematic keywords to search for.

Myra Johnson said...

Right, TINA. Browsing titles on Amazon is a good way to get some inspiration. If you find a few that grab you, you might be able to tweak the wording to fit your own story.

Having written so many stories for Woman's World, have you noticed any patterns they usually like for their stories? You mentioned finding ways to tie in "love" or "romance."

Myra Johnson said...

JEANNE, effective titles usually do have double meanings. Those medical suspense titles I mentioned from Richard Mabry in a comment above are good examples.

Myra Johnson said...

JULIE, I think Revell did right by you with those "Passion" titles. They really fit the stories AND the author!

LOL--I hear you about the "indie" title. My Pearl of Great Price has always had that title. It (both the title and the story) was "given" to me in a dream, and I wasn't about to try anything different.

Sherri Shackelford said...

I'm at about a 75% success rate for titles ;) I think they've taken 3 out of 4 - and the editor let me pick an alternative for the 4th. I usually check the publisher for trends as well.

(I always think of Harry Potter. The 1st book was originally titled "The Philosopher's Stone" but the publisher thought American children would be less familiar with the term!)

Myra Johnson said...

SHERRI, I read about the Harry Potter title. "Philosopher" doesn't have the same ominous ring as "Sorcerer."

And I'd say 75% success rate is pretty good! As for checking publisher trends, it isn't hard at all to access your target publisher's website and browse their current and recent titles.

Jackie Smith said...

Very interesting, Myra! I had no idea how you great authors come up with titles! I am just a reader and appreciate all you writers!
Thanks for your giveaway.

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks, JACKIE! We love our readers!

Can you recall any particularly memorable titles from novels you've read? What makes them stand out?

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Myra! I love fun titles! I read a lot of mystery cozies, and they are full of clever titles, complete with puns to fit the setting and whatever niche they are filling. One of my favorite series, by Cleo Coyle, takes place in a coffee shop, so all of the titles are java-related: "Through the Grinder," "On What Grounds," "Espresso Shot," "Murder Most Frothy," etc. The only one I thought was weird was "Decaffeinated Corpse." What does that even mean?? Another series I like has a librarian for a heroine, and the current book I'm reading in it is "Due or Die." (Jenn McKinlay is the author.)

In that vein, I have a running list of titles for my symphony murder mystery: "Death Knell," "Murder in the Key of C," "Rimshot," "The Conductor's Coda," "Death Concerto," etc. Of course, the manuscript is simply saved on my computer as "The Orchestra Murders."

BTW, I received "Whisper Goodbye" in the mail the other day (I won it on here a few weeks ago). Thank you so much, and I look forward to reading it very soon!

Have a great day!

Helen Gray said...

I not only browse on Amazon. I browse specific lines.

Myra Johnson said...

STEPHANIE, what a great list of titles with double meanings! I'm with you, though--The Decaffeinated Corpse?????

Wow, your murder mystery title possibilities are all intriguing! I'd have a hard time settling on one.

Glad my book arrived, and I hope you enjoy it!

Myra Johnson said...

Smart, HELEN. Browse the lines your book would most likely fall under and you'll learn a lot.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, Bethany's titles for you have been great.

Reflective, fun, quick, spunky.

LOVE THEM!!!!!

I bet whoever comes up with them would be fun to have a conversation with, quick and witty.

Myra, one of these days when I go down to annoy/visit my beautiful daughter and her family in NC I will go into the hills and just imagine Mitford!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Zondervan picked the title for my March novella next year...

"All Dressed Up in Love" about a lawyer who becomes a bridal shop owner when his mother dies at Christmas... and he needs to re-open for the crazy, busy January season with no help and no Mama and no love for fashion....

I HAD SO MUCH FUN WRITING THIS BOOK!!!! And it's set in Old City, Philadelphia, one of my fave places on the planet, just around the corner from Independence Park... and the Liberty Bell...

Lyrics from "1776" are running through my brain!!!!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Myra,

Titles are hard to come up with for me. I get one stuck in my head and it's hard to change that.

Most of my titles have changed -though I was thrilled that my Bethany House historical "Irish Meadows" is going to stay the same! The series title they've come up with is "Courage to Dream".

My Love Inspired book I called "Wyndermere House" (after the resort where the book takes place) is being changed to "Healing the Widower's Heart" which is very fitting to the story and fits with the LI line.

Fun! Btw, I really love "A Passion Most Pure" - a perfect title!

Cheers,
Sue

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cara, that first title hit the mark so perfectly and set the stage for a great series!

Using "Love on a Dime" and the dime novel connection:

BRILLIANT. YOU BRAT.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Of course I said that in the nicest possible way, of course!!!! :)

DebH said...

I think my favorite title is Mary's The Husband Tree. My Killer Voice entry is What Lurks Beneath - it involves scuba diving. Jury's still out on if the powers that be want it.

I really like this post Myra. I tend to have difficulty with titles - I usually lean toward Ruthy's version of working titles, just so I know what I'm working on. This post has some nice tips that may get my title creativity juices flowing. THANKS!

would love to be in the draw...

Myra Johnson said...

What a great title, RUTHY! I would love to visit Philly someday. Such history there!

Myra Johnson said...

SUE, I can clearly see the LI fingerprint on your new title, Healing the Widower's Heart. That fits right in with the examples I found for this post.

And "Courage to Dream" sounds like a wonderful concept for a series! Congratulations!

Myra Johnson said...

Ooooh, I love it, DEB! What Lurks Beneath. Yep, I'd be scared. You won't get me in the water in scuba gear!

Janet Dean said...

I'm nodding and agreeing, Myra. Some of our wacky titles don't really go to the editors. LOL

Janet

Myra Johnson said...

Uh, no, JANET. Unless for comic relief. ;-D

Janet Dean said...

Debby, I love the one word title Stranded! A hook for me. I'm visualizing all kinds of trouble.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Mary, I'm chuckling at your comment that you've written the only novel entitled The Husband Tree. I'm sure you're right. Not many heroines have the distinction of burying multiple dead husbands under a shade tree.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

The trick is knowing the editors' sense of humor.

Janet

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oooh, love titles!

I've gotten to choose all my titles but my LI books. I'd send in 25 titles options and they'd choose something totally unrelated. LOL

But my Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits stayed the same ALTHOUGH THEY TOO MY OXFORD COMMA. (*sobs quietly*) And Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs stayed. Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread was ALMOST "and Pickled Peaches" but I just couldn't work that into the story as well, so I went for cornbread.

My historical titles are all lines with COLORS, taken from famous poems that appear in the beginning of the book, and are either referenced by a main character, or hang in the house of the main character: All the Blue of Heaven, Purple Like the West, Pocketsful of Gold, etc.


I've heard short is better, but I just don't think my Austen books would be as memorable if they were just "Cheese Grits" or "Southern Jane" or something. So, I think length works if the book itself needs it. One of my favorite series has titles Tithe, Valiant, Ironside. Love those. And Chime is another.

I also love a Holly Black series that uses colors: White Cat, Red Glove, Black Heart.

Lyndee H said...

Fun post, Myra. You really have me thinking. I like when the meaning of the title is buried in the book and creates an 'ah ha!' moment. For instance, Racing in the Rain - it's not until three quarters through that the author gives us the literal meaning of the phrase so we understand how it ties the book together. My other favorite is Crowns of Thrones and Glory which is a contrasting book between the two first ladies during the Civil War, Mrs Lincoln and Mrs. Davis. The title refers to how the public treated each of the women during and after the war as well as refers to the Civil War in general. I better quit or this could go on forever, lol.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oh, just remember a good title. I like when we think we know what the title is from or means, but then we read the story, and it's not. "Where The Heart Is" sounds like "Home is Where the Heart IS" and the whole time we're reading the story thinking "HOME", especially since the main character is homeless and gives birth in a walmart.
And then at the end of the book, we realize it's actually a scene from her past, when she puts her boyfriend's hand on her stomach, telling him to feel the heartbeat of the baby, since that's "Where the Heart Is". And you slap yourself in the forehead because you see WHAT THE AUTHOR DID THERE. We held that word "home" in our mind for 450 pages... and she turned it back around on us...

Brilliant.

Elaine Manders said...

I'd be glad for a publisher to choose my titles. I titled my Regency The Reluctant Rival ten years ago, then a title came out last year, The Reluctant Courtship. I'll be changing mine.

Myra Johnson said...

VIRGINIA, you have some great titles! The longer ones really are catchy, I have to agree!

Having colors as a connecting theme is also a great idea, as is the use of poetry.

My sympathies for the loss of the Oxford comma. GQ commiserates as well. :(

Myra Johnson said...

LYNDEE, thanks for sharing those title examples. Interesting contrast for the two Civil War first ladies.

Those aha moments are great, too, when we finally make the connection between story and title. I love it when you just couldn't imagine the book under any other name.

Myra Johnson said...

Oh, VIRGINIA, that is great!!! I don't think I ever made that connection, but wow, it's right there! Where the heart is . . .

Cool!!!

Myra Johnson said...

ELAINE, sorry you found a title you think is too similar to yours. I just did a quick search on Amazon for "reluctant," and apparently it's a fairly popular title word.

I do like The Reluctant Rival, though.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well WW usually let's you keep your title and they like the words love, romance, or anything in between :)

Saturday Morning Sweetheart.

My Mother's Son Falls in Love

A Second Chance at Love

Romance & Roses

The Love List

The Love Letter

Tina Radcliffe said...

I would never change my title based on one out there unless it was Nora Roberts. There are too many books coming out daily. It will make you nuts.


And from sale to publication can be six months to two years. No one will remember that yours is like another.

Myra Johnson said...

TINA, you're right, especially about the time frame between conception and publication. I wouldn't worry too much about title similarities unless it's the same as a current book you'd never want your book to be associated with.

Except . . . look at all the titles based on a paraphrase of Fifty Shades of Gray. Those other authors jumped on the bandwagon and capitalized on the popularity.

Myra Johnson said...

Seekerville, I need to step out for a bit, but continue chatting amongst yourselves and I'll be back in a couple of hours.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Myra, I'm really enjoying all the comments about how the titles are chosen and everyones favorites. I agree with you and Julie both about the Bibical titles, I could see myself doing that. I have Pearl of Great Price on my Kindle and can't wait to read it. That title has special meaning to me, so I bought it the minute I saw it! I forgot to include Julies Passion series earlier as they are on my kindle, not my bookshelf where I was looking at the time. Great titles Julie!

Ruthy mentioned the Mitford books and I ehjoyed that series too. Jan Karon lived in Boone, NC. for a while and I believe I read that Mitford is loosely based on Boone. Cute little mountain town with shops, restaurants and a bakery too. One of the best bibical references I have ever seen in a book was in one of Jans, she used the words winterpast, from Song of Songs 2:11(The winter is past) it just had so much meaning, I loved it.

Looking forward to Ruthy's "All Dressed up in Love" and Mary's "Tried and True", love that cover Mary!

Terri said...

I love mystery titles. To me they are so fun. I liked Mary Higgins Clark's title, Loves Music, Loves To Dance.

Jennifer Smith said...

I thought the four books in Andrew Klavan's YA "The Homelanders" series were well titled. Of course, I loved everything about those books, anyway. :)

Book one's title, "The Last Thing I Remember" was especially memorable to me.

Great post! Pinning to my writing board.

Myra Johnson said...

Back from a workout and a dip in the pool---SO nice on a summer day!

TRACEY, I hope to visit Boone one of these days. Friends have invited us to stay in their cabin up there sometime. It sounds beautiful.

Myra Johnson said...

TERRI, when we were on vacation last month, I picked up several Mary Higgins Clark novels I hadn't read before. She's a great storyteller and I enjoy her books, but now that I've been writing awhile, I noticed so many "broken rules" I could never get away with!

Myra Johnson said...

JENNIFER, those do sound like interesting books! Hadn't heard of that author before. What are they about?

Terri said...

Ms Tina - totally different subject, but my Westie,Nolly Grace, loved the movie Shrek. Every time the donkey talked she went ape. She loves watching TV.

I also enjoyed the movie!

Valri said...

It's always interesting to hear what titles "would have been"!!! Just like I enjoy hearing what actors were originally were supposed to be in certain movies and then weren't! We can't imagine what they would have been like if those actors WOULD have been in them because we can only think of them with the actors that ARE in them! I think the titles are the same way! We only think of the current title and can't imagine the first title that was thought of! Great post!

Myra Johnson said...

VALRI, so true! Names and titles get attached to a person or book and we have a hard time thinking of them any other way.

Which reminds me of all the actors who have changed their names to something more "movie star-ish." When we hear their real names, it just seems weird.

Tanya Agler said...

I love the titles of children's books: Green Eggs and Ham; Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum; The Other Dog; Bunnicula; and The Borrowers.

I love to read. I am so excited to hear the news of a new Jan Karon "Father Tim" book. All sorts of great titles come to mind. For mysteries, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Partners in Crime." There are so many good romance titles.

Thanks for the post. I've also loved reading the comments.

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, TANYA! Thanks for sharing those intriguing titles! I think I'm going to have to catch up with Father Tim. It's been way too long.

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

I love titles almost as much as covers! A few that I noticed on my kindle are "Chasing the Lion", "A Talent for Trouble" and "It Had To Be You".

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, ANNA! Yes, titles and covers go hand in hand. Chasing the Lion sounds interesting! And I like the "talent/trouble" alliteration.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

OH! Just remembered a series I LOVE- which also has awesome titles.

Alan Bradley's mysteries:
The Sweetness At the Bottom of The Pie

A Red Herring Without Mustard

The Reed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

Speaking From Among the Bones

I am Half sick of Shadows

Etc., etc. Those books are so great, and the titles always appear somewhere in the story, even though they're taken from ancient folk songs of Shakespeare or poetry. I love his titles...

Anyway, super fun post, Myra! You've got me thinking in titles today.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

And when I released Leaving Liberty, and author contacted me and said SHE had a book titled the same thing. But I had searched and searched... and never saw anything like an actual book, so I went ahead and used it.

Apparently, it was a book she had titled, but not yet written. Although she said it was coming out about the same time, it actually didn't come out until almost a year later, and is a different genre.

*shrug*

What can you do? Just use what you love, as long as it's not something really famous or will offend someone or is too close to another.

Like someone said, too many books coming out so quickly to try and keep up.

Heidi Robbins said...

I love the title "Every Tear a Memory" ...it's so nostalgic! Thanks for all your thoughts on this post!

Mary Preston said...

I have bought books based on the titles.

I always felt drawn to WATERSHIP DOWN.

Myra Johnson said...

VIRGINIA, those are fun titles! And I agree--just because someone says she's already planning to use the same title as you is no reason not to go for it if it fits.

Myra Johnson said...

HEIDI, I really like that title, too. The line from the song actually gave me the idea for the book. So sometimes it can be fun to find a thought-provoking quote, song title, etc., and see where it sends your imagination.

Myra Johnson said...

MARY PRESTON, Watership Down was one of my favorite books. I also enjoyed the movie. Animated, but a little too intense for young kids, I thought.

Chill N said...

Myra, thanks so much for the suggestions! I need help when it comes to titles ... lots of help ... and the word association list holds great promise.

I am in awe of folks who come up with catchy, memorable titles. The Longmire books have some stong titles: The Cold Dish, Kindness Goes Unpunished, and Serpent's Tooth are the ones I immediately think of. The titles always have something to do with the plot. And, as you mentioned, they can have double meaning. And one more title I like is from a novella: A River Runs Through It.

Your titles and book covers never fail to catch my attention :-)

Nancy C

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks, NANCY! Glad you found some helpful suggestions here.

I haven't read any Longmire books, but I do enjoy the TV show. We binge-watched the first two seasons this summer to catch up. It's interesting--watching on Netflix we get to see the episode titles, which we don't usually catch during the regular season.

LaVerne St. George said...

Myra, this was a great post on titles. I've seen quite a few articles and posts, but this gives a lot of different suggestions that will help with my brainstorming. Thanks!

The first title that came to mind when you asked for memorable ones was Sandra Brown's "Mirror Image." Reflects the story of a look-alike taking a dead woman's place, brings in the sinister undertones of a mirror image that is identity in reverse, and short enough to be instantly remembered.

Thanks so much!

Myra Johnson said...

LAVERNE, thanks for chiming in, and I'm glad you found the post helpful. Mirror Image sounds like a great read!

Sandy Smith said...

I always have a terrible time coming up with titles. You give some great ideas.

Janet Kerr said...

Gone with the Wind still stands out for me given all the losses in the book as reflected in the girls.
Jan

Janet Kerr said...

Oops, not girls. I meant titles. However the women did suffer losses too.
Jan