Monday, June 29, 2015

What's in a Name? How to choose a title for your book

Barbara White Daille
By Barbara White Daille

What's in a Name?

Hey, everyone! It’s a pleasure to drop in and visit again.  As always, I’m looking forward to a fun and lively chat—and some delicious goodies, of course! I’ve brought along homemade chocolate-chip and blueberry muffins, so let’s fire up the coffeemaker, heat up the teakettle, and settle in.

Today we’re talking about titles.

Coming up with the right title for your book is an important process. If you’ve ever picked up—and even purchased—a book based on the title alone, you’ll know how true that is. Finding the right title, the one that speaks to you and to readers, that gets the gist of the story across, and that conveys something extra about your book, can be both challenging and fun.

These are just some of the many things to think about when naming your story.

Who is your audience?

If you’re writing to share your stories with others, then obviously, you need to catch the interest of an audience. To attract new readers or to hold the interest of your current readers, you’ll want your title to feature keywords that grab their attention.

For example, I’ve been a lifelong mystery reader, and even in grade school, I was drawn to any book that included adventure, mystery, secret, or clue in the title. Anyone remember the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys? What mystery lover could resist a title such as The Bobbsey Twins at Mystery Mansion, The Clue of the Broken Locket, or The Secret of the Old Mill?   

As an adult, I love to read mysteries and romantic suspense and still search library and bookstore shelves—and websites—for titles containing those mystery-related words.

Many of my own books have rancher or cowboy or sheriff in the title because my publisher knows those are heroes our readers love.

What’s your book about?
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This can encompass many things, including:

1. Your subject matter. The type of book you write—whether contemporary or historical fiction or nonfiction—will determine how you tell your story and how much background material and research you weave through it. But writers of any type of book can touch on similar topics:  small-town life, the settlers of the American West, life-threatening illness, blended families.

2. Your theme. What is the book about—that is, what is its underlying message? Forgiveness? Revenge? Reclaiming your faith? The power of love? Belonging?

Finding the right words or phrases to convey these themes will help you catch readers who love the topics as easily as those childhood mystery titles reeled me in.

How can you make the most of your title?

1. Play off the tone of the book. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but usually, the tone of a gentle, heartwarming romance will be very different from that of a thriller. A romantic comedy won’t read like cutting-edge science fiction. Whatever the tone of your story, you can use the appropriate words to match.

2. Use your setting. In the books I’d read as a child, an adventure usually involved a mystery. But it can also be connected to travel and exploration, two topics some readers love. Again, this works for fiction or nonfiction. Instead of the generic adventure, use descriptive words that indicate the setting of your story…that tell your reader exactly where the adventure will take place. A spaceship. An antiques emporium. A cathedral. The Adirondacks. Davey’s Diner. Wyoming.

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3. Make the title do double- or triple-duty. Here are some examples using my own titles.
A Rancher’s Pride is a perfect fit for its story. This title does triple-duty, as my hero is a very proud man whose pride took a beating after his ex-wife abandoned him. Since then he has let that pride get in the way of accepting help from his many friends. Finally, as the book opens, he learns he’s a daddy, and as he grows to love his little girl, she becomes his pride and joy.
In Family Matters, my heroine is the one person in her family who can always be counted on to come to their rescue over anything involving…well…family matters. In this story, she has a choice to make between her immediate goal and her family’s needs. She makes a great personal sacrifice because, to her, family matters.
The title of my current book, A Rancher of Her Own, also does double-duty. Jane’s cousin, who recently found the man of dreams, makes a reference to Jane finding (you’ve guessed it) a rancher of her own. The irony is, city-slicker Jane is determinedly single and happy to remain so. The last thing she wants is a man of her own—especially one as contrary as solitary rancher Pete.
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I hope all this will have given you some ideas to help you create titles for your own books.

Now, let’s see the results of a good title in action. This involves a little homework on your part…and a giveaway from me!

Tell us the title of a book that would catch your eye and share why it would make you pick it up for a closer look. (Please choose a book other than your own. ;) )
Three winners will receive their choice of an autographed print copy of A Rancher’s Pride or Family Matters.  One of the villagers here at Seekerville will draw and announce the winners’ names.

And now, Seekers, let the chatting begin!


Barbara White Daille lives with her husband in the sunny Southwest. Though they love the warm winters and the lizards in their front yard, they haven’t gotten used to the scorpions in the bathroom.
Barbara’s new series, The Hitching Post Hotel, features a matchmaking grandpa determined to see his three granddaughters wed. The series began in April 2015 with The Cowboy’s Little Surprise and continues with A Rancher of Her Own in July and The Lawman’s Christmas Proposal in December.
You can find more info about Barbara and her books at the following locations:

A Rancher of Her Own
Ranch manager Pete Brannigan has no interest in playing tour guide to a city slicker like Jane Garland. But spending a few days with the headstrong photographer is a small price to pay for everything her grandfather has given the single dad. Though Pete's drawn to Jane's sharp wit and striking beauty, he won't hurt his young children by falling for another woman who puts her career before family. 
Jane's seen the world through her camera…and used it to shield her emotions. With Pete, she can finally let her guard down. If only he could do the same. Despite their powerful bond, Pete still can't trust Jane with his kids or his heart. But if he keeps pushing her away, he may ruin any chance their relationship has to develop.


  1. *looks around* Anyone else here? Shall I put the coffee on?

    One of my favorite books is Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. The title caught my eye because let's face it -- all women want Mr. Perfect. Another is The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal. Again, the title appealed to what I like in life -- gardens and happy endings.

  2. I must admit I love a good suspense or mystery novel and while the title might intrigue me, the cover is usually what draws me to pick up a book first. Then I read the blurb on the back.The book I am currently reading is Gone Without a Trace and I will admit the title grabbed me but so did the author's name, Patricia Bradley, as I know her work and know what to expect from her.

    I do have a question though. Does the author always get to name their books or does the publishing house sometimes change the title?

    I would love to be in your drawing.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  3. Good morning Barbara, and thanks for bringing your own coffee and muffins! I didn't even have to lug the big ol' Keurig over here!!!


    One of my favorite titles is "Sweet Hush" by Deborah Smith. It was a trifecta. They were apple growers down south, their famous hybrid was the "Sweet Hush" apple, and every generation named a daughter "Hush" and we all know the meaning of a "sweet hush fell over the room..."

    So Deb did the title service!

    Cindy, I've been able to keep some titles, but generally they get changed. I get some input but in category romance, there are six LI books on the shelves. They don't want the covers or titles to be too similar so the editors have to juggle titles vs roommates on the shelf.

    But with some other publishers, I've gotten to keep titles. (Red Kettle Christmas, Refuge of the Heart, Back in the Saddle) so it might depend on the genre as well as the title!

  4. Hi Barbara,

    I'm not published yet, and at first I used to put a lot of thought into my title. But then I was told it wouldn't matter because the publisher would change it anyway.

    I like how your titles have more than one meaning. I named one of my stories, The Bye Way Inn. To get there you had to travel the byways, but it was a place to step back and maybe reevaluate your life and rest from the everyday stress. In sports, if you draw a bye you get to move ahead, or you get to rest for a round of competition before moving to the next level. So while it makes sense to me, your post makes me think it won't attract a reader. What do you think?

    Thanks so much!

  5. Good morning, Barbara. Always good to see you here in Seekerville!

    Your topic today is so important and also so difficult to achieve! When I'm working on a book, I title it "Nick's story" or "Book 6" or something like that. Works well for the months that go into writing it, but eventually I'm stuck finding the perfect title.

    When you were talking about the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, I couldn't help but remember Scooby Doo! The fonts used for the title was just as eye-catching as the title itself.

    I'm drawn to titles with ranch, cowboy, etc in them. Tells me right away the important element of story.

  6. Ruthy, I never realized "Sweet Hush" was a type of apple in the book!

  7. Jackie, I love that title! Makes me wonder why an inn welcomes folks to rest, but also has that element of a limited stay. Intrigues me!

  8. Marilyn, I'd give a book title Mr. Perfect a second glance, too. LOL!

  9. Hi Barbara, Thanks for posting such a great article here in Seekerville. I find making a title so difficult, but once one is made, it helps focus the story. My husband is great at it. He always picks my titles for me. smile

    Have fun today and thanks for coming again.

    Oh yes, I"ll have a blueberry muffin with my coffee. Yum

  10. One of my favorite titles he chose was Where The Eagle Flies. That was the title for my book by Warner and they changed it to Dream Song. I was disappointed. So I used the title Where The Eagle Flies in my novella in the spring collection of With This Kiss. smile So happy now.

  11. Good morning, Seekers, and thanks for the comments so far! As always, you make Seekerville such a welcoming place to visit.

    I'm on deadline (and you all know what that's like!) but will be in and out frequently during the week.

    Now, grabbing a chocolate-chip muffin and a cup of tea and plunging in to the chat....

    (And oh, MY, just saw that comment verification system - is THAT going to make me hungry every time I stop by! lol)

  12. Marilyn - thanks for the putting the coffee on. I've got my insulated mug of tea at hand.

    Great title examples. As you said, finding Mr. Perfect is practically of universal interest. ;) Discovering if such a man exists has to attract a few readers.

    And good one on the other title, too. It definitely plays into a couple of keywords to catch readers' attention.

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Cindy - I agree about the covers. As eye-catching as they are, it's hard not to see the images, colors, etc. first.

    A cover will draw me to the book but *usually* isn't enough to make me pick it up. The title will do that - and of course, as you said, the author's name can be a huge draw, too.

    Good title example. I'd have checked out that book, too.

    Ruthy nailed the answer on whether or not authors get to keep titles.

    Good luck in the drawing!

  14. Barbara, I love the titles of my books but once in a while you read one that just catches you.

    What pops into my head is: A Darkness More than Night
    That's a Michael Connelly books with his LAPD Detective Harry Bosch

    There's a Jack Reacher book called Bad Luck and Trouble
    These are pretty cool titles.

  15. Ruthy - I'm always happy to bring some goodies along! ;)

    Sweet Hush is a wonderful example, and it's so great when a title does double- or even triple-duty, as mentioned above with A Rancher's Pride.

    Of course, the reader isn't always aware of some of the meanings until they get into the book - but that can make the reading experience extra-special, can't it?

  16. Hi, Jackie - I'll admit it's tough when you put a lot of effort into titling a book - and become very attached to it! - and then the publisher wants to change it. But as we mentioned, they have their reasons. And those reasons are always in the book's best interests.

    I like your title. "Bye Way" is different, so intriguing to me. "Inn" is one of those keywords some readers love. I do, too.

    The sports reference is probably something many won't get. But those who do will have a sense of satisfaction at knowing a little something others don't.

  17. Audra - great to see you again, too!

    I have resorted to the "book 3," "Pete's Story," etc. titles, too. But naturally, I always try to make the title a perfect fit to the book, and it becomes an anchor/trigger/prompt for me. When I don't have a firm title, I miss all that.

    Fonts can be a very important "element" of the title. Whether consciously or not, we *do* sometimes remember typeface, especially when looking for books by our favorite authors.

  18. Barbara I think you can just ignore that I'm not a Robot wigit.
    Just Publish Your Comment and it'll go through. At least that works for me and that little 'capcha' dealie is there for every comment. Not sure what's up with that.

  19. Hi, Sandra - good to see you!

    Glad you're enjoying the muffin. ;)

    It's so nice that your husband's so helpful with titles. And very good to get an outside perspective.

    And yes, isn't it great when we can find a title that wasn't used might be perfect for another story!

  20. I've gotten so laid back about titles they have to force me to pick one. Then I think, "Is that my job?"
    Honestly I'm usually delighted with Bethany's titles and even if I suggest them, usually what they come up with is way more fun.

    And I write my books with some lame title, after the Heroine's name and some reminder of what the book is about.

    The most recent one for a Seeker indy novella was 'Stace-Computer Genius'
    Yeah, not gonna work.

  21. Good morning, Barbara, and WELCOME BACK TO SEEKERVILLE!!

    You actually just answered a question I've had for a really long time now, Barbara, so THANK YOU!! I've often wondered why HQ (particularly Love Inspired) always stuck with primary trigger words in titles that referenced a career, occupation, or the mention of family/babies, etc. (Mending the Doctor's Heart, Loving the Lawman, A Family to Cherish, etc.), and you just told me why. They are shooting for what their audience is looking for, so that makes a lot of sense.

    Titles are SO critical, especially to authors I think. I made a mental vow before I got published that every title of mine would be taken from a Scripture (i.e. A Chasing After the Wind, On the Wings of the Wind, etc.) and like you mentioned, I had two- and three-way meanings in all of my titles. Unfortunately, when I finally sold, my publisher had their own ideas on those very important titles and changed every single one (9 total with this publisher), which was a huge disappointment to me at the time. In hindsight, I do now love all the titles they picked and what amazed me even more was how closely each one came to depicting the story in a mere two or three words.

    I will admit -- the most fun I ever had with a title was with my indie book A Light in the Window since that was the title I chose and the title I wanted, so I got to keep it since I was the publisher. For me, there was so much meaning in that title with at least four different applications, so that was fun for me.

    Great blog today, Barbara, because titles are so often overlooked, but SO very important.


  22. Waving at CINDY W, because I am a prime example of an author who did not get to keep any of her titles, so no, not all publishers allow you to have the final say.

    MARY C. SAID: "I've gotten so laid back about titles they have to force me to pick one. Then I think, "Is that my job?"

    LOL ... I wish it was our job, because I would sure love to do it. Titles are soooo fun!! When my publisher asked me for suggestions on titles for my first three books and for the series, I gave them over 150 suggestions, so I tend to be a little bit over the top in the anality dept. on titles. :)


  23. Mary - those are such good examples and show how we can create very different images and feelings from books in the same genre.

    Your first title sounds more literary and makes me think of those in the Inspector Lynley series from Elizabeth George, for one example.

    The second makes me think of straight-shooting titles from Elmore Leonard.

    We each listed a pair of books that sound so dissimilar, yet we like the books we chose.

    The difference between your pair (or mine) may also attract completely different audiences. That's great - especially if it opens a reader's eyes to a new author or even a new genre.

  24. Some of the titles that always fascinated me from the get-go were The Sound and The Fury, and The Grapes of Wrath, which I now realize are taken from Scripture, so I must gravitate to titles like that.

    I always thought Gone With the Wind was a Scripture title, but I don't think it is although it sure sounds like it.


  25. I like those random titles, Mary! lol

    As for the Captcha, it was very interesting...I had to pick the pictures that matched a picture of a steak. Made me hungry. ;) But I only had to prove I wasn't a robot for my first comment.

    I'm staying signed in to Google for the day, so we'll see what happens later.

  26. Welcome, Barbara! Thanks for the very helpful title advice! It's always a huge challenge for me to find just the right story title, and I almost have to have the title in mind before I can get very far into writing the book.

    For the most part, my editors have gone with my working titles. The first one I had to change was One Imperfect Christmas, which was originally just One Perfect Christmas. But that didn't tell the deeper story, so I really liked what my editor (our dear BARBARA SCOTT) recommended!

    The book titles from my historical series "Till We Meet Again" are all taken from lines of the song by that name, an old favorite my mom used to sing on long car trips. And actually, the phrases I picked for my titles helped generate ideas for the plots!

    For the series I'm working on now, I searched books of quotations for quotes related to my story themes. And, like JULIE, I've also used Scripture to inspire title ideas.

  27. Hi, Julie, and thanks for your always warm welcome. Great to see you again, too.

    I'm glad the post helped answer one of your questions!

    It *is* hard on us when titles get changed. And you did find one way of guaranteeing your titles stay - by publishing the book yourself. ;)

    Remember in the blog post, I mentioned my "mystery" trigger words? Even when I was a kid - a long time before I saw my name on a book - I would also look for those words on the back cover or on the school library book's jacket flap. Those words or phrases are very important, and - lucky for us - publishers know that.

    Plus, as we said, it's important to keep the books from sounding too much alike.

    I've been fortunate to be able to see some of my own titles on my books - Court Me, Cowboy; Rancher at Risk; Family Matters; A Rancher's Pride.

    But it really is amazing how we come to love the titles our publishers choose!

  28. I'm taking a break to invite a few folks over to our chat. Then I'm going to take a peek at my deadline book.

    See you all again in a bit!

  29. Hi Barbara:

    I think it is important to judge a title without having seen the cover art. A title plus art can create a much different impression than just a title by itself. Since there are occasions where a reader will only see the title, a good title should stand on its own.

    I think a key element in a title, as in an advertising headline, is to make a promise. Below are some titles of books that worked because I downloaded the book:

    Self-Editing On a Penny: A Comprehensive Guide (It makes a promise & I know just what the book is about without cover art.)

    Just in Time Cowboy: A Time Travel Romance Novel (I'm writing three time travel stories. It is very clear what this book is about.)

    L'Equilibrio del Vento (Italian Edition)
    (I liked the title and the first chapter seemed to be in easy to read Italian).

    Roman life in the days of Cicero (The title was enough to sell me! It is exactly what I wanted to read.)

    Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero (There are many books about Seneca but this one won my purchase.)

    A Saucy Murder: A Sonoma Wine Country Cozy Mystery (Love the Sonoma wine country. My mother lived 30 miles from there.)

    The Wives of Los Alamos (Title sold me immediately. This could only be about the making for the first A bomb. 5-Stars all the way!).

    Murder in Nice (The Maggie Newberry Mystery Series Book 6) (I'd like to revisit Nice.)

    Murder in Bermuda: An Anna Winters Cozy Mystery (I'd like to see what Bermuda is like and I like Cozy Mysteries.)

    Wind Chime Café (A Wind Chime Novel Book 1) (Title only sold this and I also bought the Audible version). I don't even know what this book is about. To me this is a magical title. Bought on title alone. I don't do this often.

    BTW: I don't care about artwork or title when the book is by an auto-buy author. I don't care what the titles are on Jack Reacher, John Puller, or Harry Bosch books. This is why it is so important for an author to always be expanding her auto-buy list of fans.

    As a marketing buy I'm reminded of the quote, "War is too important to leave up to the generals." I feel that way about titles. They are too important to leave up to the authors! : O (Sorry!)


  30. So wonderful, Barbara, to meet a fellow tea drinker here!! I need a Jamaican Banana Scone with my cuppa.

    Great ideas for choosing titles...even if the publisher changes it. I'm not published yet but have a HORRIBLE time choosing titles. I sympathize with Mary story I worked on went through about four changes...I finally decided to stick with one so my notes didn't get mixed up. I think I'll borrow your idea, Mary, just name it something and keep going!

    Ruthy, Sweet Hush is intriguing...all kinds of images come to mind...I'll have to see what the picture is on the cover....hmmm.

    A good friend from my writer's group is quite clever and can come up with several titles in an instant. She writes cozy mysteries...her new book is A Stitch in Crime~Quilts of Love Series...another one of her books is A Vase of Mistaken Identity. I'm never that clever!

    I'm still working on decluttering and my darling daughter found this book for me, "the life-changing magic of tidying up~the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" by Marie Kondo. Love the title...says everything right there! Not too romantic, but might be life saving! LOL

    So sweet of you to offer three of us a chance to win one of your books!!

    Happy Monday everyone!!

  31. Interesting post, Barbara. I usually have a terrible time with titles. I have written and published many short stories, and I can agonize over the titles. Occasionally a title will just leap out at me, but not often. I am currently working on my first book about a town destroyed by a tornado. I am just calling it Tornado right now, but I know I obviously need a better title.

    I am like you in being intrigued by any book with mystery or clue in the title. Like some of the others who have posted, I also am taken in by the cover art, but if I am picking out a book in a store or library in which only the spine with the title is visible, I only have the title to go on. That makes it especially important that the title be catchy enough to warrant a look at the book.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  32. VINCE!!! Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch superfan here!!!
    I also love Anna Pidgeon by Nevada Barr and Joe Pickett by C.J. Box.

  33. Good point VINCE about the auto- buy author. When I watch for an author, I never pay a bit of attention to the title or cover art for that matter. It does make a difference though when shopping or trying a new author.

  34. John Puller? I looked it up. David Baldacci. I've never started him or James Patterson. I read so compulsively when I find a hero I love.......but I'll do it. John Puller, book #1 Zero Day.

    Have you read Vince Flynn? Mitch Rapp? Flynn died and now a new Mitch Rapp book is coming written by Kyle Mills. I am soooooooo hoping it's good, because I love Mitch Rapp and Vince Flynn dying (very young from cancer) broke my heart.

    I'm also a huge Clive Cussler fan but I've quit reading him since he got THREE co-authors. I just couldn't make myself care anymore.

  35. JULIE, I found tht interesting also--the way they use their target audience for the title. Good thing to think about.

  36. I too buy almost exclusively by author these days.

    I'll try and different author on a personal recommendation. (such as yours for John Puller) but I can barely keep up with favorites.

  37. Barbara....adding Elizabeth George's 1st Inspector Lynley book...A Great Deliverance to my Amazon wish list.

    I don't buy off that wish list usually. I sample a new author through the library. But when I hear of a book I want to try I add it to my Amazon wish list to keep track of it for myself!

  38. Just checking to see if I can make comments. Still getting 404 errors.

  39. Yay! It works!!

    I think one of the things I look at for titles goes back to what I used to read when I was younger. I read Star Trek novels all of the time. I was never fond of novels on the original series, but I did enjoy TNG and DS9. These days, however, I will pick up a Star Trek novel if the title lets me know I will enjoy the storyline.

  40. I don't buy exclusively by author.... I like to try new things, sample the goods.

    And then if I love them, I might buy more but I haven't designated as much reading time as I'd like to. And then it's usually been non-fiction.

    But I like seeing what the competition has to offer, so I sample... and then I'm generally glad we've got lots of choices because I'm not a fan of dry fiction, give me some humor and sass. BUT having said that, there are folks more famous than I am writing the other stuff, and they must have an audience, or they wouldn't be published, right?

    But I do have a few fave authors and yes, I grab theirs, so maybe I do that more than I think????

  41. Hi, Myra - I love series with titles connected by theme.

    You're sure not alone in struggling to pick the perfect title.

    And I hate to admit it, but I'm also that way with names for both the hero and the heroine. They just have to BE the name they've been given, you know? Although, as with the "book 3" technique above, I've learned to accept that names are changeable, too. ;)

  42. All great points, Vince, and more proof that readers are grabbed by titles for different reasons: they like the sound of it, pick up on a keyword, or have an interest in the subject matter.

    It makes titling books easy and difficult at the same time, as we try to use keywords that attract certain readers while avoiding words that may be hot buttons or narrow the scope of the story/topic too much for other readers.

    Achieving those auto-buys is so critical, too. Some authors/publishers are very clever at titling books - especially series - that brand them as a particular author's.

    And absolutely, the goal of picking the perfect title is to fulfill a promise to the reader!

  43. The editors have the final word, as we all know, although I've been lucky and frequently my favorite title is the one they choose.

    For my AUG release, I submitted a number of titles, then as I was reworking the story PERSON OF INTEREST took hold. I emailed my editor and said I thought POI defined the novel. She thought so too.

    Little did I know that a TV show by the same name was a favorite hit. Where had I been...oh, that's right, at my computer!

    Love your blog today, Barbara! Love your titles too.

  44. Hi, Kathryn - great to meet you! And you're very welcome for the giveaway.

    I think you've hit on a good idea about picking one title and sticking with it (unless something irresistible hits you). It makes sense for notes and for naming computer files. I can't tell you how many versions of manuscripts I have on the computer for some of my earlier books, due to title changes alone.

    And I love, *love,* *LOVE* puns and plays on words in titles - as well as themes, as mentioned above, but the puns/wordplay get my top vote. Nobody does those better than mystery writers, especially for cozy mysteries.

    Thanks for commenting. Hope to see you again. Would love to hear how the decluttering book works for you. And we tea drinkers *must* stick together! :)

  45. Character names? Oh my, I wrote an entire book calling the hero by the wrong name. He never fit in. Finally, I realized I had the wrong guy. Changed his name and the story worked, so did the hero. Amazing...

  46. Walt, sorry for your 404 problems. We all seem to be struggling with blogger these days. What's up?

  47. Hi, Sandy - that's an *excellent* point about seeing only the title on books shelved spine-out. It's also something for authors to think about if their books are e-book (or sold online) only. The images are often small on-screen, and while those can be zoomed larger, the title beside the image is usually the first thing noticeable.

    Tornado is a good working title. I like it. You could be another...Arthur Hailey, I think. Airport. Hotel. Etc.

    As for short stories, I've written and published a few of those, too. And it's so funny that it sometimes takes me longer to come up with the right title than it does to write the story.

    On the other hand, sometimes I get the title first, and the story comes to me in a flash!

  48. Mary - I don't think you'll be disappointed, especially with the earlier ones that get you hooked on the main characters.

    Elizabeth George writes some great books. No pun intended! lol

  49. Mary - oops. Hit send too soon. That's a great idea for keeping track of books you want to read.

    I should probably avoid going that route. As it is, I don't think I'll get through my (old-school, paper) wish list in this lifetime!

  50. Walt - glad you made it. Internet issues are so frustrating.

    Good point with the Star Trek books. The overall tie-in hooks fans, then the specific title reels them in.

    There are many series that do that so well, from The Executioner series of men's action/adventure novels down to The Bobbsey Twins books for kids.

    It's also a great marketing draw because people look ahead for new books in the series.

  51. LOL Ruthy - I think you just talked yourself through finding the answer to your own question about fave authors. (I do that often, so we're two of a kind. lol)

    And yes, I think almost all books have an audience, no matter how small or exclusive. The trick for the author/publisher is finding those people. And with all the books out there now... Well, that's a subject for another blog post!

  52. Debby - thanks so much. I'm always happy to be here and am glad you enjoyed the post.

    I'm very pleased to hear I'm not the only one with that issue over character names! I'm also thrilled to hear the story that proves we're not nuts. ;)

    And that's wonderful when the right title comes along - especially while there's still time to change it with the publisher.

  53. Speaking of keeps asking am I sure I want to leave because I have unsaved changes. But I don't have any open windows or unfinished comments. Anybody else have that problem?

    Taking a break for a while. See you later!

  54. Hi Barbara

    I'm one of those readers who pays a lot more attention to the title than the author. Any title that defines the genre I like gets a second look. Title is just as important as the cover, in my opinion.

    The best title I've ever seen was for a non-fiction, "We All Married Idiots" To me that said it all and so true. I think it was a marriage help book, and I didn't get it because I have a perfect marriage. But I still love that title.

  55. Walt, the error thing's been a pain the last two weeks. So sorry!!!

    I'm glad you're in and talking, my baseball-and-kid-loving friend!

  56. Elaine, funny title, right? One you remembered. Bet I'll remember it too!

  57. Elaine - those genre-defining titles are so helpful, aren't they? The keywords are like signal flags directing our attention to the book.

    Your title example is too funny! Sort of like the "(Whatever) for Dummies" books when they first came out. The titles will stick in people's heads, which is one of the goals for finding the right name for a book.

    Thanks for the laugh. :)

  58. Coming up with titles always is hard for me! So to come up with a title that I'd want to read, is difficult, too! The only thing that I could think of was "The Rogue's Redemption" Who doesn't like a reformed bad boy?

  59. This is a post I will be keeping. I know a title is important. it is something I struggle with.

    Congratulations to all the Carol Finalists

  60. As a reader both the title and the cover draw me towards a book.

  61. Hello Barbara and Seekerville.

    I was lucky. Love Inspired Suspense let me keep Christmas in Hiding as my title, I did have to give them a long list of alternates, but in the end, I got to keep it.

    Barbara, your mention of childhood titles reminded me of some of the Happy Hollister titles I loved. Most of them did have Mystery in the title.
    The Happy Hollisters and the Swiss Echo Mystery
    The Happy Hollisters and the Punch and Judy Mystery
    The Happy Hollisters and the Whistle Pig Mystery
    The Happy Hollisters and the Ghost Horse Mystery

    I remember seeing Yankee Doodle Dead in the bookstore. That got me started on Carolyn G. Hart's Death on Demand series.
    Which reminds me of the Laura Child Tea Shop mysteries with great titles like Death by Darjeeling, Blood Orange Brewing, and Scones and Bones.

  62. That's exactly it, Becky! If there's something irresistible to the reader in the title, she or he will pick up the book.

  63. Wailani - I'm so glad you found the post helpful. Lots of luck titling your future stories.

  64. Caryl - you're definitely not alone there.

  65. Barbara, welcome back! I really like the idea of having the title do double (or triple) duty! I love how you played your hero's pride, etc. into your book title.

  66. Kathryn, I just bought that book!! I hope to use it to help me get organized around my house.

  67. Mary - Carolyn Hart has some fabulous titles. I loved the Death on Demand books.

    And oh - The Happy Hollisters! I was going to refer to them in my post but thought the Bobbsey Twins might be more well known.

    I own almost every Hollisters book. The official site says there were 33 original titles published. I have through #31 and have been known to pull them out and re-read the entire series. Hmm... it's been a while... ;)

  68. Mary - Carolyn Hart has some fabulous titles. I loved the Death on Demand books.

    And oh - The Happy Hollisters! I was going to refer to them in my post but thought the Bobbsey Twins might be more well known.

    I own almost every Hollisters book. The official site says there were 33 original titles published. I have through #31 and have been known to pull them out and re-read the entire series. Hmm... it's been a while... ;)

  69. Mary - Carolyn Hart has some fabulous titles. I loved the Death on Demand books.

    And oh - The Happy Hollisters! I was going to refer to them in my post but thought the Bobbsey Twins might be more well known.

    I own almost every Hollisters book. The official site says there were 33 original titles published. I have through #31 and have been known to pull them out and re-read the entire series. Hmm... it's been a while... ;)

  70. Barbara, if I'm remembering correctly. Mary Connealy is a Happy Hollisters fan too.

    I still have most of mine too although I don't think I ever got the last two either. As I recall, they stopped being published so I had my parents stop the subscription rather than get substitutes. The others must have come out later.

  71. Barbara, thanks for the wonderful blog! I used to LOVE The Happy Hollisters. I read every one in the series until I graduated to Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew.

    Good titles are hard to think up but it's so important we get them right. Some writers have the knack of conjuring up great titles and I envy them.

  72. Apologies for being late. You make some very good point, and I am guessing this means you get to keep your titles :)

    The Happy Hollisters??????

  73. Barbara! Will you be at RWA again this yar?

  74. Thanks a bunch for your kind words, Missy - much appreciated!

  75. Missy - forgot to add, I'd like to know how the book works for you, too. :)

  76. Wow - either my computer froze or Blogger glitched earlier, and I just saw the triple identical posts from me. Sorry.

  77. Mary Curry as opposed to the other Mary C - I never knew what happened to those two final books and why I didn't receive them, so thanks for the possible solution.

    And if the other Mary is a fan, too, she's in great company, no? ;)

  78. Cara Lynn!! A HUGE Trixie Belden fan here, too! (Can you tell? :) ) And those I still do read fairly often - at least, some of them. My faves are all the originals that came out in hardcover.

    I have another dozen or more of the paperbacks. And as with my Happy Hollisters, I'm missing the very last one. I saw it on Amazon once for an astronomical price, so the print run couldn't have been very big.

    As for titles, I also envy those people who make them look so easy.

  79. Hi, Tina - the Happy Hollisters are a series about a family who have many adventures and solve many mysteries at home, across the country, and sometimes even abroad. Mary C(urry) and Cara Lynn and I have started a mini-thread on the books above, I think. lol

    As for my titles, I'm lucky in that I get to keep some of them. I mentioned a few in a response somewhere earlier - Rancher at Risk, A Rancher's Pride, A Rancher of Her Own.

    For the rest, they have usually been included in lists of titles I've been asked to submit, so while they weren't my original choices, they were often ones I'd come up with myself.

    And yes, I'll be at RWA! You, too?

  80. I READ ALL THE HAPPY HOLLISTER BOOKS AS A KID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I LOVED THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  81. Well, there we go, Mary Curry. That's a definite from Mary Connealy. :)

    They're awesome stories.

  82. Barbara, Thank you for this post. I've loved reading the comments. Mary Curry, I love The Happy Hollisters (I wanted to be Pam Hollister in 5th grade), and I've read all of the Death on Demand books as well as most of Carolyn Hart's Henrie O books and Bailey Ruth books.

    I remember going to the library when I was in law school and I was finally finding some time to read again. I picked up Murder at Monticello because I was intrigued by a mystery set at a famous historical landmark.

    Just now I was intrigued by the title Family Matters in the picture on your post. That sounded like a book where I would read the back blurb.

    Thanks for the post. And I've absolutely loved the comments. (My kids are all Scooby-Doo fans so I'm familiar with the font and titles!)

  83. I've read a few books lately that had one word titles. They kind of stood out for me.

  84. Titles are incredibly important because so many people buy books based on titles and back covers! YIKES! I'm having a very challenging time coming up with a title for my nonfiction and it's almost ready to go to the publisher!! Julie Lessman, since you thought of 150 titles, can you think of a couple for me??

    One title that I love is from a book that was published years ago, "Fresh Elastic for Stretched-Out Moms," by Barbara Johnson. Isn't that great? The reader knows immediately that this book will be humorous, but will also be full of inspiration and ideas for moms.

    I just finished reading Melanie Dobson's "Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor." Excellent title -mysterious - makes the reader want to know what are the shadows and what goes on in Ladenbrooke Manor to cause the shadows.

    Great post! Thanks for the suggestions. Please enter me in the drawing.

  85. LOL, EDWINA ... sorry, fresh out these days on titles, girlfriend. Those over 150 I came up with was when I was a CDQ (caffeinated drama queen) newbie on expresso and a WHOLE lot younger and anxious to please! ;)

    Now I'm lucky if I can come up with a name for a file, much less a book ... ;)


  86. Barbara, I used to dread coming up with titles. Those I slapped on my early works were lame. I cringe when I think about some of them.

    I had a light bulb moment recently when I realized that the line I write for uses trigger words in its titles. I have a Pinterest board where I've pinned all the books in the line. I scrolled through it, jotting down those keywords. Now when I'm asked to submit title ideas, I pull out that list, identify the words that fit the story and use one, two or even three of them in a title. If only I'd read your great post years ago...

  87. Good morning, Seekers! I see the party's still going on. ;)

    I'll be in and out all day, but first, let me grab my tea and a fresh muffin. Back in a minute....

  88. Okay, let's kick off the morning with a little bit of trivia. This ought to thrill you Happy Hollister fans - Mary, Mary, Cara Lynn, any others? ;)

    The hero of A Rancher of Her Own is named Pete.

    And I sincerely think that's no coincidence, since Pete Hollister was probably one of my earliest crushes. lol

    We could go on and on about book boyfriends, couldn't we? But I guess we'd better focus on the subject of the blog post: titles.

  89. Hi, Tanya - nice to meet another Happy Hollisters reader! You'll have to check out my comment just before yours. ;)

    Great example with the Monticello book. That does triple-duty - catching the attention of mystery, history, and possibly travel fans.

    Thanks for the compliment about the title Family Matters. It's such a simple phrase but a familiar one, which is also a way of drawing readers.

  90. Good point, Mary P.

    As I just mentioned in the previous comment, simple titles can pack a lot of punch.

  91. Hi, Edwina - you're very welcome, and I'm glad you liked the post.

    Love both your examples. I once had a couple of her other titles stuck in my head for a while, too. Which proves our point about titles. :)

    Your nonfiction example (and Elaine's earlier) is another good way of drawing the reader in, through humor. I think both the puns and wordplay talked about in previous comments above do that that, too, though much more subtly.

    Thanks for sharing!

  92. Julie - I so hear you on naming files! Though I may have talked about that yesterday...

    My brain can think of five different places I would file something, which makes it nearly impossible to remember where I finally decided to put it.

  93. Hi, Keli - no worries. I've sometimes come up with a temporary title in desperation, and it makes me cringe, too. I think we all do, when necessary.

    As I said yesterday, it's the hero and heroine's names I can't get over. But I'm now better at going with the flow there, as well. This proves we never stop learning and growing, right?

    That's a good idea for making your lists. And those keywords are just what many editors and publishers will be looking for.

  94. Love those covers! Toss me into the drawing please..
    I enjoyed reading the post, Title's are something I hadn't really thought
    about being so hard to decide on. I just figured the title came before
    the book :)