Angela is a fellow GCCRWA chapter member and a Secret Cravings author as well. Welcome Angela.
The Case for an Awesome Title: Why It’s Important and How to Come Up With One
Thank you, Jillian, for having me on your site! I thought I’d talk about how to come up with a good title. I get lots of comments about my titles and so I thought I’d share my brainstorming process.
I’m going to advocate that we take the time to find a title that is catchy, fits the tone of your book, and possibly hints at the plot before you put it out for submission.
Should you take the time? After all, a publisher might change it
Some bloggers say you shouldn’t get too attached to a title because the publisher might change it. But I’ve also read that agents can be drawn or repulsed by a title. And I’ve seen that firsthand. I had agents request a full solely based on my title for my time travel romance MUST LOVE BREECHES. I’ll share one, just to show by example how it can help:
Oh! The title! I would LOVE to see the full.
That was the whole email! I also got an appreciative giggle from an agent during a live pitch, and an editor at another live pitch sat up straighter and looked more interested when I started with the title.
I’ve also seen agents tweet about how boring some of the titles are that they’re seeing in queries. For example, back in October, agent Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown Ltd tweeted this:
Painfully unoriginal titles I see too often: CHOSEN, AWAKENED, BUTTERFLY EFFECT, RECKONING. “Vague & boring” is not the best 1st impression.
— Sarah LaPolla (@sarahlapolla) October 17, 2012
But beware that there’s also the risk that some will hate your creative title. Just like strong writing voices, a strong title might not appeal to some. I had contest judges tell me I should definitely change my title, and I had one agent whose rejection letter included:
I do think that you need a knew [sic] title…
All part of the business of writing, contrary opinions! But I see this as a litmus test—I’m fairly confident that they wouldn’t have liked my writing style either, as I feel like it matches well the tone of the story and what to expect from it.
And wouldn’t you rather have a title that made some go “ooh!” than one that was so safe, it was boring? For my new release, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, I’ve had some early comments from readers saying they have to read this because of the title.
So, if we can have a strong title to help sell it, why not, as long as we are prepared that the publisher might change it (or might not appeal to some agents). In this competitive market, why cede a possible advantage that could potentially put you above the crowd?
Okay, so how to come up with one?
I don’t have an easy answer, but I can share with you how I came up with mine in case it helps you. For MUST LOVE BREECHES, it started out as A HEART FOR EVERY FATE, which was a line from a Lord Byron poem, which was fitting since his daughter, Ada Lovelace, is a major secondary character, and it kind of spoke to the love across time thing, but it just wasn’t recognizable as Byron, unlike She Walks in Beauty, and so without that obvious association, it just sounded like a mushy romance (to me), not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it wasn’t the right tone. But that’s what I had for the first draft. Then it became TO OUR FUTURE–again, trying to allude to the time travel thing, and at the time it was a toast the hero and heroine did at the novel’s end. But I knew it didn’t work and by the third draft I did what I always do when I want to do something, I turned to Google and researched.
Here’s some links I found that helped me brainstorm:
•Agent Rachelle Gardner’s How To Title a Book
•I love Katie MacAlister’s titles, so I added her name to my search parameters and came up with this post: Finding the Perfect Title by editor Leah Hultenschmidt
•Someone on critiquecircle.com had a great brainstorming list, but since that’s password protected, I googled and found the same list here.
I wrote down all sorts of possible titles, some quite inane. I blogged about it last November in a post called “Oh, For a Title” but I still didn’t have one.
But the brainstorming paid off, because my subconscious mind became alerted and primed. Not much longer after that post, I was wandering around the aisles of the bookstore where I work, straightening up and looking at titles for inspiration, and saw Must Love Dogs and “Must Love Breeches” just popped into my head.
After that, I haven’t had as much trouble with titles, maybe because now I have an “ear” out for them during my brainstorming sessions? The next story I wrote was a novelette, and I came up with the title before I had the story. In fact the title helped me come up with the premise. It’s actually the story that just got released yesterday called BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS.
The genesis for that was again at the bookstore where I work. I was trying to think of possible titles and was shelving some Hunter S. Thompson, and I was like hmm, what could be a twist off of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and first I was like Beer and Loathing, but I write lighthearted romances, and then ‘groping’ popped into my head. In the next instant I had the hero, as I thought he should be a microbrewer, and that the heroine would be an overworked software programmer. Once I had that, things started falling into place, including the description for him of being a geek trapped in a good ole boy’s body. I had that tagline for him before I even started writing the story.
The next novel I wrote was a steampunk romance and I was sitting at work (noticing a pattern here) running through words that rhymed with “steam,” and “beam” made me think of the famous line from Star Trek, “Beam me up, Scotty” so that’s how STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY was born, though I need to come up with a better last name for the hero that rhymes better with Scotty. Or maybe not. It might be okay that it’s not immediately apparent where it comes from, since it conveys already several things on its own, without needing to have that allusion.
So to sum up, from the Hultenschmidt post linked above, a good title will:
•Indicate the genre
•Give a sense of the tone
•Provide continuity for similar/series titles
•Intrigue the reader
And as Ms. Gardner says in her post:
Your title is part of the overall impression you’re creating about your book. It can set a tone and create an expectation. Whether you’re pitching to an agent, or your agent is pitching to publishers, I think you want to have the strongest title possible.
How do you come up with your titles? Do they come to you while you’re brainstorming, or during revision? Did this post help?
Released yesterday, Beer and Groping in Las Vegas:
Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Secret Cravings Publishing
Release Date: December 19, 2012
Length: Novelette (13,500 words)
Content advisory: Adult language, explicit sex
Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?
Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.
Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.
Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.
Angela works at an independent bookstore and lives in an historic house in the beautiful and quirky town of Mobile, AL, with her two matched gray cats, Darcy and Bingley. When she’s not writing, she enjoys the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls and creating the occasional knitted scarf. She’s had a varied career, including website programming and directing a small local history museum.
She’s an admitted geek and is proud to be among the few but mighty Browncoats who watched Firefly the first night it aired. She was introduced to the wonderful world of science fiction by her father, by way of watching reruns of the original Star Trek in her tweens and later giving her a copy of Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz as a teenager. She hasn’t looked back since.
She has a B.A. in Anthropology and International Studies with a minor in German from Emory University, and a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University. She was an exchange student to Finland in high school and studied abroad in Vienna one summer in college. She recently found representation with Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon, Assoc.
book buy link: http://angelaquarles.com/books/beer-and-groping-in-las-vegas/