Monday, February 13, 2012

Title Crazy - What Do You Like?

One of my friends and I used to play a word game making up titles to legal thrillers as we walked our dogs. You know, A Date with Justice, Justice Delayed, Justice Revenged, The Judge's Vendetta... We both loved legal thrillers, but could never remember book titles because they're so generic.

I thought ruefully of this word game when I've tried to come up for titles for my novels. Newbies think the title is the most important thing when pitching a book. Nope. Titles help, but they get changed. All the time. They get changed by agents to pitch to editors. They get changed by editors to pitch to their publisher. They get changed by sales people and marketing teams to pitch to booksellers.

Some bigwig booksellers say, "Ew, don't like that title. Can you change it to something that mentions my favorite aunt's kitten, Mr. Pretty Whiskers? Her birthday's coming up and that would be a nice present." Now, if this person is deciding whether your book will be in Barnes & Nobles or at Walmart or Costco, you're going to say, "How about The Revenge of Mr. Pretty Whiskers?"

Bethany at Owl Review has an entertaining post about what titles work for her and why. Titles she likes include "of" books.
Examples: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

I don’t have a reason for liking “of” books except I like the fancy ring to it. “Salutations, uneducated one. You may refer to me as the Duke of Awesome”
Tragically, Bethany includes Dark Companion in her "hated it!" title list. My story went through many title changes and I couldn't think of any others when my publisher's sales team came up with Dark Companion. It actually fits the theme of the story and the mystery, so I'm quite happy with it. But, like Bethany, there are titles that just say "pick me up" or "talk about me" and titles that tell me, "Let our lurve be a secret."

Here are some upcoming books with titles I love. I have a particular dislike for titles that I can't remember when I go to the bookstore -- so these are titles I'll remember.

The Nightmare Garden by Caitlin Kittredge (at top)
Iron Codex #2

To be released February 14, 2011

This has such an evocative title and the large, distinctive font on the cover is very similar to the one used for other successful books. The Nightmare Garden has beautiful cover art, but the emphasis is the title.
SUMMARY: Everything Aoife thought she knew about the world was a lie. There is no Necrovirus. And Aoife isn't going to succomb to madness because of a latent strain - she will lose her faculties because she is allergic to iron. Aoife isn't human. She is a changeling - half human and half from the land of Thorn. And time is running out for her.

When Aoife destroyed the Lovecraft engine she released the monsters from the Thorn Lands into the Iron Lands and now she must find a way to seal the gates and reverse the destruction she's ravaged on the world that's about to poison her.

Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore

To be released May 1, 2012

I don't know what bitterblue means, and that's why it intrigues me. What is bitter and what is blue? The blue cover with keys (to where?) and the title are both something I'll remember.

Endure by Carrie Jones
Need #4

To be released May 8, 2011

There are some one-word titles that are easier to remember than others. Endure will, uh, endure with me because this word is rather significant to me. Yeah, I could start talking about Faulkner novels and short stories now. Suffice it to say that I will gravitate toward titles that resonate with me emotionally.

When the Sea is Rising Red by Kat Hellisen

To be released February 28, 2012.

I just like this title. What does it mean and what would cause the sea to rise red? Perhaps it's filled with blood. The cover art is spooky and dark, which works with the mysterious title.
SUMMARY: After seventeen-year-old Felicita's dearest friend Ilven kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg's magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.

Tomorrow I'll have a guest post by Mayra Calvani, in celebration of the re-release of Embraced by Shadows.


I was very saddened to hear of the death of Whitney Houston. Her string of hits were a part of everyone's lives. At the peak of her celebrity, she was dazzling -- so beautiful and talented.  Addiction is a murderous, brutal lover. I hope that someday we as a society will decide to stop watching the destruction of our stars as tabloid and reality shows entertainment. These videos are in tribute to Whitney.


Yan said...

Bitterblue is actually the MC's name :) Cashore always has these really odd names for characters that leaves me conflicted.

Marta said...

Hi, Yan! Nice to have a visit from a book cover expert. I often have Issues with character's names, but at least Bitterblue is one that wouldn't be forgotten. I heard that lots of people were trying to grab a copy of this at the recent ALA meeting, so Cashore's doing something right.