Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Titles

Got a question/comment about the business of writing or about the publishing industry? Here's your place to post it!
User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3661
Joined: August 2008
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Titles

Post by EC2 » Fri May 29th, 2009, 9:27 pm

How do you all go about choosing your book titles? How much input do you have and how much does your publisher have?

I was fascinated to read on Ariadne's blog that a third of her autumn historical fiction titles had 'Daugter' in them somewhere. (I have two 'Daughter titles myself) And 'Queen' seems to be hugely popular too. So is this a sign of narrowing down to what sells - but then it seems to me it all ends up much of a muchness, especially if a headless woman appears with it? How do the readers differentiate? Do readers care? Does it matter?

I have heard it said that the title should be a distillation of a novel's theme, and that a standout title will sell a book. Would Captain Corelli's Mandolin have been such a hit if it had been called Affair in Greece?

I'm just curious as to how the writers choose their titles - and what you think is the essence of a good title. Are there titles you have discarded? Readers, what draws you to a title? Any favourites? Any hates?
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Posts: 1667
Joined: April 2009
Location: New York

Post by Chatterbox » Fri May 29th, 2009, 10:36 pm

Apparently, Barnes & Noble is sending out word that it wants plain & simple titles for new books. My agent says it's whatever makes people want to grab for the book.

Speaking of which, would someone PUHLEEZ give me a good title for my Wall Street book??? the publishers' latest suggestion was appalling... Sold the book a year ago with a title ("Labyrinth") which is now no longer appropriate post-crash. Sigh.

User avatar
Anna Elliott
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 579
Joined: March 2009

Post by Anna Elliott » Fri May 29th, 2009, 11:37 pm

[quote=""EC2""]How do you all go about choosing your book titles? How much input do you have and how much does your publisher have?

I was fascinated to read on Ariadne's blog that a third of her autumn historical fiction titles had 'Daugter' in them somewhere. (I have two 'Daughter titles myself) And 'Queen' seems to be hugely popular too. So is this a sign of narrowing down to what sells - but then it seems to me it all ends up much of a muchness, especially if a headless woman appears with it? How do the readers differentiate? Do readers care? Does it matter?
[/quote]

That's very interesting--I know with fiction targeted at pre-teen/teen girls, publishers work as hard as they can to get the word "Princess" in the title if possible. Same phenomenon, I suppose.

I find titling a book to be one of the hardest parts of the process. You want something with a nice, catchy ring to it that also gives the reader an immediate cue as to what the book is about. Twilight of Avalon came comparatively easily by just popping into my head while I was still in the research phase. There was a bit of discussion with my publisher about whether it was too similar to The Mists of Avalon. But everyone agreed it was important to have that instant connection to the Arthurian world in the title, so we stayed with it.

If only the title of my next project would come as easily! I was (really!) considering something with "Daughter" in it. Now I think I'm having second thoughts! :)

Author of the Twilight of Avalon trilogy
new book: Dark Moon of Avalon, coming Sept 14 from Simon &Schuster (Touchstone)

Image

http://www.annaelliottbooks.com

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri May 29th, 2009, 11:40 pm

I don't know what makes other readers buy books, but for me, the title has to give a suggestion of what kind of story to expect. That has certainly worked well for folktales that have jelled through centuries of retelling: Beauty and the Beast; Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, etc.

Water for Elephants caught my eye because of the title. I have a thing for elephants.

Queen, king, and emperor suggests a story about royalty; daughter, son, wife, suggest one about relationship. Husband isn't used much, except in the Good Husband of Zebra Drive. Come to think of it, I don't see mother or father in titles, either.

Romance titles are so obvious they're cheesy.

Titles which include the name of somebody famous are usually good for attracting interest, but maybe better for biographies than novels. Also titles which include a reference to some famous event. As long as the intended readership knows about the event, that is. A book called The Last Voyage of Columbus would garner more recognition than a title like the Great Ice Ship Bear.

For myself, I pick titles with double meanings.

User avatar
boswellbaxter
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3066
Joined: August 2008
Location: North Carolina
Contact:

Post by boswellbaxter » Fri May 29th, 2009, 11:56 pm

I'm sure I've been drawn to a book because of a title that caught my interest, but I can't think of an example. Since I prefer historical fiction set in certain periods and featuring historical characters as opposed to purely fictional ones, I'm appreciative of a title or a subtitle that gives an indication as to whether a book meets these criteria.

I had a hell of a time thinking of a title for my third novel, which is set during the Wars of the Roses. Since the Duke of Buckingham is a major character, I took the title, My Heart Split with Sorrow, from his pre-execution speech in Shakespeare, but the publisher wasn't crazy about this title, so I had to come up with some alternatives with more shelf appeal. I don't know at this point which one will be picked.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/

Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Posts: 1667
Joined: April 2009
Location: New York

Post by Chatterbox » Sat May 30th, 2009, 1:35 am

BoswellBaxter -- what are your options? You've got a cross-section of your audience right here, prepared to weigh in!

I do like the Shakespearean idea, but suspect it's a bit overly ornate for booksellers & maybe readers. Apparently there were problems with "In a Dark Wood Wandering" when that Hella Haase classic was published in English in the early 90s.

User avatar
Divia
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4435
Joined: August 2008
Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Post by Divia » Sat May 30th, 2009, 1:44 am

I have a hard time giving titles to my stuff because everything sounds stupid. For instance I liked the title Dance with me in Hell and my friend thought it was stupid, corny and he even laughed at me. I thought OK, I suck at creating titles. I had another bad one Under the Yankee Flag.

Since I want to have some type of title for the conference I decided that another would be called The Farmer's Daughter, only because there are so many daughters out there. :D

But really I suck at it. I only hope if anything of mine sees print they'll have catcher titles.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
http://yabookmarks.blogspot.com/

User avatar
boswellbaxter
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3066
Joined: August 2008
Location: North Carolina
Contact:

Post by boswellbaxter » Sat May 30th, 2009, 1:45 am

[quote=""Chatterbox""]BoswellBaxter -- what are your options? You've got a cross-section of your audience right here, prepared to weigh in!

I do like the Shakespearean idea, but suspect it's a bit overly ornate for booksellers & maybe readers. Apparently there were problems with "In a Dark Wood Wandering" when that Hella Haase classic was published in English in the early 90s.[/quote]

The two favorites, as I understand it, are The Stolen Crown and The Secrets of Kings. (Note the royalty in both.) They've both grown on me--The Stolen Crown can be read any number of ways, depending on which side you're on, and The Secrets of Kings covers all sorts of ground too. I was surprised that there weren't more other books called The Stolen Crown, but the only one I've run into is a children's book.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/

User avatar
Anna Elliott
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 579
Joined: March 2009

Post by Anna Elliott » Sat May 30th, 2009, 1:57 am

I like The Stolen Crown, myself! :)

Author of the Twilight of Avalon trilogy
new book: Dark Moon of Avalon, coming Sept 14 from Simon &Schuster (Touchstone)

Image

http://www.annaelliottbooks.com

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3661
Joined: August 2008
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Post by EC2 » Sat May 30th, 2009, 9:50 am

The Stolen Crown is a great one Boswell. Very strong.
I was asking because I'm very interested in broad terms of marketing. Covers and titles have always fascinated me, but I'm also interested because I am in next novel title mode thought too. I have a Daughter title in the wings that I like, but is it different enough? Probably not, but then do I need to be pointing at centre target which is what all the other Daughter and Queen novels are doing - witness Vanora Bennet changing her Figures in Silk title to put Queen in there. How do you be similar but different? That's always the conundrum!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

Post Reply

Return to “The Writing Business”