I admit it, I obsess a little about the titles of my novels.
Why? Because they are so dang important. Titles are an author’s first chance to hook the reader--or before the reader, to hook an editor or agent. (Yes, there’s also the cover art, but in many cases the author had absolutely NO control over the cover of their book.)
In addition to hooking the reader, a title should indicate the book’s genre (or even subgenre). That’s a lot to cram into a single phrase or word. Is it any wonder we authors angst about it?
Each genre had its own cadre of power words. Murder mysteries often contain words like Murder, Death, Die, Kill. Like Wendy Roberts’ Grounds to Kill.
Fantasy loves words like King, Sword, and Magic. Think A Game of Thrones or Angela Highland’s Valor of the Healer.
Romance favors titles with words like Heart, Love, and Kiss. Paranormal romance tends to mix words from the romance pool with those from the horror pool resulting in titles like Loribelle Hunt’s Kiss of Twilight.
A good title can also indicate mood. Consider J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover and MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and Unwed. Both paranormal romances featuring vampires, but they are VERY different in tone, one intense, one light-hearted and the titles reflect that. R.L. Naquin’s Monster in My Closet indicates a light-hearted urban fantasy.
And then, as if that isn’t enough, we’re expected to come up with titles that match with the next title in your series. That way your audience can tell at a glance if your new novel belongs to the series or is something new. This can simply mean using the same word in each subsequent title like Natasha Hoar’s Lost Souls series (The Stubborn Dead, The Ravenous Dead) or it can be a more complicated pattern like Glen Cook’s Adjective Metal Noun—sorry, Garrett P.I.--series (Sweet Silver Blues, Red Iron Nights, Petty Pewter Gods…) or Cindy Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles (Steam & Sorcery, Photograph Phantoms, Moonlight & Mechanicals, Cards & Caravans)
Once upon a time I used to be good at titles. My early books were all published under my own titles: Unlocking the Doors, The Catalyst, Escape to the Overworld, Violet Eyes, Running on Instinct, Silver Eyes, Frost. When writer friends were angsting over a title, I was often able to suggest a title, often a phrase from the story that I particularly liked.
Alas, I seem to have lost my Title Mojo. *sob*.
My two latest YA novels, When Dreams Come True and its sequel Walpurgisnacht were published as Dreamfire and Dreamline. My fantasy romance novels, Sacrifice and its sequel Soulless were published as Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith.
Although it took me a little while to come around—having a publisher rename your book feels a little like having your child suddenly campaign to be called Bobby Joe—I now like the new titles better than the old ones.
My current title-wrestling dilemma is for an alternate history series based on the question What if aliens invaded in 1200 AD? My first title was Dark Reflection (because one of the characters, Mirror considered herself the dark reflection of her twin Owl). It then became Razor House (named after a level of the Mayan Underworld) until someone pointed out the title was more fitting for a horror novel. It’s most recent incarnation is Besieged by Demons, but I’m having difficulty with the title for book two, tentatively Ruled by Gods. It may change yet again.
Anyone else wrestling with titles? What are your favourite titles?