This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
By Anna Bell
Sometimes when writing a book the title jumps out at me before I’ve even begun, and other times I struggle to think of one. I like to have at least one whilst I’m working on a book though – it helps define the story. In fact, I often I start with a title and work the book up from there.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my next series of books and I did have a rough working title, yet something wasn’t quite gelling in my mind about books two and three. After bouncing some ideas off my husband, he actually laughed at what I was going to call the books, telling me it sounded like it was a 70s porn movie. Encouraged that I perhaps needed to rethink, I came up with what I thought was a pretty excellent replacement (it got the thumbs up from the husband, too). With the new title the idea for the novel became clearer and books two and three fell into place in my head.
I’m especially careful about titles as I feel I’ve fallen foul to the wrong name before, when I self-published Universally Challenged. I’ve always wondered whether it would have done better with a different title. It’s about a woman who’s trapped on the wrong side of a parallel universe and, the more I’ve thought of it since, I wonder whether something like What Could Have Been or In Another Life might have sounded more appealing and made it sound less like a quiz show.
Yet there’s a real difference between choosing a title for one of my self-published works and one for my traditionally published book. I know that as an author I shouldn’t get so attached to a title – often the publisher tweaks or changes it. My third book with my publisher currently has a working title as, for legal reasons, we couldn’t use the one I’d originally wanted and it had to be tweaked. I think I’ve been lucky to have kept the names for the others in the Don’t Tell series, mainly as it was self-published and in the public domain already. I wonder what will happen with the next series and whether the book names will remain the same as the ones I’m already cooking in my head?There’s also the change of choosing titles for different markets. Don’t Tell the Groom is called The Budget Bride in its Dutch translation. Famously, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA, as they felt the American audience wouldn’t understand the alchemy reference.
Publishers are often in a better place than the author to know what kind of connotations a title might have in the market they’re trying to reach. Like cover design, a title can help sell a book, too. I’m sure that part of the success of Don’t Tell the Groom was the familiarity with the phrase as a result of the TV programme Don’t Tell the Bride. What a book is called can certainly influence me when book buying – I know that firsthand. Every so often I see a book title and know I have to read the book as it instantly grips me. Tracy’s Bloom’s No-one Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday and Lisa Dickinson’s new series, You Had Me at Merlot, for example.
I’m intrigued to hear about how much control other authors have had when naming their books. How much importance do you put on a title for your work in progress? Does it help or hinder your creative process?