If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

September Interviews

9/2 Dianne Freeman, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder

9/9 Ellen Byron, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

9/16 Marilyn Levinson, writing as Allison Brook, Checked Out for Murder

9/23 Rhys Bowen, The Last Mrs. Summers

9/30 Sherry Harris, From Beer To Eternity

September Guest Bloggers

9/19 Judy Alter

WWK Weekend Bloggers

9/5 V. M. Burns

9/12 Jennifer J. Chow

9/26 Kait Carson


Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Tricky Business of Book Titles

Giving a title to a book is a tricky business. What phrase will not only give the reader a taste of the plot but also reflect the novel’s theme? What few words will entice the reader to choose your book over another? A book title must be memorable, fit on a book cover, and perhaps, set up a naming convention for a series.

And what to do when the chosen name is not right for the work? Sometimes when the baby arrives she looks more like an Edith than a Mirabelle.

That’s what happened to me. My WIP has gone by the working title Temptress Moon which my beta readers informed me was wrong, wrong, wrong.

“The title sounds like a romance novel which it is definitely NOT,” one beta wrote.
OK, so time for a new title.

As I started brainstorming titles, I decided to research what others think is a good title. No, not a good title, a great title.

What did I find?

All the good ideas are taken.

That A to Z thing that Sue Grafton has going on? Sweet. Would anyone else look like a total copycat trying it? Absolutely.

The number thing? Janet Evanovich has that sewn up over 21 books, from One for the Money to Top Secret Twenty-One.

Colors have worked for several authors from Walter Moseley (Devil in a Blue Dress, Little Green) and John D. MacDonald (A Deadly Shade of Gold, A Purple Place for Dying).

Many mystery writers have turned to other writers for title inspiration. Several of Agatha Christie’s titles were inspired by great writers: William Blake (Endless Night from Auguries of Innocence), Tennyson (The Mirror Crack’d from The Lady of Shalott), and Mother Goose (A Pocket Full of Rye, And Then There Were None, Five Little Pigs (also known as Murder in Retrospect), Hickory Dickory Dock, Crooked House, and Three Blind Mice).

Biblically inspired titles are as numerous as the stars in the sky: Dorothy Sayers’ Clouds of Witness (Hebrews 12:1), O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King (Psalms 137:5), and  A Time to Kill by John Grisham (Ecclesiastes 3:3) are just a few examples.

Shakespeare’s work has inspired scores of titles if the Wikipedia page of Titles Inspired by Shakespeare is anything to go by.  Hamlet alone has inspired Perchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker, And Be a Villain by Rex Stout, Put On By Cunning by Ruth Rendell, Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde, and Murder Most Foul by several authors.

Goodreads has a list of the best book titles. Coming in at number one is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. This list is a good reminder that a great title is no guarantee of a good read. Judging from the reviews, number seven, The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse does not live up to the sheer joyful genius of its title, though that is one terrific title, isn’t it?

As I mull options, two wonderful writer friends discussed my title ideas. Their input? Don’t worry about it too much. Publishers have a way of changing titles.

How did you decide to name your novel?


Jim Jackson said...

My first novel (as yet unpublished) started with the title Actuarial Gains. It fit perfectly, except it was a bit esoteric. Since Sue Grafton had already use the "A is for..." approach to the alphabet, I needed to use the poor man’s approach and start each novel with a new letter. So the title became Ant Farm, which came from a line Paddy said to his father, Seamus. I’m contemplating rewriting that story and perhaps changing the name to All In to reflect Seamus’s approach to life.

The second book I titled Bad Policy because it related to a bad insurance policy. Unfortunately, given current politics (which ever ones you don’t agree with), "bad policy" gets people thinking about government.

Cabin Fever fit the third novel and people seem to like it, and I’m using Doubtful Relations as the working title for the next in the series.

~ Jim

Shari Randall said...

This "poor man's" approach is cool! And I like All In…Ant Farm makes me think of Animal Farm (flash back to high school English class).

Paula Gail Benson said...

Shari, I think your friends have given you good advice: consider any title a "working title" until the publisher has a say.
Jim, I'm so glad to hear about the missing "A" to Seamus' story. I hope you will consider rewriting and seeking publication.

Warren Bull said...

If you have a main character, you can use that name plus a title for the particular book, but the main character has to be memorable. My two novels about Abraham Lincoln start with his name.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, my first book was titled "Murder at Elmwood Gardens" for most of its years before I published it. Then on my 2nd retreat at Seascape, when all of the groups got together on the last night, Hallie Ephron thought my title didn't work for the book. She suggested "The Blue Rose" which is the theme of the book. I changed it and haven't been sorry for it since. Now all my books have a flower in the title except for the third, which has garden club.

As for ongoing theme, C.C. Benison is using the Twelve Days of Christmas for his theme. The first is "Twelve Drummers Drumming" the next is "Eleven Pipers Piping" and the third is "Ten Lords a Leaping." Of course, that limits the series to only twelve books. He's a Canadian author, who has his books set in a little village in England and they are sort of in the vein of Agatha Christie, but much funnier and more up to date.

Shari Randall said...

Paula and Warren - good advice!
Gloria - I do think The Blue Rose is evocative and mysterious. And you won't be limited to just twelve titles like CC Benison.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank goodness for that, Shari, because I still have so many plot ideas.

Sarah Henning said...

Sometimes, I'm great at titles; sometimes I think and think and think and still just can't be happy with anything I come up with. But I do find that bouncing ideas off my beta readers is really, really helpful!

Shari Randall said...

So true, Sarah, my beta readers have saved me from some embarrassing mistakes.

Kara Cerise said...

Finding the perfect name for anything is tricky! I'm sure that when you and your publisher put your heads together you will come up with a title that feels "right."

KM Rockwood said...

Finding a good title is not easy! I like my titles to reflect the genre and be relevant to the story. Steeled for Murder has a murder in a steel fabrication plant; Fostering Death is about a foster mother who has been killed, etc