I spent some time yesterday offering title options to a friend. Actually, I know several different fellow authors who profess to suck at titles. I on the other hand find it difficult to write a book without first settling on the title. Strange, that.
Most authors I know start with the story and decide on a title as they go along--or even when they're finished. For me the title defines the action in the book (at least in my mind) so I need the title first. I won't say that I've never changed a title. Cherished Destinies was a title that I settled on halfway through that book as I saw that the book was changing shape mid-stream.
Recently a friend of mine was pilloried in a blog because of the title of her book. It was a cutesy/frank take off on a popular phrase and quite appropriate for the target audience. What amazed me was the sheer intolerance of the comments. Why are we still not past that point? And why are we still dealing with the title/cover/content police?
How much can you really tell from a title? I like titles that tell me something about the story or at least allude to something in the story. And since I'm a straight-arrow kind of person, I would prefer not to have to puzzle it out because it's an obscure reference to a dead poet. If you're gonna use a poet reference at least put that reference on the dedication page so I know what we're talking about.
One of my friends believes that my books Chrysanthemum, Honeysuckle, and Daffodil would sell better if they were named something like Tie Me Down, Two Men for Honey, and Spanking Daffodil. Maybe. But I was thinking this is a trilogy about three sisters named Chrysanthemum, Honeysuckle and Daffodil. So that's what I named the books. After all when Melville wrote his whale book, he didn't call it Killing a Whale--he called it Moby Dick. I was going for classy--Oliver Twist, Jude the Obscure (believe me, he was), and Tom Sawyer. Sigh.
Maybe classy was too much to expect. Maybe the titles just weren't up front enough. Maybe. I'm still kicking around a title for Bishop's book. I think it's going to be something like Finally, Love or something like that. I haven't quite found the right words, but when I do, then that will settle the book for me. That's how I work.
A title should intrigue the reader, capture their interest and make them want to find out what the book is about. If it makes a promise--My Dragon Lover--by golly, there better be a dragon in the book and he better be the main hero. I once read a book about a dragon...read the entire book, waiting for the dragon to appear...only to discover that the title was one of those weird dead poet references. There was no dragon! The manager at the bookstore tried to argue with me when I asked for my money back, but seven bucks for a story with no dragon in it--nope, I wasn't going for it. Eventually, she reluctantly forked over my money. I probably would have kept the book, crummy though it was, if the author had at least conjured up one measly dragon to cover the title.
I think I read somewhere that some publishers don't let the author choose the title. I don't think I could do that. Covers I can deal with the publisher deciding on. But a title? No, I think I would have a difficult time coping with that. A title is kind of personal. It says something about the person that wrote the book. While doing research, I once worked with a set of books titled "The History of the Descendents of Edward Bosworth who came to America in 1632". Well. At least you know what that book is about. And I can hazard a guess or two about the author. Can't you?
Drop by Amarinda's blog to check out the latest on the Blogga Saga at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ and then pop over to Kelly's blog at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ for her latest entry.