BOOK TITLES – What’s in a name?

By Suzanne Quill

What prompts you to pick up a new book? Or, revisit an old one for that matter? Is it the author? Is it the cover art? Is it the title?

Today let’s talk about a book’s title, because, for some of us, that is what can draw us in.

I read all kinds of books. Murder mysteries, both cozies and thrillers, historical romances, contemporary romances, fantasies, biographies, non-fiction, pretty much anything. Yes, sometimes it’s the author or cover that draws me in but so often it’s the title.

I think everyone has a subject or two that intrigues them. Could it be dragons? The Knights Templar? Da Vinci? Think about your intriguing subjects. Do you find you peruse book titles and if one of your favorite subjects shows up in a title you just have to pick it up and read the back cover? Will this be a book that you enjoy because you already have an interest in the subject around which it is constructed?

I love archaeology, especially Egyptian, history, murder mysteries, and romance. Some of my favorite authors combine these to put together a story that never fails to entertain. When one of these authors publishes a new book, I’m guaranteed to track it down as quickly as I can.

If I’m scanning bookstores, online or real, or in my local library, a title that triggers thoughts on any one of these topics will immediately get me to read the flap or back cover. It just might be an introduction to a new favorite author.

But what if you have to name a book as each author must do every time a new book is published?

What does the title have to do? It has to hint at the genre. It might have to hint at the era. It should instigate a thought process in the reader even before the first page is read.

No mean feat, that.

My first book, IF LOVE WERE ENOUGH, came by its title and even its plot because of an early episode of Grey’s Anatomy. A woman was dying and nothing could be done to prevent it. Her spouse was heartbroken and said something to the effect that if love were enough he would/could save her or even die for her.

As I wrote my story I kept coming back to that thought. There are so many ways that a loved one would wish his/her love was strong enough to save their beloved. This could be the love of a parent for a child, one sibling for another, the hero for the heroine. So my heroine, Priscilla, contemplates that theme through to the end of the story. She even mentions this thought out loud to the hero, Brandon, because of the impact it has on her life.

ONLY YOU, my second book, has a title that tells the reader right from the beginning that for one of the people in the story, in this case the hero, Jonathan, there is no other option for him. Jessica is the one and only love of his life. All that he did and will do he does because only she can complete him. The depth of his love and therefore the strength of his actions are all empowered by his commitment to the one and only purpose he sees in his existence.

But some books are not easy to title. My third book went through multiple titles. Though it was published as AN IMPROPER SEDUCTION, over the course of my writing it was titled The Seduction of Angeline, Shadow of Love and Forbidden. Any of these titles would have been acceptable based on the story line. What it came down to, for me, however, was the fact that the story was about seduction. Angeline had no need or desire for marriage and didn’t want to be some man’s brood mare. Geoffrey brought her to heel by enticing her with the joys and intimacies of sex. The fact that he fell in love with her in the process (as, of course, she did with him) was the unplanned side effect as two extremely obstinate individuals tried to have their own way and gain the upper hand.

But there are still challenges. I have a contemporary romance I’d love to publish but I can’t decide on a title. The original one I selected, SECOND TIME AROUND, has been so overused it won’t do anything to make the book unique and/or enticing. Until I can come up with a suitable alternative I’m left ruminating and postponing a publication date.

So, in the end, the title must speak to the author as well as entice past and future readers. But, still, it’s all a little bit of luck. Who knows what words will tickle the fancy of a reader scrolling through hundreds if not thousands of book titles?

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3 Responses to BOOK TITLES – What’s in a name?

  1. Beth Carter says:

    I love coming up with titles and agree titles, as well as great covers and blurbs, pull the reader in.

  2. suzannequill says:

    Thanks!

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