T is for Title

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letter tTitle is easy, right? It is what you called the file on your hard drive. It has always had a name. After all, it is your baby. Are you sure?

Three really distinct groups of authors categorize the majority: Before, during and help me.

Before

These authors know the title of the book before they pen the first word. All words are in pursuit of said title. In these books, the title is the egg.

During

Somewhere along the way, and usually before line edits, these authors realize the characters have decided on the title. The working title either becomes the title or is scrapped in favor of the only moniker which fits the book.

Help me!

These authors have gotten to beta with no concept what to call their books. It is still titled, WIP or story or book. They are willing to take suggestions, put out polls and allow a cover artist to put something on it.

STOP!

Something is missing in all of this: Research. Oh, do not groan. It is a necessary evil. Think not?

Guilt by Association

long train wedding dress

Image credit Real Size Bride

Ruta Sepetys is in a bit of a PR pickle because her YA book (written a year earlier) is titled Between Shades of Gray. Would you want to be fielding her inbox?

Got a story of best girl friends in a tandem wedding? One turns into bridezilla and demands matching 16-foot train gowns. Women in White is probably a good play on words. It is also is the title of a serialized novel from before the turn of the 20th century, a handful of other books, a movie and a plethora of porn DVDs.

Lost in a Sea

Some themes have a finite number of descriptions. Space transportation a few centuries from now takes a crew on a five-year mission of star charting. Your romance may well fit under the title Starcrossed. Be ready to share your title with more than a dozen books.

Branded

You have crafted the best memoir of bar psychology known to the publishing world. Of course, you want to call it No Crap on Tap. Denver beer drinkers are going to wonder how many brews you had at Falling Rock Tap House.

Enough

Before you get busy visualizing the cover of your book with the title you are certain is the destiny of your story, search for your proposed title. Some conflicts you need to consider are:

  • Businesses with similar taglines
  • Same title in another genre
  • Innuendo
  • Similarity to bad books
  • Many books (or movies) with the same title

Different

If you are having trouble getting a title which does not come with a loaded history and expectations, become a Help me! author. After all, you can think of at least one book you would have named something far more appropriate, and there is absolutely no shame in asking for help.

Who really wants to compete for a title?


What book would you have named something else? Have you read two books with the same title? Have you ever bought the wrong book because it shared a title?

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23 Comments

  1. Usually I come up with a title early on, but for one script I wrote, I never could find the right title for it. It had many, none good.
    Binky recently posted..Backards EnglishMy Profile

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    • I think we have all had at least one which refused to just have a name. I still have a WIP I have asked a load of ppl, and it still does not have a name.

      Reply
  2. These days I find numerous books with the same title. Some time ago, I talked to someone about a particular title. One of us figured out it was not the same book because the author was different. I was shocked. I can think of two titles, four authors in my bookcase.

    Didn’t it used to be long ago you could not use a title already in use?
    tess kann recently posted..Flash in the Pan: BusboyMy Profile

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    • Titles have never been copyrightable. No, before the ISBN system only internal mechanisms from publishers kept titles from being duplicated in house. Competitors took names of popular books for fallout sales. Many books are purchased by mistake because of title similarity (or exact duplicates).

      While the practice was far more common in music, it has spilled into the literary world with more regularity with the ease with which titles are now created and the glut of books to hit the market in the last ten years. Part of it is intentional. Part of it is sheer laziness. The last part is arrogance. (The story is in my head so there is no way anyone else could possibly have the name I gave it.)

      Reply
  3. Both of my manuscripts had other working titles until I submitted them. One of them was based on the final scene in the book, which was not a good idea. I used a suggestion from a writer friend for that one. I did a search and found no other book for sale under that name. For the second book, a poetry book, I used the title of one of the poems which best gave an impression of the poems contained in it.
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Mantra’s Book of Shadows, Dark Poetry by Red DwyerMy Profile

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    • I agree. GIL would not be nearly as powerful had you named it after the last scene.

      Reply
  4. Falling Rocks on My Head

    That is the title of my life right now. Of course the other title of my life right now is:

    Stick Sharp Objects in my Ears so I can’t hear You

    Do either of those work for a book, if I wrote it? Likely not, but I might use it as a working title. This way I could differentiate it from other WIP on my hard drive and would know what it was.

    The thing I always find fascinating, is how titles can turn you away from a book or gain your interest. I wander brick and mortar book stores constantly and a title can cause me to turn up my nose. Authors truly should pay attention, seek input and pay attention!
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Peeking Out of My Cave, PIIMy Profile

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    • There have been a number of books lately which the title completely turned me off, even though the content was very good. It was obvious the title was merely an extension of a bad cover and referenced something in the author’s life rather than the content of the book.

      I think those are fab WIP titles, but my guess is a killer image would make the second one acream “Read me!” with the title shortened to “Sharp Objects”. *evil grins*

      Reply
  5. Kind of off topic, but research titles already used reminded me of a chuckle moment.

    I was on a training development project, and one came up with the names of the characters. I thought of Renee LaRue … so I searched it … and a stripper came up as the top hit. I didn’t use it, but the team got a good chuckle.
    Frank recently posted..On Satire Bits: Vol. 52My Profile

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    • LOL! I have a few books where the author never considered some mother (or agent) could have come up with that name already, and it may have a built in reputation. Great to see you, Frank.

      Reply
  6. Wow, I would never have thought to think about the title so much – but this all makes sense. Great post – again! – Red 🙂
    Noeleen recently posted..Life, sex, depression.My Profile

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    • There is a lot more to a successful book than just the text. That is the point of this series. Glad to see you today, Noeleen.

      Reply
  7. Yet another headache – what do I call book four???

    I’ll figure that one out eventually!

    God Bless!

    Prenin.
    Prenin recently posted..Tuesday – A trip to the Co-Op.My Profile

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  8. When TdelO went from 6 novels to 9 (due to length), the two extra titles accurately describe what those segments contain, so I stuck with them in spite of both having been used before–and no doubt, will be again. Titles can’t be copyrighted.

    Reply
  9. My title is not something I generally worry about, it usually tends to come along at some point during the writing of the story. You’ve spelled out some great things to contemplate when it comes to picking a title though.

    Have fun with a-z.

    Reply
    • I am glad. A lot of authors struggle with what to name their books. For most, it is difficult to sum it up in 7 words or less. Glad to see you from A to Z.

      Reply
  10. I often have problem with title…but sometime it just came out before the story.

    As for the question, I haven’t yet come across books with same title.

    Great article, Red 🙂
    Novroz recently posted..Murphy News : Misterman Clip, Peaky Blinders, Cry/Fly, TranscendenceMy Profile

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    • You are lucky! With more than 200,000 books published each year in the US, it is hard not to find a few with the same name here. xxx

      Reply

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