Saturday, September 10, 2011

Title Town USA

Let's talk titles. How does an author name her book? Mine have been obvious choices so far.

1) SHADOW POINT is a story set in a place called Shadow Point.

2) ROMEO FAILS is a story set in a place called Romeo Falls, where someone has just spray painted the highway sign outside of town to make it say Romeo FAILS instead of Falls. Get it? Maybe not - because now I'm hearing and seeing references to Amy Briant's new book Romeo Falls. D'oh! It's FAILS, people, FAILS. If you call it ROMEO FALLS, that would actually be a fail.


Is it too late to rethink the title of this book? :-) Nah... I love it. Besides, what else would I call it? Love & Interpersonal Conflict At Larue's Swingtime Hardware? Small Town Midwest Lesbians In Turmoil? It's So Damn Annoying When Your Best Friend Is Straight? (actually, that last one has kind of a ring to it...)

You know, I always loved those 19th century books that had a long, explanatory subtitle, so maybe... Maybe not.

3) HEAVENLY MOVES is a story about a girl named HEAVENLY who MOVES into a new apartment. See how hard I work on this stuff? Actually, I did have to work a little hard on this one. For years (decades?), the working title was THE LUCKY STIFF. When I finally finished the book and found myself thinking hopeful thoughts about publication, I checked Amazon to see if there was already a book called THE LUCKY STIFF. I figured there would be at least one. But maybe it would be from years ago, so no biggie. It might be a mystery - with a name like THE LUCKY STIFF, that was definitely a possibility. But, I figured hey, what are the odds it would be a recent lesbian mystery? Then I checked Amazon. D'oh! There I found LUCKY STIFF by Elizabeth Sims, a recently published lesbian murder mystery!


COME ON! WHAT ARE THE FREAKIN' ODDS?!

Okay. No problem. Renamed my book HEAVENLY MOVES, which I think will actually be better in the long run if it ends up being the first in a series. I've already got plans for #2, HEAVENLY MISSES. Yay. It's all good.

By the way, after seeing LUCKY STIFF on Amazon, I went to the bookstore, bought a book by Elizabeth Sims and greatly enjoyed it! Even better, I then got to meet Elizabeth Sims in person at the 2011 Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) conference this past June. I said hello, introduced myself, then told her I'd read and enjoyed her book, the one titled... er, blanked and couldn't come up with the name for a split second, so said something like "you know, the one with the rabbit? Todd?" (I know someone who's married to a Todd who used to have a rabbit, so that stuck with me) For just the briefest of moments, she looked at me like I was completely nuts and I thought in horror, "Oh, no, was that NOT the book with the rabbit named Todd?" Because going around talking about rabbits named Todd to random people is NOT a good thing. (Back me up on this, Elwood P. Dowd.) But then she nodded, smiled and was very gracious. Thank you, Elizabeth Sims.

4) THE BOOK OF KELL is a book about Kell.

So... titles: you want it to be catchy, memorable, something that will reach out and grab the reader standing in front of the shelf (including the cyber shelf) and make her pick YOUR book over everybody else's. Eventually, you hope your name on the spine of the book will be what sells. As I look at my own bookcases, I see some BIG NAME AUTHORS with little teeny titles. Ha.

Often a title is a cliche or well known phrase. ('cause it's catchy, memorable, etc.) You can't copyright a title, which is why you see books, movies and songs with the same titles.

When it comes to titles for a series of books, the author (or publisher) has some thinking to do. Name each book based on its plot? Or come up with some device that will readily identify it to the reader as another volume in the series. Obviously, starting each title with "Harry Potter and the" worked pretty well for J. K. Rowling. (not to mention Scholastic) I've mentioned Sue Grafton's alphabet series before, using the "a is for, b is for, c is for" device.

Depending on the author and the publisher, sometimes one of those parties decides on the title and sometimes the other. The publisher will likely make the decision on cover art, perhaps with input from the author. And what about the author photo, if there is one? Usually up to the author to have that taken, unless he or she is a big time author with a huge publisher. I always check out the author photo - don't you? The classic seems to be the "wearing the black turtleneck headshot while posing with chin on fist." Classic! Cracks me up every time.

Note to self: buy black turtleneck.

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