No, I'm not advertising a medieval paranormal with a twist. With that title, I'm not sure what a reader would expect! The King's prized assassin, the stealthy Lion. The town's reclusive orphan healer, known as the Witch. The castle's...toilet. Ahhh, nothing says romance like la Toilette.
Probably not romantic to reference a commode in a title. I digress. I'm just thinking of titles for books. Lovely books.
Authors don't have a lot of choice in titles when a book is traditionally published. However, with self-publishing, the author gets that burden, um, responsibility. I don't recommend using a Romance Title Generator. Yes, those exist. Be more thoughtful than that. Unless you're at a party acting out the titles that appear. Then, it's great fun!
I struggled with titles for the upcoming books in my debut series. I had to seriously think about what makes a good title. What things did I consider? What logic did I use?
1. HOW TO REFLECT GENRE AND THE ESSENCE OF THE BOOK. WHAT "IMPACT WORDS" RELATE TO IT?
If your title contains the word "dom" or "mask" or "tied," then I think erotica. If it has the word "home" or "again," then I think of contemporary or maybe a second chance romance. There are words associated with motorcycles and tattoos. If a "Duke" or "Lady" appears, then the reader will think it's historical romance. Same with the word "Danger" as relates to suspense.
The key is giving readers what they expect. Don't lead them astray with a title that suggests one genre and ends up being something different.
2. HOW WILL IT LOOK ON THE COVER AND IN PROMO? CAN YOU EASILY CONNECT IT TO THE COVER AND BRAND?
If the cover and brand are flowers and butterflies, but the title contains the word, "Bada$$," then it must be an intentional juxtaposition of sweet and tough. I've seen it work well, but it's not easy.
3. ASSOCIATIONS YOU MAY WANT TO AVOID
Google the title. You may be surprised. There may be an event or activity or product that readers associate with your title. You want that to be deliberate.
There is one book with the same title as the first book in my series. It has a cowboy on the cover. My hero is not a cowboy, and the cover reflects that. There are zero romance books with my second and third titles.
This leads to the next point....
4. THE LENGTH OF THE TITLE
One-word titles can have impact, but are easy to duplicate. I remember recommending a book to my sister and there were several with that title. She was confused.
On the other hand, a title that is too long won't work well either. It may be harder to remember and more difficult to promote.
5. DO YOU WANT THE READER TO REMAIN CURIOUS OR HAVE THAT CURIOSITY SATISFIED WITH THE TITLE?
I love when a title makes me wonder about the book. Then, you find how it's related as you read the story. On the other hand, sometimes I'm in the mood for a certain type of book, and then I like an obvious title. The best is a combination of both. I know what I'm getting, but there's still some mystery.
Subtitles can provide information a reader needs, especially reading order e.g. (Book 13 in the Amazing Romance Series). It may clarify genre if a title and cover don't convey the meaning enough e.g. Rattlesnoops (a Texas mystery)
7. METAPHORS, ALLITERATION, WORD PLAY, etc.
So many titles play off other phrases. "Tall, Dark, and Handsome" can be changed to "Tall, Dark, and Whatevs" There are song titles. Slang. They can all work. Genre can have an impact here too. I kind of love it all.
Do you want to follow a trend or not? Rewording a phrase is a trend. Using song titles. There are others. Trend was less important to me because I wasn't sure how long it would take me to write three books. I didn't want to bank on a trend and then have it be over by the time the series was released.
9. RELEASE STRATEGY with a SERIES
Are you releasing all of the books at once? Are the releases staggered by months? Years? I loved the idea of releasing a series where each title built upon the previous one. Individually they work, but taken as a whole, they create a sentence or something clever. There's a risk to that since you can only write the number of books allowed by the titles! I didn't end up doing that, but I still liked the idea. At any rate, there should be continuity with the titles if it's a series. Just like you would have continuity on the covers.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
What if The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had been titled The Magic Children or Magic Journey to Narnia? Growing up Narnia? Rescue from Winter? Winter Curse? Lion's Sacrifice? The beauty of the title is that it reflects the main elements of the story. The lion represents good/Christ in this story. The witch represents evil/Satan/sin. The wardrobe is a passage/transition. What a perfect title. Memorable. Simple. Reflects the essence of the story.
Side note: I've read that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were in a writing group called The Inklings. Can you imagine? I digress....
I originally decided on the following titles for the books:
They evoked more of a suspense or military feel than I wanted for the series. I wanted to keep the toughness associated with the words, but focus them in a more Contemporary/New Adult direction.
I revised to:
Colt (The Southern Brothers)
Ruger (The Southern Brothers)
Sig (The Southern Brothers)
The subtitle clarifies that it is a series with brothers as the heroes. The covers downplay the subtitles, so I still have the one-word impact. The covers and series logo will have a modern-tough Southern feel (scoped rifles and deer skull) rather than Western or cowboy (revolvers and longhorns). I can't take credit for that - my brilliant cover designer basically gave me exactly what I wanted when I wasn't even sure. Book 1, Book 2, Book 3 will appear in the titles when I upload them, so readers will know the order. If I do print books, then I'll put reading order on the spine. Also, the titles and subtitles have stories behind them, which readers discover along the way.
At a certain point you have to make a decision and move forward with it. I'm sure I'll learn lessons to improve the next series. In the end, keeping the reader in mind was the key component for me, as it has been in all things related to my books.
So tell me. What makes a good title? What do you like? Dislike? Do you have any favorites? It doesn't need to be in the romance genre. Steinbeck titles are some of my favorites. What are yours?