Monday, March 31, 2014

Under Cold Stone: Coming up with a title

Titles

Is there anything more important for the potential success of a book than it's title? Well, other than being by a mega-bestselling author that is.

Titles are critical in drawing the potential readers attention. The title should give a little hint at the  type of book, perhaps some of the content. It needs to reflect the mood of the book, and to distinguish itself from other books. Titles can not be copyright protected, thus it's not unknown for several books to have the same title. I think of one year where a couple of people I knew brought out books called Fatal Grace at the same time.

In my own experience, sometimes a title is a no-brainer. Sometimes it's a struggle to come up with something. In Among the Departed (Constable Molly Smith #5) as soon as the bones in the woods are discovered by the police dog, Adam Tocek is about to say that the dog is signalling that he's located a dead body. At the last minute he realized a child is listening, and says "Among the Departed." I knew right away that would be my title.

Only once has my editor told me to change the title. The first Molly Smith book was titled Test Case. As it's about a brand-new cop, I thought that a suitable title. My editor said (probably correctly) that it sounded like a medical mystery. So we tossed ideas back and forth, and eventually came up with the only title of mine I don't like: In the Shadow of the Glacier. Thus proving that a compromise suits no one.


With the seventh book in the series, I really struggled. I wanted a title that would reflect the fact that much of the action takes place at the historic Banff Springs Hotel. The hotel is based on a Scottish castle (Banff, get it?). Lots of castle titles came to mind. Castle of the Dammed. Not entirely appropriate, nor would the owners of the Banff Springs Hotel be pleased.

Scotland. Castles. Words flew through my head. Then: when in doubt, go to the Bard. In this case, Macbeth.

Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot. (4.1.6-9)


I thought that captured the mood of the novel, set the tone (this isn't a comedy, nor it is a cozy, although the Molly Smith books are sometimes incorrectly called that). Secrets are buried, as though under cold stone, and personalities revealed, some for the better, some not. And the hotel is made of stone, and set in the stone of the mountains.

Perfect. (I think).

The book will be released tomorrow.  It will be available at your favourite independent bookstore as well as all the chains and online. Here's a link: Amazon.com Amazon.ca (E-books will be available next week.)

Next time I might talk further about titles. I'll think about some great ones, and some that I didn't much care for.

In the meantime, what are some of your favourite novel titles?

4 comments:

A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

I'm not published yet, but I have a heck of a time coming up with titles. I've given friends a brief synopsis of the story to get ideas thrown at me. I've gotten a few ideas from them that have stuck and have gone into a file for later use. I pick one to name the story as I'm working on it but it's not the final title. It would be so nice if the titles would just pop up as you started the story.

Eileen Goudge said...

Love the title of your new book! Looks good. I have to get that one. I'm lucky with titles. I've published 15 women's fiction novels and multiple YA and never once been stumped. Just wish the writing came as easily! I envy those for whom it flows effortlessly. For me it's always a process. As for titles, my advice to those who are new at it: Come up with something that resonates. Think of song lyrics or an advertising jingle that sticks in one's head. You want a title that's memorable, so if a reader happened to see it advertised or it was mentioned in social media or by a friend, they won't have forgotten it bu the time they're at the bookstore.

Picks By Pat said...

Vicki,
I love your series and looking forward to this next book. My favorite title is also one of my favorite novels...The Unquiet Night by Patricia Carlon. Something about that title just gets under my skin, and it really set the mood for a great story!

Loretta Ross said...

Great post. The Banff Springs Hotel is fascinating. I can't wait to read your book.

My first book is coming out next winter. It was originally called The Family Jewels but my editor wanted something different. We settled on Death and the Redheaded Woman, which I actually like better. (Death, pronounced "Deeth") is my male lead. If I get my way, the third book will be Death Rides A Pale Horse, but I'm completely at a loss as to a title for the second book. I'm writing it under "Working Title". ??