Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Titles

The Man who was Thursday. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Pride and Prejudice. Gone with the Wind. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. The Talented Mr Ripley.

Book titles – yes, it's that time again, when I start sweating blood over what I'm going to call my next book. I know there are other authors seem to find titles the way you find the candy in the tray when you've put the money in the slot machine, but I'm not one of them. Just mention the word 'title' and my mind goes blank.

I could ask my husband. The only trouble is that he doesn't read my work until it's a proper book, and he doesn't want me to ruin the suspense so I can only tell him the barest minimum about it. Even so, he came up with my favourite title, Lying Dead – my third book. I told him it was about a woman who had led a deceitful double life, and was found dead in a forest, and there it was, just like the slot-machine candy. The only thing was that it led to a most macabre experience: a neighbour who was found lying dead with one of my books at their bedside…. Yes, it was. I'm a bit nervous about asking him again.

And titles are so important nowadays. I've come up with titles I've liked, but it's the marketing department making the decisions these days. They know, they tell us, what title will immediately make readers want to buy the book. Not that they can find it for us, of course: we have to go on guessing what sort of title it might be, until we find the right one. Or collapse into a whimpering heap, whichever comes first.

The only thing is, I'm just not absolutely sure that the title is as vital as they say. (Please don't tell my editor I said this; I think they have punishment cells for heretical authors.) If I ask my husband to bring the book I'm reading downstairs, and he asks what it's called, I never know. 'It's by so-and so,' I say, or sometimes, if I haven't been much impressed, 'It's the one by my bed.'

Still, it's got to be called something. So if any of you out there have a really sexy idea about a title for a book about revenge, don't feel shy about sharing it. It could save me some sleepless nights.


hannah Dennison said...

I am sweating over the title for my new book too! So your post is very apt. Even though I have a placeholder, it's not the same as having a good title. So ... I am joining Aline today in my plea for help.

Vicki Delany said...

Cradle to Grave was an excellent title, Aline. I know you'll find just the right one this time too.