How I write and choose a book title,
or Good titles are hard magic or words mean things!
(And let me apologize now because I got longer and longer as I typed. I had no idea I had so much to say on the topic. Stick with me and you might be surprised at what you learn about my writing and thought processes. 😉 Short attention spans are not us!)
Once Upon a Time, when I was writing books years ago, (things you may or may not ever see) I’d tend to choose my title…I don’t really know how. They just came to me. Sometimes it was an overall theme in the story (think Trevor being an artist whose art comes with a heavy karmic “inheritance” in The Artist’s Inheritance, or Caitlin’s acquiring of the locket embossed with a mourning dove in…well, her latest installment, Mourning Dove Locket), sometimes not. More than once, the working title went by the heroine’s name.(eg. Caitlin’s fill-in-the-blank :))
From about the time I started indie publishing, the title muse left me. Yep. I’d get, or tend to get, downright stuck when it comes to titles. In one case, I had a working title for Passion’s Sacred Dance, that my editor thought might leave people going “WTF?” and suggested I change it, to Passion’s Sacred Dance. I guess she thought it would help. In my opinion, it said nothing about the book (not like, think: DragonFlight, Sailor on the Seas of Fate, Weird of the White Wolf [although, I bet a lot of people outside the field wonder what he meant by “Weird” which is technically, misspelled] etc).
But getting off the fan girl rant and back onto the subject… I decided to be open minded and do a little hunting. I don’t know about you but I really don’t search titles based on keywords. Genre, maybe, keywords no. It smacks of that “I don’t know but the book is blue” meme.
Do people really do that?? (And if they do, what’s the point of worrying about your title anyway? Except to have something to put in Amazon’s search engine.)
Stick with me, here, friends, there’s a point to this chatter, I swear.
Imagine my surprise when I had to explain to him what “Shade” means in terms of my book.
definition 3: an evanescent or unreal appearance
definition 5a: a disembodied spirit: ghost
Now, that was my first thought when a friend suggested that title: Shade is another word for ghost, and a nice play on words. It never occurred to me that the general populace wouldn’t know that. Particularly, I thought for sure my target urban-paranormal fantasy target audience would know it! (Dear readers, I know you are all educated, and wide-read, with big vocabularies to boot, so please tell me I’m not wrong, here!)
An audience of which my hubby is part having been married to me and seen all the books I’ve collected and seen damn near all the same movies and TV shows I’ve seen. Nope. He said until that day I explained the meaning to him he’d never heard that use of the term. So that left me with the question, if you use a keywordy title and the people who you think will know the keyword don’t know the keyword, what use is using keywords in titles? Maybe I should’ve called it Witching Down the Shades but that sounds stupid, as does Ghosting Down the Shades. (Witch–er, which, by the way, “ghosting” someone or something has the meaning killing, don’t you know?)
And shade these days (here, three years later) means still another thing altogether! Neither of which have much to do with Drawing Down the Shades …. (except ghost=kill might loosely, maybe, point to how the ghost that Caitlin helps in DDTS …*spoiler alert* … got to be the ghost).
I was thinking a bit keywordy though, (before it was fashionable!) as I figured (as I did with Caitlin’s Book of Shadows) that “Drawing Down the” would lead to another target audience trigger: Caitlin being a pagan witch and drawing down the moon, not to mention books of shadows, being a Wiccan/pagan ritual thing!
But never once did it occur to me that “shades” would pose a problem.
(I must admit, I’m a little mystified about why Kim Harrison’s marketing team(?) thought it was a good idea to mimic so many Clint Eastwood titles in her Rachel Morgan series. Yes, they’re adorable, but if you misread “Every Witch Way…”, A Fistful of …, or “The Good, the Bad and…” and think: Clint Eastwood movie, not UF book, you could easily overlook or be annoyed by the fun that is Rachel Morgan. I still love ’em, though).
So how do I pick a book’s title? Basic bibliomancy (choose by pointing at manuscript with eyes closed)? Hope for the best? It’s enough to make a gal mad (by which of course, I mean crazy! ;)). That just leads me back to the post’s subtitle: titles are hard!
And now, you know. 🙂 Sorry for the long rant, er read, but thanks for sticking with this.
So that’s how I write and pick titles. Other indie authors, help me out here, how do you pick a good title?
Juli D. Revezzo is the author of the MOURNING DOVE LOCKET, the latest in the Antique Magic paranormal series, also the Celtic Stewards Chronicles fantasy romance series, as well as the Victorian Romance HOUSE OF DARK ENVY, among others. Her books are available at Amazon and elsewhere.
Copyright Juli D. Revezzo , 2017-2019