Picking A Title

When it comes to publishing, there's no truth in "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

The truth is that our titles are powerful. They bring all sorts of images and feelings to a reader's mind, which is why choosing a title is super important.

I have a title I love. When I was submitting to an inspirational publisher, the editor told me my title sounded like a Harlequin Presents. Uh-oh.

Recently I was told by an agent that my contemporary romance title made the story sound historical.

Lesson learned? Choose your title carefully and be prepared to change it. If you need ideas on how to create a pertinent, eye-catching title, check out agent Rachelle Gardner's recent post.

Ever had a title catch your attention in a bookstore? What's the title of your WIP and do you think it's effective? Would you change it?


Katie Ganshert said…
The current title of my book that's on submission is Beneath a Velvet Sky, but that's going to have to change for various reasons I can't get into. I was a little bummed, because I really like that title. The title of the book I jsut submitted to my agent is Wishing on Willows, and I really am fond of that one. Rachelle's title post was excellent, wasn't it?
Jessica Nelson said…
Katie, it really was! I need a new title but besides looking at other titles in the same genre, I wasn't sure how to create one. So her post really helps.
I'm sorry you have to change your title but am sure you're going to have something even more awesome to love! :-)
Titles and width of books catch my eye. I like titles that have sort of a misleading title. Ya know, one that has a deeper meaning.

Allowing one to have their own interpretation...that's what I was trying to get at!

Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Larie, I'm pretty sure I get what you mean. :-) Something intriguing, right? I like titles that play into the story somehow too.
Debra E. Marvin said…
I just learned that my wip title is coming out on a pubbed book this year. I thought it was perfect - fit the genre, tied to the story and it was one of three names that I picked for a series. Oh well.

Perfect -- just like Katie's titles. I loved them.
bye bye title . . .

I guess when you snooze, you lose. So I'll just wait for the next perfect title to come to mind.
Jennifer Shirk said…
I like titles that play into the story, too, or clever ones like the ones Ally Carter has for her YA SPY series:
Never Judge a Girl by Her Cover
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

They're cute, clever, and fit the story. :)
Anonymous said…
My title is Solomon's Lost Treasure for my kids chapter book. I would change it if it meant seeing it published. :O)
Jessica Nelson said…
That's a cute title, Diane, but you're also smart to be open to changing it. :-)

Jennifer, I think those titles are awesome too! They're a twist on a used saying and they're humorous, which is what I'm guessing the books are?

Oh man Debra! That STINKS! I've googled my titles before and it not be fun to see my title used. LOL (as if I owned the words, heh)
I hope you come up with a great new title! Maybe you could just tweak yours a little?
anita said…
Cool post, Jessie. The titles that really catch my eye are the ones that take an unusual spin on words and evoke a mood. For example: "The Wicked Lovely," or "White Darkness."

My current WIP's title (historical romance with subtle parnormal elements) is "A Lovelier Shade of Gloom."

As much as I love it, yes, I would be willing to change it while shedding some surreptitious tears. Heh. I've already been through it before with my first historical romance / paranormal elements. It was called: "Forgotten Silences," which I loved and thought fit the storyline perfectly since the romance was about a deaf heroine who discovers a ghost that she can see and hear.

But, when my agent signed me with that book, the first thing we did after the revisions was change the title. I was not happy. But I bit the bullet and did it anyway. She said the title sounded too much like a contemporary suspense novel, and we had to find one that screamed romance.

So we went with "Where Love Waits," taking it from a poem which is at the very beginning of the book. It actually works out good since she meets the two heroes (one a ghost, the other a human) through a flower she stumbles upon in a cemetery. So that's where love was waiting for her to find it.

Awesome post, Jessie! But you didn't give examples of some of your fave published titles! shame shame. ;-)
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Anita! I didn't even think about giving examples. Hmmm. I'll have to think of some...
Love this post b/c I love titles. I choose books often by their title. I read Rachelle's post the other day and wish I had time to comment...what a system! Once I get the pitch down and the blurb, I'm doing that.

My current title is Noble Efforts to Engulf the Moon, but I have one I like just as well that would work just as well. I have more than one, but there is another I like with the same intensity.

~ Wendy
Jessica Nelson said…
Wendy, I think I need to print out Rachelle's post too. There's a lot there that's helpful. I like your title too. It's intriguing 'cause I'm wondering who's engulfing the moon and why, and if it's literal or figurative.
Karen Lange said…
Appreciate your thoughts on this! I agree, just like books are judged by a cover to some extent, I think that they are judged or perceived by their titles as well.
Have a great weekend!
Thanks and blessings,
Emily Conrad said…
I love the title for my WIP, but *sigh* I'd change it if I had to to get published. I just like to think it's so perfect they'd never ask me to change it. ;)

Doesn't hurt to dream, right? :D
Hi Jess -

Thanks for the post and the links.

I've already changed the title of my first book from, "Echoes of the Past," to "The Moses Conspiracy." Someone told me Echoes sounded like a romance novel.

My second book is still untitled. I'm struggling with that one. The third manuscript is called, "Lost and Found."

I have no illusions about titles. Publishers usually change them.

Susan :)
Jody Hedlund said…
I loved Rachelle's post this week too! I'm going to use her ideas for coming up with a title for my current WIP. I'm terrible with title's! So I need all the help I can get!
patti said…
WONDERFUL posts, girl! Think I exhausted my own comments about this, tho'!

I keep hoping my title ideas get better! Like Jody, I need all the help I can get!!1

Thanks for all you do to make us think and dream and laugh!!1

I love my titles but I'm not married to them. I love the idea of finding something better!
Tamika: said…
Titles are hard for me. I like mine- "An Only Child." But I'm not opposed to changing it.

I say let the experts decide.
Julie Dao said…
Great topic, Jessica! I'm okay with my titles but not knowing much about what publishers/editors like in a title, I'm flexible with changing them in the future. I'll have to check out Rachelle's link. Thanks!
Jessica Nelson said…
Julie, it's a great post! Hope you find it helpful (though I like the title of your memoir)

Tamika, I'm with you! LOL

Kristen...heehee, the way you wrote that using marriage and finding something better... just cracks me up.
Jessica Nelson said…
Karen, I hope a title wouldn't turn an agent or editor off, but I know for sure that the titles that grab me in a bookstore are the back covers I'm going to read. I hope you have a great weekend too! :-)

LOL Emily. As long as you know you're dreaming it doesn't hurt.

Hi Susan,
hmmm, that's true. Echoes does have a romantic ring to it. Moses Conspiracy is definitely more suspenseful.
Jessica Nelson said…
Me too Jody!

I feel so bad! I should've put up a link to you. Your posts have been fabulous and SO informative. I'm loving them.
Erica Vetsch said…
I haven't had to change any titles so far, but I'm not opposed to it. I love alliteration in titles, or the unexpected.

Probably one of my favorite titles for one of my WIPs is Pam on Rye. :)
I loved your opening-it hooked me!

The titles of my two WIP's are "God is Bigger: Custom Made Grace for Hope Starved Hearts" and "the Secret Life of a Preacher's Wife."

I think the first is a bit long, and could be changed to "God's Not the Wimp You Thought He Was." Just kidding; any ideas?

The second could be changed to "Not All Preacher's Wives are This Nutty," but I like my title because everyone loves secrets.
Sarah Forgrave said…
I'm terrible at titles! I'll have to check out Rachelle's post. My current title is "When It Rains", but it doesn't give a good feel for the book. It's a contemp. romance with a little chick-lit flair, and the title sounds more serious to me. I'm never sure how much to torture myself over choosing a title since I've heard they often change.
Angie Muresan said…
Jessica, I have the worst time with choosing titles. I spoke with a writer in my community and she said that most of the time, the publishers want to have an input.
Warren Baldwin said…
One of the harshest bigs of advice I received from an editor was over the issue of picking a title. It was a very beneficial and helpful rebuke, b/c he gave me some great advice on how to generate ideas for a title. Good post.
I love my title and would hate to change it, but if someone like Rachelle Gardner asked me to change it, I probably would. Thanks for the link! :-)
Kristen Painter said…
I don't pay that much attention to my titles so long as they're close to sounding good. Editors will often change them anyway, so there's no real point in getting attached to one.
Nancy said…
Good post. I love thinking up great titles. My favorite is "Middle Child Madness, or Tales of a Striver." Unfortunately, that is my weakest book.
Elana Johnson said…
I do agree that you can't be married to your title. I've been lucky. I didn't have to change mine from when I got my agent or when we went out on sub. Maybe if/when a publisher buys the book, they'll change it. I'm prepared.

My current title is Elemental Hunger, and I really like it.
Nancy J. Parra said…
Great post. When I first started writing, it seemed that my wip title showed up on bookstore shelves every time. Too bad my name wasn't also on the book. lol I would have to go back to the beginning. You learn fast not to get hung up on cool titles.

Good luck with yours!
ali cross said…
You are so, so right. Great post!
Tana said…
My new WIPS name is Aching Hours, general fiction.

And the story in the post below was true. Of course I would have never done that (like not in a million years). Have a great weekend!!!
Jessie Oliveros said…
Thanks for the link. Titles are REALLY HARD. Hopefully, I'll stick with the title I have now...at least for a while.
Anissa said…
Titles are so hard for me! I've pretty much given up on coming up with anything more creative than the working title I've had forever. I'd be ecstatic if someone chose a different one for it! Thanks for the link. Great ideas there. I love when a title captures the perfect mood.
Jessica Nelson said…
T. Anne, you're so funny!

Anissa, I'm the same way. I just keep the same one until I'm told I shoudl change it. But now I realize I should be a little more deliberate. LOL

Wish I had more time to respond to every single one of these awesome comments! Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. :-)
Karen Hossink said…
Oh, wow! Am I ever glad my editor got me to change the title of my first book!
She called me one day and said she didn't think the title was right. Thought we should use the sub-title instead. I panicked at first - thought I would have to go back and re-write half the book. But she said, No. Just change the title.
I am so glad we did. So much more relatable and "catchy."
So thankful for people with wisdom! *grin*
My titles were changed by the publisher

From a Mountain Rising(and five or six other titles I had *laugh*) to "Tender Graces" - The Unexpected Places to "Secret Graces" and The Affliction of Sweetie to, simply, "Sweetie" ....

I've learned not to worry about the title because chances are, the publishers will change it anyway! :)
Jessica Nelson said…
That's what I've heard Kathryn.
;-) From now on I'll be trying to pick titles that convey the right mood and genre while at the same time knowing it'll probably change.
Titles are definitely important for me as a reader and as a writer. When I find the right title for a short story, poem, or novel length project, it helps me have the momentum to finish the project.
Dara said…
I love the title for my one WiP, Lady of the Snow . I honestly can't think of anything better for it.

And I changed my other WiP title again to The Scarlet Daughter which is tied to the aspect of my MC's connection to that famous Hawthorne tale. That one may change again, but I like it better than some of the other titles that book has had.
Deb Shucka said…
I love titles and playing with word combinations that would make good titles of books not yet conceived.

I love my working title (Daughter: A Memoir) because it helps me stay focused on what's important in the story, but I won't have any trouble letting go of that if an editor asks me to. :-)

Popular posts from this blog

No One's Perfect

Very Naughty Blogger

Formulaic can Rock