Coming up with a good title is not easy. Ideally, it will attract potential readers, suggesting what kind of book it is and what makes it different from (and better than) other books of that kind.
My two absolute worst titles are my first Regency, Toblethorpe Manor, and my first mystery, Death at Wentwater Court, both utterly unmemorable.
For the first, I have the excuse of inexperience. For the second: I had to come up with it quickly. My plan for the mystery series was to call the books Death in January, Death in February, etc., so that after sweating over numerous Regency titles, I wouldn't have to think up another title ever again. Each murder would be closely connected with the month. The first, for instance, involves a body in a frozen lake.
That notion was swatted down by my editor (though I can't complain, as he bought the book), because the publisher had recently put out a month by month anthology. Just as well, in the end, as I'm now writing the 22nd.
Much the same reason changed my "Byron's Daughter" to Byron's Child. It clashed with another book called X's Daughter, coming out at about the same time. Well, that wasn't so bad, not too different.
The Man in the Green Coat, a Regency spy story, kept that title for the hardcover original and the ebook. The paperback publisher didn't think it sounded romantic (OK, so maybe it doesn't) and "suggested" Gabrielle's Gamble. I hope not too many readers bought the same book twice.
The Tudor Signet became The Tudor Secret by mistake—a typo, not mine. There is no Tudor secret in the book; there is an heirloom signet ring that is important to the story. Grrrr...
Another really bad one was changing The Actress and the Rake to The Lady and the Rake. I can't blame an editor for that. The art department apparently decided my title was too long. By three letters.
Still more irritating was the way many of my Regency novella titles were changed by the editor without a word to me. Wooing Mariana became A Kiss and a Kitten—Ugh! He [sic] Stoops to Conquer became The Christmas Party, flat as a pancake. And yet, the one I was sure would be changed was left alone: The Aunt and the Ancient Mariner.
My mystery editor pretty much left my titles alone. Some of them were in fact the starting point for plotting. Styx and Stones, for instance, came to me in a flash of inspiration, and obviously it had to be a poison pen story. Die Laughing-->nitrous oxide-->dead dentist.
Mistletoe and Murder was originally only a working title. In those days my editor (St. Martin's) wanted a title to put in the contract (now they're just numbered). In the course of writing the book, I came up with As Red as Any Blood, a quotation from the carol "The Holly and the Ivy," which he loved. However, I happened to mention it to my paperback editor (Kensington), and he preferred the working title. I told my St. Martin's editor. He said all the sales reps were in town for some gathering and he'd put it to them. They voted for mistletoe over holly and ivy, three to two.
And then there's the occasional lapse in communication. Black Ship in the US came out as The Black Ship in the UK, and The Valley of the Shadow US came out as Valley of the Shadow (my preference) UK.
Just one time I absolutely could not come up with a title, for one of the Regencies. My editor suggested Ginnie Come Lately, catchy and appropriate—and I didn't tell her it was American, not to mention anachronistic. "Johnny-come-lately" dates from the 1830s.
|Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.|