Sunday, June 14, 2009

What's in a Title?

"Books have to be read (worse luck it takes so long a time). It is the only way of discovering what they contain. A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the West." ~E.M. Forster

How much does the title of a book influence your decision to read it? Or at least to pick it up in the store and ponder? I'd say book titles don't normall have a huge effect on me, but if I see an intriguing/very different one, it probably will catch my eye.

Yesterday at my local RWA meeting, the discussion turned to titles; specifically, to the fact that one of our members recently submitted a manuscript to a Harlequin line and changed the title to be more in keeping with what they look for. Apparently they like to include "key words" in their titles, that their faithful readers will recognize and look for. (secret, baby, brother, baron, bride, etc.) Another of our members, published in Harlequin Historical, agreed, though she said it doesn't matter what title you use when you submit, because Harlequin will change it. In fact, she has been asked to submit up to 50 -- yes, 50!! -- titles for a single book for them to consider.

In addition, Harlequin will use those "key words" even if they don't have much to do with the plot. "Bride" is one of the most famous. The first book our Harlequin Historical author published had the word "bride" in the title they decided on, even though the story had nothing to do with one. When she explained this, they said, "Well, does the heroine get married at the end of the story?" "Um, yes...there's a proposal, anyway." So, because there was a HEA with a marriage on the horizon, the word "bride" remained part of the title.

Interesting, right?

I've seen discussion on some author loops about writers who would never agree to a title change if they got a publishing contract, while others don't care at all what their book is called. Me, I've been lucky enough at this point to have my titles kept exactly the same as when I submitted, but I would probably consider changing them if asked. I mean, it's the publisher's job to know what sells and what their customers like and look for.

What about you?


Liz said...

I wouldn't be married to the title and save my concerns for the cover. Sounds like it was a good meeting.

Yo said...

Interesting ... I'd be more concerned about cover art than title. Although, I'd like it to have somehing to do with the book.

Marianne Arkins said...

I've had two titles changed ("A Change of Heart" was originally "A Family for Melody" --- "One Love for Liv" was originally "Isn't She Liv Leigh"), one that the editor WANTED to change until it grew on her ("Kitchen Matches") and the others have stayed the same.

I admit that sometimes I think I have an awesome title (I still mourn "Isn't She Liv Leigh" pretty regularly), but it's not worth giving up a contract over.

And, heck, HQ obviously knows what they are doing, yanno?