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Michael Davis
03-20-2008, 10:55 PM
Thought I'd share my experience on the importance and implication of the name you choose for a novel. I realize other authors may have a different view/experience, and that's great.

On my first two novels, I started off with a name that related to some theme in the story, without regard for how it would affect the reader (yeah, I know that was dumb, but I was just starting out).

After early reviews by my hit squad (brutal friends/family) I had several comments that the stories were great, but the titles so so. I asked why, and they shared their views. I then had a "holy cow" moment. Why not create 3 or 4 titles and survey friends and family with the instructions, "Imagine you walked into a bookstore, and you saw each of these four titles. Without knowing anything about the story, which would most likely make you pick up the book and read the blurb".

I found that there were always clear cut preferences by the people, plus that men and women prefer different types of titles. Women usually preferred character driven titles, men theme or philosophy oriented titles. Here's an example. For TAINTED HERO (excerpts at Davisstories.com (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/Davisstories.com)), over thirty four people were surveyed, 22 women, and 12 men. 21 women preferred TAINTED HERO, 10 men preferred MORALE PARADOX. I have found the same pattern (at least for me) to be true with three different books I've queried titles for. Since my primary target (at least that's what I originally thought) for TH was the female reader, I went with their preference. Interest result was that I've had a very positive response from guys for TAINTED HERO, but they say they just skip the romantic parts. Now, depending on the audience I'm writing for, I tune my survey pool by gender.

I know its a generalization, but its worked for me. Hard part is turning away from a title you created and like. For example, for my third novel, I started with the title TANGLEWOOD DREAMS. When I surveyed my friends/family, none of the women liked that title, at all, all of the men picked it as there favorite. Since the theme was a pure romantic suspense, I had to go with the ladies favorite (BLIND CONSENT), and it was hard to let it go. but why survey people if you're not going to listen to their opinions.

Just sharing my thoughts.

Big Mike

Michael Davis
Davisstories.com (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/Davisstories.com) - “Stories that touch the heart and mind"
TheWritersVineyard.com (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/TheWritersVineyard.com)
Tainted Hero, “Sometimes good people do bad things for the right reasons.” Champagne books,Dec 07
Forgotten Children, “Greed is blind to human suffering.” Champagne books,July 08
Blind Consent, “Where the heart and mind collide.” 09
The Treasure, “A lonely heart can impair one’s judgment.” Forbidden Speculation paperback, Dec 07

Viral
03-20-2008, 11:00 PM
Hmm... that's interesting.

I think I'm going to try that out.
Thanks for the suggestion!

Twizzle
03-20-2008, 11:18 PM
Honestly, I can't say I've stressed about it. Everyone says the title's most likely going to changed anyway, so meh. I'm glad it works for you, though.

Michael Davis
03-20-2008, 11:38 PM
Honestly, I can't say I've stressed about it. Everyone says the title's most likely going to changed anyway, so meh. I'm glad it works for you, though.

By all means, don't stress it. I did at first when people suggested I change the first title I came up with. Now I expect to go through 3 or 4 interim titles (as the story evolves, I get a "Great title" moment about every 6 or 7 chapters and write it down. Then before I submit to the publisher, that's when I query people, but of course that's just my way.

Big Mike

Michael Davis
Davisstories.com - “Stories that touch the heart and mind"
TheWritersVineyard.com
Tainted Hero, “Sometimes good people do bad things for the right reasons.” Champagne books,Dec 07
Forgotten Children, “Greed is blind to human suffering.” Champagne books,July 08
Blind Consent, “Where the heart and mind collide.” 09
The Treasure, “A lonely heart can impair one’s judgment.” Forbidden Speculation paperback, Dec 07

Cat Scratch
03-20-2008, 11:49 PM
I've heard the same thing--editors and publishers will change the title anyway. My manuscript went through about a half-dozen title changes before they collectively chose something I didn't like.

Phaeal
03-21-2008, 12:03 AM
Heh, for one of my works in progress I have a list of over 100 possible titles, none of which I'm crazy about. The other I used to simply call "Sean novel" after the protagonist. Not sure that one will work except maybe for people named Sean.

nicolen
03-21-2008, 12:11 AM
Titles are something I struggle with. My WIP is currently called Nineteen Weeks, but that's going to have to change because it's going to span a larger time frame than nineteen weeks. I have stories that I've saved as the name of the protagonist but now those names mean little to me.

To be honest, I'm not all that worried about titles. If I think of something better, I change them...

Twizzle
03-21-2008, 12:14 AM
By all means, don't stress it. I did at first when people suggested I change the first title I came up with. Now I expect to go through 3 or 4 interim titles (as the story evolves, I get a "Great title" moment about every 6 or 7 chapters and write it down. Then before I submit to the publisher, that's when I query people, but of course that's just my way.



Sorry. I just meant, I'm not going to worry about preferences or polling or all that. Word on the street is if my novel sells to a publisher, they will probably change it anyway. I'll have little to no say in it. So, I chose titles I really liked, titles I hope an agent won't throw up over, titles I hope a publisher won't change, but that's about it.

ClaudiaGray
03-21-2008, 12:14 AM
My publisher has let me keep all three of my titles so far (Evernight, Stargazer and Hourglass), which is good, but I didn't focus-group any of them. I decided if I liked them, made sure they "went together" to be titles in the same series, then did Amazon and Wikipedia checks to make sure the titles wouldn't be unusable for whatever reason.

The original title I came up with the fourth book I'm no longer as sure about. I'd like to call it something else. But so far, the publisher prefers what I suggested to begin with. Well, we'll see.

Michael Davis
03-21-2008, 01:02 AM
Guess I've been lucky so far. Of all three novels and a short story in a paperback anthology, the publishers have used my submitted titles. I do have faith that if the publisher wants to change it, there's a reason, and I trust them to do what's best, just hasn't happened yet.

Big Mike

Michael Davis
Davisstories.com - “Stories that touch the heart and mind"
TheWritersVineyard.com
Tainted Hero, “Sometimes good people do bad things for the right reasons.” Champagne books,Dec 07
Forgotten Children, “Greed is blind to human suffering.” Champagne books,July 08
Blind Consent, “Where the heart and mind collide.” 09
The Treasure, “A lonely heart can impair one’s judgment.” Forbidden Speculation paperback, Dec 07

ishtar'sgate
03-21-2008, 02:59 AM
I've heard the same thing--editors and publishers will change the title anyway. My manuscript went through about a half-dozen title changes before they collectively chose something I didn't like.
Same thing happened to me although it was the cover art I didn't like. Editors and publishers allow a degree of input but in the end they have final say.
Linnea

David I
03-21-2008, 03:52 AM
I was happy with my original title. my editor was happy with my original title, the publishing house was happy with the original title.

Borders, Waterstones, and that crowd, however, were not so happy with the original title. And they're the folks who have to get enthusiastic enough to order the books.

So, guess what? At the last possible minute, we changed the title.

Mythica
03-21-2008, 05:48 AM
Very interesting! I have to say I never thought much about title preference between genders. I think the titles of books in my YA urban fantasy series are pretty moderate...half of the titles are in Latin, one is named after a demon, and the other two could probably be a little more on the masculine side. I really, really hope editors won't want to change the titles. I consider them to be really good and I'm pretty married to them. Untitled books are numbered at the moment :D

I'm one of those weirdos who title books very early in the writing process and they turn out to be fitting titles lol But I really like naming things. I have a lot of pets, and writing a book is like getting a new pet. Naming is a huge part of the fun!

megan_d
03-21-2008, 06:12 AM
What was the original title David?

Snowstorm
03-21-2008, 07:20 AM
While titles may change later, Ann Rittenberg has a section in her book, "Your First Novel" that gives ideas on how to select a title. She has a few exercises to help you develop a title, such as writing a list of words relevant to your book, titles that are "symbolic" and so on. It's a just a fantastic book, period, for any writer to read. Helpful in so many areas.

LilliCray
03-21-2008, 08:51 AM
Sometimes a title just fits whatever piece I'm working on. Other times, it just goes untitled until I finish the piece. I don't worry about titles and stuff until I start to query--which I haven't yet, at all, so it's kind of moot for me. :D

Interesting thread.

Sonneillon
03-21-2008, 09:38 AM
I almost hope they want to change my title... I'm getting less and less happy with it as time goes on, but I have absolutely no ideas for a new one. For a fantasy novel, I suppose it's workable, but it just ... doesn't say much about the story itself.

WildScribe
03-21-2008, 10:04 AM
So far my WIP is titled "Service with a Smile" and is a coming of age type about a girl who gets stuck in a waitressing job, and... uh... anyway, I'm not married to it.

David I
03-22-2008, 01:57 AM
What was the original title David?

Smite the Waters.

Which goes with the epigraphs that open the book:

And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded, and he lifted up the rod and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants, and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.

—Exodus 7:20

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

—W. B. Yeats
The Second Coming

Hapax Legomenon
03-22-2008, 07:15 PM
I'm less worried about choosing the right title and more worried about being forced into the wrong one.

For example, my current WIP is called "Health Class." It could be given a billion other titles, but I just don't want any of them to be 'edgy' titles. Ick.

Shadow_Ferret
03-22-2008, 08:21 PM
I went through a dozen titles on my WIP before I settled on something I liked. I certainly didn't poll anyone. This isn't a democracy.

Wolvel
03-22-2008, 10:23 PM
I created a title that seems to fit my story, but if the publisher wants to make a change I can understand their pov. They are going to want a title to sell the book, and maybe the one that I created is not a strong book seller.

Birol
03-23-2008, 12:56 AM
Guess I've been lucky so far. Of all three novels and a short story in a paperback anthology, the publishers have used my submitted titles. I do have faith that if the publisher wants to change it, there's a reason, and I trust them to do what's best, just hasn't happened yet.

Big Mike


Whose your publisher again?

johnzakour
03-23-2008, 01:10 AM
I always pick a title then write the book to match the title. That seems to work fine for me. :)

Overly the years I've only had 2 titles changed one was because of line of toys that came out that would have had the same name as my book. The other was because the publisher I pitched it to (Tor) didn't like the title. So I changed it to something else then end up selling the book to somebody else. Weird world.

We all do things differently. I'm not sure if polling 34 people is a statistically significant amount of data to reach the conclusion, "Women usually preferred character driven titles, men theme or philosophy oriented titles". Especially if these weren't randomly selected people. Still it's an interesting thing to note...

Elodie-Caroline
03-23-2008, 01:23 AM
Hi Mike,

I always choose titles that will go with my story, even if I do change them from time to time for better titles. For the novel that I am going to be querying next week, I have a brilliant title that summarises my novel up in just three words... and no, I'm not divulging it here, in case my novel isn't taken and someone else nicks my title! :D


Elodie

HeronW
03-23-2008, 01:37 AM
I try to pick a 2 word title that is descriptive and a play on words, as well as being a bit mysterious. Place names for books don't appeal to me as much having wandered through Michener's Chesapeake, Alaska, Hawaii, etc from the tectonic plates shifting, to the ascent of man, tool making, and the family saga at the last part-yawn.

underthecity
03-23-2008, 02:40 AM
I think others have stated it best. There's no real point in polling a bunch of people to see who likes the title most. The publisher will most likely change it even if you think it's the most brilliant title in the history of American literature.

In my own case, the title of my book is what the book is about. Period. I took no time to think it up. If the publisher changes it, that's fine. Why stress myself over the title when my effort could be better spent writing?

allen