CHOOSING A TITLE

copyI’m nearly done with my latest book, the third in the series set on the Treasure Coast in Florida, and now I’m thinking about the title. The first two books in the series referred to one another: A REASON TO KILL and SO MANY REASONS TO DIE. I’m wondering if I should stick with that idea.

Since the book is about the disappearance of Captain Lawrence Bradley, Andi Battaglia and Greg Lamont’s boss. perhaps I should go with a title that refers to the other two books in the series, such as REASONS TO DISAPPEAR. That’s pretty accurate because the story involves Andi and Greg trying to find Bradley and learning the reasons for his disappearance. But the title seems a bit boring to me, not something that will get my readers to buy the book. I was thinking of a title like G…O…N…E, perhaps slanting off down the cover page. What do you think?

Do books sell because they’ve got good titles? GONE GIRL certainly established a trend and since its publication there have been lots of books with girl in the title: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN; THE GIRL BEFORE; and others. But Anthony Doerr’s ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE conveys nothing about the setting or the story, i.e., a blind girl and a young German boy in World War II Germany and France, so if you picked it up thinking it was about electricity, you’d be disappointed. But apparently the title found an audience.

Many writers of series link their books by using titles that refer to one another. Connie Archer writes books set in a small New England town called “Soup Lovers Mysteries.” She uses titles like A CLUE IN THE STEW and A SPOONFUL OF MURDER. Sheila Lowe, a handwriting expert, writes mysteries using that milieu. Her books have titles such as DEAD WRITE and POISON PEN. Rochelle Staab, who writes the MIND FOR MURDER, uses such titles as WHO DO, VOODOO? and HEX ON THE EX.

Agatha Christie, the queen of mystery writers, used lots of different titles without reference to one another, even if they featured one of her classic characters like Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple. And other early female mystery writers like Ngaio March and Margery Allingham used titles that referred to murder or death without ties to previous books.

What are your thoughts about titles. Lawrence Block in his essay about titles says that TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY was the original title of Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND, a change that certainly did it no harm. Did Tolstoy have a different title in mind for WAR AND PEACE? We’ll never know, but the title he chose seems to fit the book. And when Thomas Wolfe brought his manuscript O LOST to Max Perkins in the late twenties, Perkins not only helped Wolfe edit the book, he suggested the title LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL. Better? I think so.

So, titles do attract or discourage potential readers. I’m inclined to go with something like DISAPPEARING REASONS for book three of the series, thus linking them together. What do you think?

 

 

 

 

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About casojka123

I grew up in New York and moved to California when I was in my twenties. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa and when I returned I got a master's degree from the University of Southern California. I worked as the administrator in a public law office, and now I write mystery novels of the "whodunit", multiple suspect, police procedural variety. I live in a small town in Southern California with my husband and two dogs.
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4 Responses to CHOOSING A TITLE

  1. patyjag says:

    Carole, I like REASONS TO DISAPPEAR. One because it goes with the other books in the series and two because there is a new show on TV called Hunted. And I would think people who are into that show would be interested in your book because of the title. And I do think half of what draws a reader in at first glance is the title and then the cover. Good luck!

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    • casojka123 says:

      I think you’re right that titles and covers are half the draw for a reader. I used to choose books for my mother from the library based on the title and the cover and, of course, the first line. I’ll probably go with REASONS TO DISAPPEAR–if I ever finish this book!

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  2. ambfoxx says:

    Titles are tough. I’ve written entire books sometimes with the title unknown. For others, I’ve had a working title and changed it. It only recently hit me that all my titles are two words evoking something a little strange, setting the theme for a mystical mystery. By accident, I’d done five such titles. I’d intended the theme, but not the two-word pattern, but I felt I had to pick two words for what I’d been calling “book six.” Keeping with your brand may appeal to readers who are fans of the series and make the cover design easier, but it does make it harder for you. I like Reasons to Disappear better than G … O…N…E.

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