Titles- where do they come from?

Ask any writer and they will each give you a different answer to where they get the title for a story, book, or article. Most will even say they come up with the title differently for each story, book, or article.

So how does that tell you where titles come from…it doesn’t. From talking to other writers and reading the struggles they go through to find titles, I can tell you there is no set way a writer comes up with the words that are on the front of their book or draws a reader to their story or article.

If the writer is published with a traditional publisher, they have no say over the title. The publishing company decides what title will go on the book based on past book sales. Not sales by that author but by all the authors in their house and what titles readers were drawn to.

A self-published author can give their book a title and it will stay with the book. We don’t have the algorithms that the traditional publishing houses have. But we can google the title, see if there are any others like it. Then we can see if the words in the titles are used in top selling books. And so on. If you are a writer who tries to piggyback off the top selling books.

For me, the title either comes as I am “stewing and brewing” the story –this is where I’ve come up with a premise, or the means of murder, or a unique idea I plan to incorporate into the story. If that doesn’t bring about a catchy title that matches other titles in the series, then I start writing. Adn at a point while I’m putting the story down in words, a few will string together and a lightbulb comes on and I realize that is the title of the book. This has happened to me, mostly with the first book of a series. Then after that the rest of the series has to have similar titles.

As for my Shandra Higheagle mystery series, the titles all come from either the way someone was killed or how they came to be killed.

With the Gabriel Hawke series, since he is a Fish and Wildlife officer (game warden) I wanted to have animals in the titles of the books and on the covers.

The Spotted Pony Casino mystery series, I chose to use gambling terms for the titles of the books. I found a dozen terms that I liked and have been slowly incorporating which ever title I pick into the murder mystery that I write. This has actually been the easiest way to come up with a title. I have the list and just have to decide which term works with the premise I come up with for the book.

Currently, I have started book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series. When I first came up with the idea for the story and formulated the premise of the murder, I had called the book Fleeing Swan. But after researching the area and getting a great photo of a bear while traversing the wilderness where one of the characters will be hiding, I decided I wanted that photo on the cover and have changed the title to Bear Stalker. While the character who I was referring to as swan in the original title swims away from a threat, I decided to give her the Cayuse name of Small Bear (kskɨ́s yáka). Since she is being stalked by the killer- I came up with the title Bear Stalker. And now that I have my title and my story, my fingers are flying across the keyboard telling Small Bear’s story.

I haven’t decided what the next title will be in the Spotted Pony Casino series. I have an inkling of what the story will be about, at least the secondary plot since I left it hanging in the last book, but I want the title to reflect the main plot of murder in the book and not the secondary plot that will be left hanging in the next few books. I don’t want that little time bomb to go off just yet. 😉 But until I get a clear picture of what the next book will be about, I’m not sure what the title will be other than one from my list of gambling terms. 😉

Does a title of a book draw you to discover more about the book or is it the cover image that draws you to the book? Especially if it is an author you have never read before.

4 thoughts on “Titles- where do they come from?

  1. Heather, I do the same thing with titles. Like my next Hawke book. I was sure there would be another book titled the same, but Yay! there isn’t.

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  2. Sometimes a title is wha makes me buy I book. As for coming up them, sometiems I know right off what the title will be, other times I agonize over what the best title should be.

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    1. Marilyn, That’s what I like about writing-everyone has their own process and it is different for each book. I think that’s why I like writing, besides how fun it is to come up with stories, is the fact each book is different and therefore you don’t feel like you are doing the same thing over and over again.

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  3. Great subject, Paty. I think the title and cover of a book can draw many readers in, often enough to buy the book. One of the first things I do now is put into Amazon any title I’m thinking of using and see what comes up. I learned the hard way with A Wedding to Die For, a title I thought was soooo clever. It was only after i wrote the book, named it, got an ISBN #, all the other stuff, and put the book out there, did I discover two other books had the same title. Another book with the same name popped up recently, too. It’s not the end of the world, but it can confuse a reader when they type in a title and several books show up. But titles, unlike book contents, cannot be copywrited. And there we are.

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