Monday, February 01, 2010

Titles - and a secret

What I'm reading: Master of Craving, by Karin Tabke

Names. By now, everyone (me included) is saturated with discussions of the new iPad (there were clearly no women on the team that came up with THAT name). This was an old spoof on the iPod, but it's just as appropriate now.

Naming things can be a headache. I hate coming up with titles for my books. When I started learning the business, everyone said not to worry about it because the publishers would change it. That was fine with me. Only my publishers never have, so what you see represent my struggles to find those perfect words.

Titles are the last things I come up with. WHAT'S IN A NAME? got its title the day I wanted to enter the manuscript in a contest and I had to write something on that "Title" line. Since the book dealt with people pretending to be someone else (or is it someone elses?), the title seemed appropriate. Even though that wasn't really what I had in mind when I wrote it, as long as it worked, I was happy.

When I started the sequel to WHEN DANGER CALLS, I didn't give it a title until it was finished, and it was just as tough to come up with one. Discarded choices:

Running Toward Trouble
Where Trouble Hides
Never Left Behind
Rescued Hearts
To The Rescue

The books are technically romantic suspense, although they're more mystery/adventure than suspenseful. Rescue has multiple meanings, which worked with the plot themes. Rescued Hearts, which was the original working title, sounded too stereotypical romance and didn't resonate enough of the mystery/adventure themes. Abandoned or Never Left Behind related to the heroine's childhood, and also tied into the hero's covert ops teams which never leave a man behind. The characters leave their San Francisco bases, ending up in a migrant community near the California-Mexico border, so the "running" tied in there. And, being mystery/adventure, the story has plenty of trouble.

From a marketing standpoint, I wanted a title that would let readers would know this book is part of a series. The final title: WHERE DANGER HIDES. I submitted it to Five Star Expressions, and they offered a contract, which I accepted and signed. It's scheduled for a summer 2011 release.

Nothing like hiding the good news in the middle of the post – maybe I'll see who actually reads this far. Here's the 'secret' mentioned in the post title: Leave a comment with WDH in it, and I'll pick one commenter to win a tote bag! (US only because of postage - if the winner's from elsewhere, I'll come up with a substitute prize)

Now I get to wonder if the title will be confusing to readers. I've been reading the "Rain" series by Barry Eisler, and I wanted to get the next book, which would be #4 in the series. It's another one with "Rain" in the title, and for the life of me, I can't remember the order of the three I've already read. I know the first 4 have "Rain" in the title, and the next 2 have "Assassin" in them. It's nice for readers to know they're connected, but confusing to those of us with poor memories when we are trying to figure out which ones we've read – you know how it goes. Yeah, I remember reading this great book about an assassin, set in Japan by Barry Eisler, and the title had "Rain" in it somewhere. And then you get to the bookstore and there are 4 of them.

Sue Grafton has her alphabet mystery series. Janet Evanovich and James Patterson, have their numbered series. In my perfect world, all authors writing series would have a way for readers to know where in the series a book falls by looking on the cover (props to many authors who puts them on their websites, or have some reference to series and book order when you look the books up on line).

With my books, the publisher doesn't do multi-book deals for new authors, and I didn't think to subtitle my first book because at that time, I didn't have a contract offer on a series, only one book. Had I been smarter, I'd have added the extra bit at the start, but I thought that wasn't permitted unless you knew for sure there were going to be more.

So, the official title of the new book is WHERE DANGER HIDES: A Blackthorne, Inc. Novel.

While you're waiting to read it, you can ask your library to order WHEN DANGER CALLS so you have plenty of time to read the "prequel." Unlike FINDING SARAH and HIDDEN FIRE, which are a series, the Danger books aren't a true series. They're connected, with characters reappearing, but in the classic romance tradition, we have a new hero and heroine.

What are your takes on titles, especially for series and connected books? Do you get confused?

And if you have a chance, author Tory Richards interviewed me at her blog today. Stop by and say hello

Tomorrow I have the split personality of Dara Edmondson/Wynter Daniels as my guest. She'll discuss why she decided to become two people.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Guess what? I'm writing on titles either tomorrow or the next day! We're like evil twins!

My problem, and what I'll be focusing on, are titles that aren't memorable. I like to be able to tell people what I'm reading without fumbling for the name. :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth, I'd prefer to think of us as twins separated at birth (and years apart, I fear!). We're not evil. But I agree, there's some underlying synchronicity out here in the blogosphere.

jenny said...

At least titles are more fun--not easier, but more fun--than synopses!

And is there any truth to the idea that titles that include 'love' are a downer?

Loving Luke [The Wild Rose Press]

darkangelauthor said...

I agree, Terry -- titles are VERY difficult. They have to be catchy, not too wordy, encapsulate the spirit of the book, be know, between these and synopses and blurbs, it's a wonder we have any brain power left over for the actual books! :)

Very best of luck with the series -- and I love the titles! :)

A Fairy Tale for Gwyn (The Wild Rose Press)

Terry Odell said...

Jenny - I agree. I haven't thought about "love" in a title, but I don't think I'd want it in one of mine.

Terry Odell said...

Darkangel -I totally agree. I would love to be able to write. Period. But then, I'd probably grumble if I didn't like the cover, or the blurb, or the title. I'd just like more help with them, I guess.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

As writers, we do agonize over book titles. We want them to sound unique and interesting enough so that readers will pick up the novel and yet the title should be familiar enough so that they have some sense of the genre. Some publishers notoriously change titles (like Harlequin). Five Star doesn't. Sometimes it's good and sometimes not. One example: My novel THE INFERNO COLLECTION couldn't have had a more appropriate title. However, when I chose THE DROWNING POOL for the second novel in this series, I didn't realize how many other writers had used the same title.
It did put readers off a bit unfortunately. So now, I check World Cat before I fix on a title to make certain no one else has already chosen the same one.

Terry Odell said...

Jacqueline - I've always searched Amazon for book titles before I choose mine. Never thought of WorldCat. Should do that for the next one. You can't copyright a title, but I agree, you don't want to confuse people. Hmmm... wonder if it would be smart to use The Davinci Code for my next book! :-)

P.L. Parker said...

I'm currently working on a sequel to Riley's Journey and playing with titles, amazing how complicated it can become. Don't know that naming your new book The Davinci Code would be the perfect choice . . . . Have a good day.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Terry, I love this topic. I spend hours on titles as well. I've noticed I get confused when series titles start with the same word or when book covers are all the same color in a series. I can't control the cover, but I decided (in an unsold series) to make the connecting word of the series the last word of the title. Since it is still making the rounds, I don't know if this strategy will be effective.

I have another series that has money in the title. The first one, IN FOR A PENNY, is sold and ON THE NICKEL is contracted. I have a great title for my dime book, but its top secret until I get it contracted.

Always a pleasure to stop by your blog. See you at FCRW soon.

Mason Canyon said...

Congratulations on WDH coming out in the summer of next year. I like the idea of keeping Danger in the title. It keeps a part of the name going in the series. I can't image the hours spent trying to come up with a title though.

jasouders said...

Nice post, Terry. I've been going over similar things with my book. Title had to change because a book with the same name came out before mine, so had to go back and name 6 other titles. LOL. But Jenny is right, it's more fun choosing a title, than writing a synopsis. Congrats on the new book coming out in 2011. I'll be looking for it. Is there anyway to add to blurb on the back that it's book 2 of the "not series?" How's the agent hunt going?

Jessica (The Exiled, Summer 2010)

Terry Odell said...

PL - You knew I was kidding about that title, right?

Maggie - great to know I'll have one friendly face in the audience! Good luck with your dime book.

Mason - I can see you actually read the 'fine print'! I think since my releases are so far apart, it won't be a major problem.

Terry Odell said...

JA - I think it took longer to get the title than to write the synopsis, but it was more 'fun.'

The publisher will be using the Blackthorne, Inc. sub-title in promo, and you can be sure anything I do will tie the books together!

The agent hunt is still on. :-)

Catherine Kean said...

Great post, Terry! I really agonize over the titles of my books--sometimes too much, I think! :) However, I like to be sure the title resonates with the overall theme of my story or, since I'm writing a series about knights, the hero's emotional conflict. Sometimes I have a "title discussion" with my critique partners and it's actually a lot of fun to hear all the suggestions.

Congrats to you on your new book contract! I'm sure you've got many more great stories in you waiting to be written.

Carol Kilgore said...

Love your new title - WDH is perfect. I like books that belong together but aren't a true series. And what better way to connect them than the title? Good job. Congrats on your contract!

Terry Odell said...

Catherine - thanks. I think a title probably attracts or detracts readers more than the cover, so I obsess over them. I'm in awe of those who have a title before they start writing! (They're probably plotters, too)

Carol - I like both series and connected books. A lot of times I'm not done with the characters even if the author is, so I want more.

I've done both, and they were equally fun to write.

Maryann Miller said...

Titles are sometimes so hard to come by, and I find that I simply cannot write if my WIP does not have a title. I know a lot of writers just use "untitiled" but that stops my creative flow like a dam. I really have to use a title, even though it may only be a working title that sometimes ends up as the title. With my current project, I started with the title of an article I had written a long time ago -- just so I could have something up there -- and it is now the title of the book: A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. This is a humorous memoir, and I think the title works.

BTW, Terry. If you have time, check out my blog today for something special.

Terry Odell said...

Maryann - Mine used to be called Book 1, Book 2, Book 3 in my computer folders. But then I started getting confused, so I labeled the folders with the main characters' names. I think maybe my subconscious is telling me if I have a title, I might write "toward" it rather than letting the story and themes unfold as they will.

I'll head over to your blog.

Mary Ricksen said...

I'm so gone, I forgot to mention the WHD. See I read it.

Mary Ricksen said...

Well only half of what I said showed. So here's the thing. I find the titles easy, it's writing the book that's hard. (grin)

Terry Odell said...

Mary - I'll give you credit even though your comment was a trifle "dislexic". And nobody said writing the book was easy - but for me it's still a much more engaging undertaking than trying to come up with the perfect title.

When someone asked an editor why he wanted titles if they usually changed them, he said, "So if someone asks what I'm reading, I don't have to say "Untitled."

Jemi Fraser said...

I like the Danger titles. Where Danger Hides sounds great :)

I like titles that tell me it's part of a series, but I do get confused. This is not, however, all that unusual in my life. One of my fave series is the "in Death" series by JD Robb. I always have to read the first part of the blurb to know if I've read the book yet or not!

Terry Odell said...

Jemi - I made sure I didn't pack the In Death series when we were staging the house; and now that they come out in hard cover first, I read them from the library while I wait for the paperbacks, so I get totally confused as to which I've read. I have to look at the insides where they list all the books to try to see which I've already read.

I can't tell you how many other series books I've bought, read, and then put on the shelf right next to itself. I probably could get by with 3 books, because I'd forget if I've read them.

jenny milchman said...

For some reason I love titles. Also characters' names.

Also, what I really wanted to say was--congrats on your new (publication) home!

Terry Odell said...

Jenny - thanks. I'm much better with naming characters.

GunDiva said...

First, I did read the fine print and WDH is a great name. Second, I hate coming up with titles. I'm terrible at it, so I have my hubby come up with them :)

I have a hard time with remembering the order of series novels, so I use Amazon a lot to remember the order.

Lakisha Spletzer said...

When I come up with titles for my stories, I tried to go for either a symbolic approach or a theme that I'm exploring.

But you're right, coming up with titles is hard. You don't want one someone else already has.

WDH...not sure what it stands for but that was the directions you left in your post. :)

Kathy said...

Funny you should post this. I was struggling for a title last week. Nora Roberts writing as JD RObb has her In Death Series. Covers are good until they rerelease a book and you are trying to remember did I read this already?
I finally settled on Stolen Secrets for my WIP. I have no idea if it works but it is the title for now. I had Deadly Stolen Secrets but some told me too long, too convoluted so I dropped Deadly sticking with Stolen Secrets for now.

Terry Odell said...

GD - Yeah, I usually check either an on-line site or the author's website to figure our series order. I like it when they let you know.

Lakisha - the abbreviation is for the new book title: Where Danger Hides. That's how I refer to them once they've got a title; saves a lot of typng.

Kathy - don't know why I didn't think of the In Death books as an example, since I have them all and go through the same "have I read that one?"

And -- I went through the same torture naming the mystery so I could start submitting it. It's called "Deadly Secrets"! Small world.

Summer said...

Titles are difficult. Once, I had a totally appropriate one before I even finished the book, Animal Attraction, but unfortunately, the catagory I had intended it for was discontinued. That happened to me FOUR times! HQ and Silhouette don't give them very long for readers to catch on. But - the point I wanted to make was, when you write fanatasy romance stories, you make up names, and therefore, I doubt there is another book called Ojeria's Journey!

Terry Odell said...

Summer - that does sound like an advantage.