Wednesday, September 16, 2009


"What's the title?" is the one of the first things a writer is asked after they've answered (or tried to, or avoided answering) "What's it about?". Titles are a book's introduction to the public. Tricky beasts.

Some authors have their titles from the beginning. Some have it jump out of them from their manuscript. Others have it thrust upon them by editors. I've never had the latter experience but the first two have happened. My games are titled from the beginning - simply because key words in the title help it to sell. "Death" is huge, as is "Murder". Clever titles do not sell murder mystery games. Clever titles can sell books, however. People wonder "What does that mean?" and pick up the book to look at the inside cover and you're half way home.

Titles can't be copyrighted, which is odd. Who is going to write "The Great Gatsby" (the story of a giant dog named Gatsby)? Imagine an author submitting a new manuscript to their editor entitled "Gone With The Wind" (story of a meteorologist) , or a screenwriter submitting "The Sound of Music" (about an orchestra). These are not likely scenarios. On the other hand "My New Book" is not apt to fly off the shelves either.

My book titles come from Shakespeare. Spy My Shadow is from "Richard III" and I like it because both the title and its source make sense on many, many levels. Keep the Key is from "Hamlet" and is one of the few things I know about that book, other than the presence of my detective and the setting. Keep the Key came early whereas Spy My Shadow came about half way through the writing process. I find the process very similar to the exercise of naming characters; when I get the right one I can almost hear a 'ding' in my head.

When do your titles present themselves? Is it an easy process or a difficult one? Do you use working titles ("This D#&@ed Thing") until you hit upon the correct one? Or do you just not care and leave the title selection up to someone else?


  1. I’ve two books, one published the other under consideration. The first title just sort of came to me…Hearts of the Morning Calm. It’s a love story set in Korea, Land of the Morning Calm…so, kind of a no brainer. The second book, Betrayal, hmmm. There were several storylines within the book about…ta da, betrayal, so, it seemed like a natural.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  2. I once heard of an author who grew so tired of her titles being changed, she began sending her manuscripts in as, "Untitled 1," "Untitled 2," etc.

  3. I *love* your titles. I'm a Shakespeare fan, too.

    I had so much fun with my first 2 book titles, then petered out for my last submission. :( I'm still working on it, though (although it's already been turned in.)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. I like your titles too. Very poetic.

    The working title for Diamonds For The Dead was Handleman's Home (stupid title). I changed it before submitting it to Hidden Facets (better, but not quite there). The publisher changed it to Diamonds--thankfully!!!

    For the one I'm submitting next, I've got a list about 80 titles long. And they all bite!

  5. I think up titles on a regular basis, and tuck them away in a file. Some are better than others! I think I told you this, but it bears repeating, Spy My Shadow is a terrific title.

  6. Like Elizabeth, I have a list of titles that springboard me into stories. But I haven't started writing from that list yet :)

    My current ms and title came along together, just jumped out at me from the beginning. The newest story idea doesn't have a title yet. Still working out characters and basics. Hopefully it pops soon!

  7. I like your titles :)
    My last one came from a song that was playing while I was writing.

  8. Thank you all! I find it interesting that so many of you get your titles first and the ideas flow from that. Thanks also for saying you like my titles - may the books behind the titles prove to be just as likeable!


  9. The titles from my mystery series are the result of trying to tie the story to the land (the setting). The Prairie Grass Murders takes place in Illinois, The Desert Hedge Murders in NV/AZ. Other novels I've written (not yet published) were tougher to find titles for, so they usually remain untitled until something pops out of the story: Against Her Better Judgment, Wishing Caswell Dead, and A Terrible Mistake. Of course, even those titles might get changed if I get the manuscripts revised and find a publisher.


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