Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How do you find a title that resonates with readers?


Titles are important sales tools. Most editors agree on the following statements. 1) Titles should give a hint about the protagonist, the setting, the theme or the plot of the book. 2) Short titles are best. 3) Titles should catch the reader’s attention. 4) These rules are meant to be broken.

The net result is most writers waste hours ruminating over the title of their next novel. I’m no different. I always name a novel when I start working on a project. Then I rename it at least twice as I write and edit the novel. How about you? Maybe you’ll find my process of titling my last novel useful or amusing.

One of my medical suspense novel started out with the title Why Does It Hurt So Much? I chose the tile because I wanted the novel to address how individuals differ in their responses to physical and emotional pain. But that title was too long. I’d learned from my experience publicizing my second novel Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight that long titles even if they’re cute or funny are problematic. For example, it’s hard to fit the title on the spine of the book or in twitters.

The original title also gave no hint to the inner strength of my heroine – epidemiologist and world traveler Sara Almquist. Sara is a tough cookie. She knows being a public health consultant in Bolivia, where over 6% of the children before five years of age, won’t be a picnic when she accepts the assignment.

The original title also didn’t fit an adventure story with lots of action. Sara is chased through the Witches’ Market of La Paz and fights to avoid a trap in the silver mines of Potosí as she helps capture the drug czar Mazzone, who used to be her neighbor in New Mexico..

The next title I chose was Dull the Pain. It was short, established pain as recurring theme in the novel, and hinted the heroine was tough. Amazon listed no other book with that title.

I include tidbits of science in all of my novels and really strive to get the facts correct. Thus I had Sara learn that laborers in the silver mines of Potosí carry little food or water into the mines. In order to endure the pain caused by thirst, hunger, and heavy exertion at a high altitude (13,000 feet), they chew coca leaves. The active ingredients in coca leaves and its derivative cocaine are not analgesics; they do not dull pain. They are stimulants and help users ignore pain.

I changed the title from Dull the Pain to Ignore the Pain.

After all my explanations on the title, do you want to read Ignore the Pain? Or would you give it another name?  

For more, see:
www.jlgreger.com