Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another Day with Erica Vetsch

Bookshelvesphoto © 2008 Isabelle Palatin | more info (via: Wylio)
What's in a Name - Part 2:

Yesterday we talked about the importance of choosing the right character names. If anything, choosing an appealing title is even more crucial. An intriguing title might be the difference between a potential reader taking your book off the shelf for a close look or passing it over for something more interesting. When I browse the fiction section of my local bookstore, I look first at the title. (Then at the cover art, though I try not to judge a book by its cover.) Does the title appeal to me? Does it indicate what the story might be about? Is it memorable?

So, how do authors chose titles for their novels? (One big caveat here is that the publisher almost always reserves the right to change the title, and the author is often asked to come up with several alternatives. This can be particularly painful if the author struggles with coming up with titles or is certain her title is the perfect one and no change is necessary. Best to go into the process knowing you'll probably be asked to adjust the title to fit the publisher/marketing.)

My current release, Before Dawn, stared out with a different title. The Darkest Hour. That doesn't exactly scream Historical Romance with a Happily Ever After Ending, does it? The Darkest Hour would fit a thriller or suspense or mystery, but not an uplifting romance.

My friend Mary Connealy (who has given me permission to share this here) told me that her mega-hit/amazing/really fun (my description) novel Petticoat Ranch started out as Room for God's Wrath. (Blink.) Lemme say, the first time I saw the title Petticoat Ranch (about six months before it released) I knew I was going to buy that book. If it had remained titles Room for God's Wrath, I probably would've passed on the book and missed not only a great story, but a precious friendship, too! I am soooo glad she changed it!

So, how does an author go about choosing a title? Here are some methods I employ:

1. Consider genre and mood. The examples above illustrate this. The Darkest Hour and Room for God's Wrath don't fit inspiring romance or romantic comedy with cowboys.

2. Consider a common theme when writing a series. In my first series, each title has something to do with a wedding. Bride, Marriage, and Engagement all feature in the titles. In my second series, each one has to do with the Old West. Cowboy, Lawman, Maverick. In this current series, each book title has to do with light. The words Dawn, Light, and Stars appear in the titles.

3. Consider alliteration. The Bartered Bride, Maggie and the Maverick, The Marriage Masquerade, Clara and the Cowboy. I love alliteration in titles. It makes them easy to remember.

4. Brainstorm ideas and themes in the book. While helping a friend brainstorm titles, I told her that sometimes I make lists of words that pertain to the book I'm writing. Then I experiment with how they might fit together.

5. Lines from hymns, Bible verses, famous plays/poetry/sayings, etc. can also inspire titles. Before the Dawn comes from the old saying 'The darkest hour is always before the dawn.' And the next book in this series is entitled Light to my Path from Psalm 119:105.

So question for you - Have you ever been drawn to a book solely by the title? What interesting titles have you seen lately?


  1. Great suggestions! It seems like YA authors have fun naming their books. I think Roger Bruner's "Lost in Translation" is a great title.

  2. Good morning, Julie! I agree, Lost in Translation is a great title.

    Remember when Chick-Lit was all the rage? Those were some fun, sassy titles. :)

  3. Publishing also went through a one-word title phase for several years. I think it would be hard to capture a romance story in just one word!

    I enjoyed both of your posts, Erica!


  4. Hi, Donna! Thanks for commenting, I really appreciate it.

    I've noticed that one word title trend. It seems to come and go, like all trends, I guess. :)

  5. What a difference the right title makes! I love Mary Connealy's books and one title I really thought was a great fit was The Husband Tree. A one word title I thought captured the essence of a book was Rooms by James Rubart. A supernatural house and the journey through the rooms of a soul. I'm still thinking about this book months later! :)

  6. Merry, don't you love it when a book captures your imagination and won't let you go even months later?