Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Important Are They Really?

I am currently stuck in title land. This is where I search for the perfect word and/or phrase to describe my book. It's sorta like naming your child. Actually, it's harder than naming your child. With my girls I picked out a name that both Zilla and I liked and when the girls popped out it just seemed to fit. It was perfect. With a title the problem is the book is already there, fully formed, and nothing seems quite right.

I suppose there is the possibility that I'm trying to hard - that I want it to be perfect and sometimes things just aren't. There's also the distinct possibility that I suck at titles. They're tricky things. Sometimes I get to keep the title I turn the book in under. Sometimes I get to have some input on what we change it to. And sometimes my editor tells me what my title's going to be. While I like the input, I'll admit that if I'm struggling I'm usually okay with them telling me what it's going to be. There are smarter people than I in the marketing department and they know what they're doing. I'd be stupid not to let them do their jobs. Their goal and mine are the same - sell my book.

But this does bring me to my original question. How important are titles. Really? I mean do you buy a book just because it has a fantabulous title? I might pick a book up because of a title but ultimately the back cover copy has to grab my attention before I'll buy.

So do you pick up a book in the store based on a title? Is there a title that sticks out in your mind? Something that was funny or evocative? One you really remember even after the fact? If you're a writer, do you have a favorite title? Have you ever gotten to keep your titles or does your publisher always choose them for you?



Playground Monitor said...

A title might be clever (i.e. The Givenchy Code) but that doesn't mean I'm going to buy it if the story blurb doesn't grab me. Like Maven Linda keeps telling us, it's all about the story and characters.

Good luck in the Great American Title Search.

Maven Linda said...

I've never bought a book because of the title.

BUT -- the title means a lot to me. I need for it to connect to the story, rather than being something generic that would fit a hundred other books. Now, about half the time I don't get to keep my title, and the way my writing schedule is, my publisher needs the title before the book is written. And if they change my title before I write the book, then that changes the book. If I really dislike the title, then I write the book with my title on it, to keep it true in my head, and they can change the title when they get the manuscript.

One thing I've noticed: if we end up going with a title I've chosen, readers tend to remember the title because it connects to the book. If we go with a more generic title that the publisher has chosen, few readers remember the title. They'll remember the characters, but not the title.

It's an odd thing. Titles don't make or break sales, I don't think. But as writers we connect to them, and if the titles work then readers connect to them, which makes them important on both ends of the chain, but not necessarily important in the middle.

Angel said...

I definitely don't buy based on title. As a matter of fact, I rarely remember titles, unless I've read the book numerous times. I remember the characters and what happened. :)


Smarty Pants said...

Titles, when I'm writing, are very important. When I'm reading, not so much. I really appreciate clever or punny titles, they usually make me wish I'd come up with them first. I remember really bad titles and silly titles like Sense & Sensibility & Seamonsters. I don't buy the book though. I just shake my head and move on.

Although I've only had secondhand knowledge of the angst of book titling, I think I'd prefer they just name my book than make me jump through hoops to come up with fifty titles and have them not like any. Too stressful.

Jean said...

My titles are very important to me but I often don't even remember the title of what I'm reading. I can't tell you how many times I've asked The Guy to bring my book upstairs and when he's asked the title, had to say, "I don't know. It's a paperback and it's mostly red."

Julie Miller said...

I'm notoriously bad at coming up with titles--out of 40 books, I've kept maybe 5 original titles, and have come up with maybe 5 more when asked to change them. And the rest? My editors and marketing have come up with.

Thanks goodness--my first book, BRAINIAC AND THE BEAST, probably wouldn't have sold as a romance.;) But when my editor asked me to come up with something else, I brainstormed a list and she picked IMMORTAL HEART. That worked out much, much better.

I'd be curious to get some stats on how a less-than-stellar title (like PREGNESIA, an Intrigue from last year) sell, vs. books with a great title.

To be honest, the title doesn't make or break my buying of a book--but if it's by an author I don't know, the title could make me pick it up to read the back blurb or not.

PM's Mother said...

Just remember, Margaret Mitchell wrote only one book with her title of "Tomorrow is Another Day", but it was published as "Gone With The Wind". That is one title I shall always remember.

Maven Beverly Barton said...

I always want a “working title” and the title must mean something to me and must relate to the story I’m telling. But I have learned, after more than 70 books, to accept the fact that I may not get to keep my title. Everyone at the publishing house apparently gets a say-so about the title and marketing always knows best. Or at least, I hope they do. I’ve pulled out my hair by the roots a few times trying to come up with an “acceptable” title, but I’ve had my agent fight for a title only once. Choose your battles wisely. I think that a great title or a great cover can catch a reader’s attention and my guess is that some readers do buy a book because they’re intrigued by the title or fascinated by the cover. Personally, I don’t ever remember buying a book because of the title or the cover.

Kathy said...

Good luck in the title search, Instigator. I actually love this part, coming up with a title and I have a great time with it.

I remember books by titles. Am I the only one? Titles need to have a double meaning. They need to reach out and grab you. Of course, they need to mean something about the book and characters too. What I especially love, is when a book title is a play on words.

Why, oh why, is it always me who appears to be the odd ball in the bunch?

Virginia said...

I have never bought a book for the title, I go by the blurp or reviews. Most of the time the cover will draw me first and I go from there!

Problem Child said...

I used to worry a lot about titles, but since my editor picks them now, it's funny how they quickly quit being high on my radar.

And, yes, I do tend to call all books by their h/h instead of their titles. I guess that ties into PM's post about the importance of characters!