What’s in a Name?
A rose by any other name is still a rose–but may not sell as well!
I’ve struggled terribly with trying to figure out titles. I have a stack of manuscripts on my thumb drive with working titles I know I’ll never use. I also have three published titles that didn’t start selling better until my fourth book came out. That could be a function of the concept that it takes several books for an author to “hit”.
But I don’t think so, at least not entirely. I think it’s a matter of better branding.
The Pillars of Branding
The purpose of branding is to connect up with readers. If your name is Nora Roberts or Loretta Chase, you could have a plain cover, no back cover copy, and call your latest release Book, and the readers who love your writing and storytelling will buy it. Heck, if your name is James Patterson, you don’t even have to write the manuscript.
However, if you’re Alina K. Field, you’d better step up your game on all fronts. So here’s my take on how to choose a book title:
Know Your Market
Save your worries about cliches for the manuscript, and go look at what’s selling in your market. After three alliterative titles with the heroine’s name, I realized I’d better go for a title that included a title. I have just enough historical purist snobbery in me to pooh-pooh all the Regency dukes (there were never that many real ones!) on the best seller lists.
But, wait a minute–those books are selling.
Enough said. I elevated my hero to the peerage rank of marquess and came up with The Marquess and the Midwife.
The Marquess and the Midwife is also my fourth alliterative title. Alliteration is defined as “the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words”. In her class on Self-Editing, author Debra Mullins says you can use alliteration to “subtly direct your reader’s attention to a certain part of the sentence” in a manuscript.
In a book’s title, it catches the reader’s ear. Alliteration is certainly not necessary, but I’m a huge fan of it in titles, and I’m not alone. When my friend, author Linnea Alexis heard my title she laughed–her latest release, a Western romance is called The Watchmaker and the Widow. Isn’t that a perfect name for a Western romance?
I also think it’s a good idea to take some risks and be bold. I struggled with the title of my next release, but I settled on a title that is both alliterative and on the bold side: The Bastard’s Iberian Bride. Will this branding work? I’m not sure, but I think bastard signals a historical read, (because, really, no one uses that term in a legal sense any more); Iberian hints at a story set in the time of the Peninsular Wars, and bride tells everyone this is a romance.
But…remember to be bold within your market. Here are some examples:
I’m anxious to see how my fellow MFRW authors choose their titles. Click on the links below and hop along with me.
Image credits: badge: Marketing For Romance Authors; the Parthenon: Thermos, via Wikimedia Commons