Here's what ZAM had to say about naming your book...
If you’ve ever wondered why authors choose the titles they do, well… So have I. In fact, there are people I’d like to ask, including Keith Hale, Clicking Beat On The Brink of Nada (that was such a beautiful book but I still don’t know what the title means), Kaz Cooke, Living With Crazy Buttocks (the author assures that “no buttocks were harmed in the making of this book”), Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan, The Big Book Of Lesbian Horse Stories (not, it turns out, about lesbian horses at all…).
I flounder around in that group as well at times, having titled one novel ePistols at Dawn (this was sort of an antagonistic epistolary novel… see?) and another Fugitive Color (the legitimate artist’s term for a paint that fades over time) and in my head I was shouting, “Eureka!”
I wasn’t thinking how many people would gaze at the cover of my book, murmuring about what I must have been smoking when I came up with that. Even the people who know me and love me, even those who actually try to get into my head to find out what I mean by a title can sometimes lose patience or be stumped.
Naming a book is like naming a kid, you don’t want your book to arrive on the shelves and find out that all the other little novels have the same title. Sure there are certain perfect title words: blood, heat (or any variant of hot), lust, death, and a word I saw on an awful lot of titles recently, baby. Even my kids will tell you that given the seemingly astronomical number of permutations of those words, and the number of variations of hot, eventually you will run out of titles and – like the phone company – you’ll have to add on some sort of figurative book area code, like, another book about blood, heat, death, lust, and/or babies.
All this is by way of an introduction to the title of my latest novel, The Pharaoh’s Concubine, which, if you read the blurb, is about neither Pharaohs nor concubines. I have a bad feeling I’m going to get some mighty disappointed letters from members of the Egypt Explorations Society and anyone who googles either of those two words and winds up with my book in their results.
It’s simply about a guy who thinks of himself as The Pharoah’s Concubine because he’s the well cared-for lover of a very powerful -- and very married -- man.
I usually have a moment when a title hits me and sticks, and there’s nothing I can do or say to myself to dislodge it. A recent search on book title tips led me to this curious fact: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was originally titled Trimalchio in West Egg. So yeah, sometimes even a brilliant author’s first instinct can stink.
There has only been one time that I’ve been asked to change a title, even though there have been several times when I’ve asked if I should… In that one instance we couldn’t, really just could not, come up with anything I liked better. I won’t say which one it was, but it isn’t mentioned here.
Like baby names, book titles will come under scrutiny and there will probably be some bullying, even if an author gives his or her book the most perfect, best selling title in the world. In such cases it falls to the author to head to the nearest bar and doodle little hearts around that book title on cocktail napkins for hours, while drinking away the sorrow of having bestowed on said beloved book a title that makes it a target.
Because unlike bullied children which need to be defended and cared for and removed from bullying situations, a bullied book is generating publicity, both for the book and the author, which is, actually, the silver lining inside that particular big, black, ugly cloud. It’s probably not enough to catapult Trimalchio in West Egg onto the number one spot of the NY Times bestseller list, but it’s definitely enough to get people to read it and then… well… The Great Gatsby, by any name, can catapult itself.
What do you look for in a book title, what turns you on, what turns you off, what makes you read the blurb on the back? Is it the words? The visuals impact of the cover? The whole concept? The color scheme?
What makes one book leap into your hands, and another feel itchy before you even pick it up?
I’m not saying that I don’t try to find perfect titles and I’m certainly no F. Scott Fitzgerald, obviously… But one does what one can and one hopes for the best… So the next time you’re perusing the bookshelf looking for something to read, ask yourself… “What’s In A Name?”
A Note from the Book Boost: Thanks for joining us today, and sharing your thoughts on unique book titles with us. I LOVE naming my books and I always name them BEFORE I write them. I've been really lucky so far in my publishers allowing me to keep them "as is". I, personally, think that the title is one of the most important marketing features of a book. That and the cover art are key in making someone want to read the blurb and hopefully...buy a copy. Please tell us more about your latest.
Beauty is only skin deep…until love reveals what lies beneath.
As mob boss Yvgeny Mosko’s open secret, Dylan Anderson is happy enough with a passionate, if loveless, arrangement that affords him a life of luxury. But at thirty-six, he wonders how committed Mosko will be to an aging lover.
He finds out when a rival gang kidnaps him in a turf war everyone’s sure to lose. Mosko unleashes deadly force, leaving no one alive except for a young man whose dark eyes tug at Dylan’s heart—and the conscience he thought he’d excised long ago.
Though he tried to stop the kidnapping, William “Memo” Escobar knows Mosko will use what’s left of him to send a powerful message to his rivals. When Mosko’s pampered pretty boy risks everything to help him escape, he can’t believe his luck.
William figures he’s better suited to life off the grid, but as the days go by he begins to realize Dylan’s beauty is more than skin deep. And as Dylan coaxes more and more beguiling smiles from William, he yearns for things—like family ties—he’d thought were best forgotten.
Yet behind their newfound happiness lurks the certain knowledge that no matter how careful they are, Mosko will come for what’s his.
Dylan didn’t rest easily. Between the storm outside—rattling the entire cabin—and the one inside his body, it took a while for him to fall asleep. Even then, he had fitful dreams, populated by everyone he’d ever known, and most of them were telling him he was hurtling into a long dark tunnel of disaster.
He didn’t have to be a psychologist to figure that out, either.
He punched his pillow into something that might support his head, rolled onto his back and sighed. When William had been helpless it was easy to take care of him impersonally. But now he was getting better, regaining his strength and spirit. Dylan already found him attractive.
How much more attractive might he be at full-watt power, when his infectious grin wasn’t tempered by the bruises on his face?
Dylan didn’t fall prey to just any pretty face. He’d been shoulder to shoulder with the most attractive men Vegas had to offer for years. He was drawn to people with charisma and inner strength, and he understood that men with those traits, if they were for real, didn’t need model-perfect looks or money to back them up.
So yeah. As long as William was hurt and needed him, he hadn’t foreseen any problems. But as of now it was a race against time. If William healed up and wielded his easy charm, if he trotted out the flirtatious—even dangerous—side of his personality Dylan had glimpsed that night, it wasn’t going to be easy to say no to what he had to offer. Even hours later, just the thought of the spark between them was enough to make Dylan’s heart race.
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