Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Get EnTITLED with Guest Blogger Z.A. Maxfield

Win a copy of The Pharaoh's Concubine and meet author Z.A. Maxfield today at the Book Boost!

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.

Want More ZAM?

Visit here: http://zamaxfield.com/
Or here: http://abstractrx.livejournal.com/

Pick up your copy today! Click here!

Contest Time:

Leave a question or comment for ZAM and be entered to win your choice of this author's backlist titles or a copy of The Pharaoh's Concubine when it releases on January 11, 2011. Be sure to leave your contact information in your comment so that we can get in touch with you if you're the winner. Winner announced in about one week here at the blog. Good luck!


Unknown said...

I like the concept behind the title, Z.A. It's very deep and provocative.

I guess when a title catches my eye, I like the unusual. To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book and I just love the title. I love wondering what went into a title, what the author may have been thinking. It's hard for me to title my own works many times and I have to think long and hard. I sometimes don't have a title until right before submission.

Dakota Flint said...

I'm probably not the typical reader, but these days all I'm looking for in a book title is something that I'll remember. I read so many books, and I buy even more (my TBR pile is rivaling Godzilla), and I read even *more* than that of excerpts, blog posts, etc. And I love talking about books, so I just want something to snag in my brain. I don't even care that much how well the title fits the book; I'd rather have it unique so I don't have to go looking up a book before I'm forced to say to someone, "hey you should really read Josh Lanyon's novella about two guys named Will and Taylor b/c it's sheer excellent fun." (Note: I'm not picking on JL b/c Josh's titles usually are pretty unique.) If a title is unique AND fits the story and/or is really clever, then that's awesomesauce, for sure (and as a writer, that's something to def. shoot for). But something different about the title is what I look for first, otherwise I probably won't remember, which either means I won't buy or I won't talk about it.

I think I'm in the minority on this though. I've read comments here and there around bloglandia that have a completely different take. *shrug* FWIW, I love your titles, ZAM. I think I've mentioned before I think you're an awesome, erm, titler. *g* I never forget the titles of your books, they usually fit the books really well. And I thought ePistols at Dawn was a particularly awesome title. So...who knows, you probably shouldn't listen to me. ;)

Lora said...

What was the question again? Do titles make a difference in what books interest me? Well, yes, but not as much as many other things can. I will choose books from authors I have previously read and liked. I will choose based on recommendations of people who like the same books as me. I will read the blurb if I recognize the author or if the title catches my eye in a genre that interests me (I don't care how many times the word hot is used, home tax preparation will not interest me!)

I am glad, Z.A. mentioned that this book has nothing to do with Egypt, because I prefer my hot man-romance to happen in countries where I speak the language. ;)

melanie said...

Catchy titles do grab my attention but the blurb is what seals the deal. It can be the greatest title but if the excerpt makes no or the wrong impression on me, than no sale. But I will have to look up those titles you initially mentioned because, yes, now I am curious.

And your blurb has me hooked!

Anonymous said...

I loved hearing about what goes into a title (occasionally at least!). There are times when a wonderful book has such a bland title and I think it's a shame. Then there are those books where the title, the meaning behind it, kind of hits you and you think "It's perfect".

I certainly look forward to reading The Pharaoh's Concubine, as I have read and loved all your other books :)

C. Zampa said...

For me to look at a book, the title has to be sharp, catchy. Short titles are good, but arresting is even better.

And, oh, yes, the cover. Oddly, even though I know the covers aren't always indicative of the book, I still fall into that helpless category who insists on a good, vibrant, seductive cover.

And--oh---I LOVE the title Pharoah's Concubine. Love it.

Lauren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauren said...

This sounds amazing and I love the title and cover. I'm huge of all your books and I have been dying for something new. Can't wait to dive into another amazing story and fall in love with these new characters!


Z.A. Maxfield said...

@ Melissa, Well, it's the title that came to me first, so I don't know. Some people like odd titles and some don't. They ARE tough to come up with aren't they? Drawn Together wasn't titled until just before I subbed it, I just couldn't name that one at all at first.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Dakota You aren't typical, I don't think. I had people who just went HUH? when I wrote ePistols at Dawn. But neither you nor my editor were among them thank heavens.

Lissa Kasey said...

We had a big discussion in our GR group recently about this. The title of a book can sometimes make it harder to choose because some are so similar you can't remember if you've read it or not. I try to stay away from ones that have the repetitive dark, love, heat, blood, whatever. I like things a little different. I actually thought Epistols at Dawn really worked for the book since they were dueling over email.

I truly believe the book has a feel for it and if the title does fit, it's hard to go back later and think wow, that was full and completely amazing. One of my favorite titles was Heroes and Ghosts, which once you read the story is so incredibly loaded with exactly that. It's just another art form I think.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@imaggi1472 I think a good or especially a funny title will make a book leap off the shelf for me. I'll read the title and it will make me check out the blurb. I LOVE words and wordplay though, so that's why. Some people are more visually stimulated.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Melanie, yeah, it's the blurb that gets me. I rarely read an excerpt. If I like the idea, I'll buy the book. That's how I bought a Sookie Stackhouse book the first time.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Danae, Yeah, I was thrilled to know that Fitzgerald was out there feeling around in the darkness looking for his own book titles. That always help when the geniuses struggle.

Ooh, and thanks! Glad you like them.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Carol. I like short catchy titles too but long ones sometimes make me laugh. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Lauren Thanks so much. I've not mentioned the cover much here but YES! I love that cover. The colors are so spectacular, and the way the sunburst lights it up so nicely. I really love that. Thanks so much!

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Parisbvamp I agree, some book titles are perfect! Josh Lanyon's latest All She Wrote falls under that category. That was so perfect, it was impossible to imagine it afterward with a different title. That's when you know you've done it.

Indigene said...

Hi ZAM Happy New Year!

I do recall you mentioning this title before, can't remember where now, but I guess I wasn't paying enough attention to what I was reading and for some strange reason I connected the title The Pharoah's Concubine to m/f and I thought you had started writing het historical romance! *Head-desk* Looks like I was the one smoking stuff not you. LOL.

I'm sure glad I followed the link you posted on your Twitter to this blog and read your post on the title and the book blurb. And now that I'm clear on things *blush* I think the title is quite clever given the story premise.

BTW contrary to my above snafu titles do catch my attention and I've always loved the titles you've chosen for your books because they are different from the regular fare out there.


Noly said...

What an amazing concept for a title! As usual, you have outdone yourself. I love different titles and beautiful covers. This one has both, I can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

LOL. It sounds like the title of a Harelequin romance you might find on the shelves in a drugstore (:
But the premise sounds like a good, suspenseful romp. I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Margaret said...

I must admit, the title means very little to me & the cover art even less. I base my choices on whether I have enjoyed previous books by an author, the blurb or recommendations on various lists or blogs. I love ZAM's books, from the first I read, about Sparky & Officer Helmet, to this Christmas' follow-up :)

M Jules Aedin said...

Awesome blog, ZAM. :) I love names and naming - naming characters, I should blog about that some time - and yeah, there just comes a point where the name sticks and you can't change it.

What turns me off most to a title is really, really bad puns. I love really good puns, though, so it's all subjective!

Anyway, great blog, and I still owe you an email, and it's not you it's me and ILU. :)

Jambrea said...

Hmmm...titles. I love ones that stand out and make me think...man I need to read this book. lol Of course...I've come up with some really silly titles and been told...You can't name your book that. heehee

Great post ZAM!

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Indigene, SEE! I was afraid that might happen, even though there are very definitely two men on the cover, :D

I wondered briefly about calling it the Pharaoh's Concubinus, which is the male term, but... that was even worse... Scholarly almost. I could picture pinc nez glasses dropping off noses all over the academic world...

As it is, cover aside, blurb aside, someone, somewhere is going to write me to tell me off because they expected a m/f book set in Egypt's golden age. :D

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Noly, thanks, I'm glad you like that title. I really did at first, but then... I dunno. You get a little nervous as the date looms, you know?

I do love that cover though. Wow.They don't look too much like my characters but it's sure pretty!

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Jennifer Yeah... LOL Or maybe if it was the Curse of the Pharaoh's Concubine... The Lost Treasure of the Pharaoh's Concubne. If it was HQ it would probably be The Pharaoh's Concubine's Baby Surprise...


What can I say. Titles aren't easy, they're a major marketing thing and most of us are simply writers...

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Margaret Aw, thanks so much! I admit I like a snappy title and I will buy a book for it's cover. *blush*

But the marketing department of my publishers have liked my titles and I have had little input into covers, I hope for the best, as always, and got lucky this time!

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Jules I do enjoy naming things. Just when I think I don't have a title or a name, (In the case of kids) One pops into my head. I think I careened into the maternity ward with my middle child unnamed, but Alexander Ian just came to me and it totally fits him.

I like puns. My real name has been made into many a pun, if you know it, you'll know why my ex-boyfriend gave one of his characters my first name and the last name Hardy. LOL

No worries, write when you can, I know how busy you young folks are... :D

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Jam So far, I've only had one minor problem with management and even then we couldn't come up with anything better.

Thanks for stopping by Jam...

Anonymous said...

A title and cover catch me and then I read the blurb and that decides me. Lately I have been only reading my favorite authors. I also like to reread my favorites. Old age has given me a bad memory so sometimes it is harder to find these books. For instance I wanted to reread a favorite book about Kevin and Conner and could only remember that Kevin was a sort of psychic who did yoga and Conner was a cop and adorable. Could not remember the title or the author! I put it out to All Romance and thankfully someone with a better memory than me remembered it was your book The Long Way Home and I am now happily half way through. I have over 300 books on my Kindle and it is a pain in the ass trying to look back at all of them. I guess I am saying titles catch my eye but it doesn't make or break reading the book because I will probably forget it!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, ZAM!

I'm glad you explained the concept behind the title. I was at first a bit disappointed because I thought a story about ancient Egypt is not exactly a top priority for me... I would have bought it anyway because it is from you, still, I'm happy it is a different story ;-).

I'm looking forward to it: from the blurb it sounds quite gripping!

Best Wishes


CJ said...


As long as a title makes sense to the story I'm happy. :D But when I go book hunting (which is an everyday event) I think the cover draws me in first. One of my all time fav books ever is one of yours and the cover art (go P.L Nunn!)drew me in. That was one hot sexy kiss! Then the title, Drawn Together, caught my eye. After I read the blurb I realized just how cleaver and perfect that title was! Two people drawn to each other but somewhat unwillingly because one fell in love with the other drawings. I honestly don't think I've ever seen a more perfect title.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Sosj99 HA! I saw that on the ARE newsletter, and I sent in the answer... :D

Yeah. There's a lot that goes into the science of getting a reader to pick up a book, which is why, in the normal course of things, I don't argue with the art department. I admit that I fought for a title once, and I have a peculiar kink about hair. It bothers me if I don't like a models hair. Is that weird? I am all about hair, and I've probably bought more than one book because of it.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@Antonella Yes! I knew I'd have to do some pretty fast talking with regard to that title. Once you see the cover it's pretty clear that it's not about ancient Egypt, but I hope people give it a chance. It's a complex story too, one that's hard to fit into a blurb.

I have been having a few "What was I thinking" moments! :D

Thanks for the vote of confidence though! Lotsa Spanish in this one, but it's California street Spanish this time.

Z.A. Maxfield said...

@CJ That was probably my favorite cover. I LOVE P.L. Nunn. I've been very lucky.

Incidentally, I was at the Americal Library(ians?) Association convention last weekend in San Diego and I met a librarian from the Chicago Public Library, who not only KNEW WHO I WAS (oh, squee) but they have copies of Drawn Together and the St. Nacho's series in the LIBRARY!!!!

If ever there has been anything that's given me chills, its not book signings (those are fun though) or even knowing my book is on the shelf in a brick and mortar books store. It's that my book is at the Chicago Public Library. :D OMG! That totally made my day.

Anonymous said...

Titles tend to catch my eye, but it's usually the blurb that halps me decide. Unless of course it's one of my autobuy authors (like you!), in which case the blurb is icing. :)

What I really like about your titles is that they have been very catchy representations of the story as a whole. (Titles that have no relevance to the book even after reading the book is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.)

I'm looking forward to reading your latest!


CJ said...

@ZAM Chicago Public Library!! Congratulations!!! That's very cool!! I think I'll check to see if you're in my neck of the woods the next time I go to the library. :)

Lauralyn said...

@bananakers it is serendipity when a title comes along that really fits, even if it's a little oblique from the outside. When people see where I was going with the title after they read the book, I feel really good about it!

Lauralyn said...

@CJ Yes! Chicago. Wow! I was so excited. Let me know if you find me, will you? I can't imagine you would but maybe... :D

Lauralyn said...


Congratulations to Melissa Bradley, your name was chosen using random line picker. YOU WIN!

I'll be emailing you to send you a copy of The Pharaoh's Concubine in whatever format you like, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for joining me here at The Book Boost Blog!

Lauralyn said...

Melissa, if you could just send me your email addy to zamaxfield at yahoo dot com, I'll get you a copy of PC right away, and thank you so much!

Unknown said...

Whoo Hoo!! Thank you, ZA. This made my morning. :) I'll shoot you an email right away.