What's in a title: Can you control the WOW Factor?

A few weeks ago on SHADOWS FALL N FRIENDS fellow writer, C. J. Lyons and I discussed the strange process of choosing a title.  When you go to your bookstore and glance at all the books vying for your attention, did you ever wonder how on earth the author narrowed one down?  Roulette wheel?  Drawn from a hat?  Dream vision? A lot of neophyte novelists waste months sweating over a title when they haven’t even begun writing, in the misguided notion that the title alone will catch an agent’s or publisher’s attention.  While it’s true that to a degree the attention factor is important, most published authors don’t sweat too much time picking one when the writing is in the early stages.   

When I start a novel the title I select depicts the character question driving the novel that intrigued me in the first place.  In other words, the title is the hook tied to the character arc that keeps pulling me back to the page, and eventually carries me through beginning, middle and end. Half a dozen drafts later, this handle has usually served its purpose as my tow rope from page 1 to 365; but it doesn’t necessarily work for the completed book heading off to the printers.    Most seasoned writers I talk to have trouble choosing titles at this point.  In the majority of cases, it’s usually the publisher or editor who steps in and, with objective experience, throws out a few suggestions, one of which nails it perfectly.  When I asked C. J. Lyons how she dreamed up her titles she replied: I didn’t.  I stink at titles, lol!  We went through 71 with LIFELINES before a copy editor came up with that one and my title for WARNING SIGNS was originally Catalyst until the folks at
Berkley found a better one.

 Yep.  71.  Often a writer is too close to the completed work to be objective.  An editor or publisher can view the long haul, particularly if you’re writing a series or novels carrying a signature theme.  They can zero in on an impact title to link each publication and highlight recognition factor for the reader.   While writing LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU, my original title was The Disappearing.  When her boyfriend vanishes on a bird count up north, Brannagh finally stops running from her past and comes to terms with the people who’ve disappeared in her life.  While trying to solve Nikki’s mysterious disappearance, she solves the secrets behind her mother’s murder.  My publisher chose LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU which is a quote from a rhyme Brannagh and her friends chant in a childhood club.  It is, ultimately, the theme of the novel; and a perfect fit.  Now I can’t imagine this book being called anything else.   

So when it comes to titles, try picturing Ray Kinsella from the film FIELD OF DREAMS:  Just write the darn novel and eventually, though probably later than sooner, the perfect title will come. Kathy-Diane LeveilleAuthor of LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU (Kunati Books)

Rich and beautiful writing.- The Hamilton Spectator, Canadian Mysteries  

3 Responses to What's in a title: Can you control the WOW Factor?

  1. Velvet Rose

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  2. Pam S

    This was an great post. Finding the right title can be tricky it seems and I had no idea how long it could actually take. Thanks so much for sharing on this process!

  3. Valerie

    Interesting. I’ve always wondered about the process of choosing a title. I know I’d be terrible at choosing a title. I’ve seen some really good, catchy ones.

    Good to know that the publisher also puts their input in…hehe!!


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