Wednesday, August 16, 2006

As yet untitled

When she bought my latest novel more than a month ago, my editor informed me that it would be retitled. No surprise there. In the world of romance publishing, that happens more often than not. But titling books can be a tricky business because authors and editors often disagree widely on what constitutes a good title.

In general, the author is looking for a few words that will capture the essence of her book. She wants her title to be memorable, and she wants readers to forever associate it with her story and her name. The book's editors, who work closely with the publisher's marketing department, have a different agenda. What they're hoping to come up with is a salable title, one that will entice Wal-Mart shoppers and bookstore browsers to carry the book to the nearest cash register.

I've laughed along with everyone else at romance novels with smarmy titles like The Greek Tycoon's Pregnant Mistress, but the fact is, readers who love stories featuring sexy billionaire alpha-male heroes (and those readers are legion) will snatch up a book like that and toss it into their baskets without a second thought--and often, without even glancing at the author's name. I might flatter myself that a few people will see my name and buy my book even if the title's dumb and the cover is ugly, but it's a fact that the majority of these mass-market paperback sales will be impulse buys. The shoppers won't know or care who Brenda Coulter is. They'll pick up my book because they adore "Love Inspired" novels, or because they're intrigued by the book's title or attracted by its cover. That's fine by me. I want my book read, so I'll take all the help I can get.

This week my editor has asked me for some alternative title suggestions for my book. I'm doing my best, but all I know is how to describe my story. I don't know which words or phrases will trigger the "buy" response in Target shoppers and make my books fly off the shelf. My editor does, however, because Steeple Hill Books (a Harlequin company) has been amassing sales records and conducting customer surveys on books like mine for years. So when my editor and her associates in Marketing come up with the "perfect" title, it's entirely possible that I won't care for it at all. But although I might complain over dinner with my hunk o' burnin' love, I will ultimately bow to the wisdom of The Mighty Harlequin Machine, which, it must be said, knows more than a little about how to sell books.

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Katie Hart said...

If you give us a hint of the storyline, perhaps we can come up with a few snazzy title suggestions for you!

cantnever said...

Can't wait! I love the beautiful covers and the titles CAN be intriguing too. But in the end it's what's between the covers. I am really anticipating this next novel. Can't wait!

cantnever said...

Another thought, it's the synopsis on the back cover that usually cinches a sale for me. Do you write that? (I really do like almost all the covers on Love Inspired books. And they DO influence my purchase.)

Anonymous said...

Um, I have to say I shop a little different than the people they target then. I buy by publishing house, section (inspirational, etc) then by author. The title and back cover only come into play if I'm not sure if I've already read the book. I'll go into WM and buy all six LI books each month regardless of who wrote them. I also buy the Barbour collection books and whatever new fiction books are in the inspirational section that I can fit into my budget. Unfortunately, that's usually not many. I find myself looking more at authors lately because I've "talked" to many of them on the various writing boards, but the only time I choose by author is if I have to limit my purchases. I guess that makes me the atypical shopper. :-)

Michelle's Writing Space

Anonymous said...

I look at authors names when I buy books. I love your books so I will buy the next one no matter the name of the book. I mostly buy and read inspirational fiction. So that plays a factor too I guess. When is your next book due out?

Susan Kaye said...

I spent the weekend talking to a British woman married to a younger Greek man. When telling others at church about it, fans of Greek men came crawling out of the woodwork!! I have definitely missed something in my romantic education. But, I can now see why wedging a Greek man into the plot might work in your favor.

Maybe just a mention of baklava or grape leaves in the title will suffice.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Michelle. I buy all six Love Inspired titles every month as well as their Women's Fiction and Cafe titles if I love the author or the story line intrigues me. I confess this is how I came across your books. However, I'm now a devoted fan and would buy your book if it was written on a typewriter and stapled together. If it carries the Brenda Coulter name, I must have it on my bookshelf! :-)

fo0hzy said...

Today there was no mail. He shut the mailbox and walked back towards the truck, humming an old Led Zepplin tune. Climbing into the cab, he said "Well, pardner, twarn't no letters from Lassie this week." He smiled at Toad and scratched the dog's head. Toad growled playfully.

TrudyJ said...

Having already confessed to being the kind of reader who has tended to be snooty about romance novels, I can only imagine what I'd do if a novel titled "The Greek Tycoon's Pregnant Mistress" came into my hands, but laugh hysterically would be my first option! You're so right about publishers and titles though. The insp. publisher that I work with had an epic battle with me over the title of my second book, based on "we know what sells." After that I caved and simply stopped coming up with titles (which I find difficult anyway) and just let them call them whatever they want.

Brenda Coulter said...

Katie, it's about a home-loving worrywart who finds herself falling in love with with her worst nightmare--a globetrotting daredevil.

Cantnever, the editors write the back-cover copy for the books. And I agree with you that the Love Inspired covers are beautiful.

Michelle, I've often wondered what the actual stats are. How many people consider an author's name when buying a romance novel? I've decided to do a little informal survey on that by posting a poll here.

Brittanie, this as-yet-untitled book will be an October 2007 release. That means it will go out to Love Inspired book club members in August and will be available in stores beginning he last week of September. Thanks for asking.

Susan, I'm a little baffled as to why so many romance readers clamor for stories about filthy-rich, super-powerful Greek businessmen, but they can't seem to get enough.

Anonymous, thanks for your kind words. Here's some love for you:

foOhzy, you sound like a spammer, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and not delete your comment. It's a little weird, but weird isn't always wrong.

Trudy, it's difficult to argue with "we know what sells." They do know.

Katie Hart said...

Trying to go with a wide range titles:

Risks of Love (bit too bland)
Flying Leap
Cowering at the Cliff
Love Off the Deep End
Taking a Risk
Leap of Faith
Wary Heart

Many more later. :)

Brenda Coulter said...

Katie, great minds....

The story was originally titled A Leap of Faith. I had to ditch that when I learned my friend Lenora Worth was about to release a Love Inspired book with that title. Since then I've been calling it A Man Like Sam, but my editor wants a change. We'll probably have something settled by next week.

~~Olivia said...

I can't write titles either. I hope that when I pitch, my lack of catchy title will not turn off the editor.

So many Single Title have sexy titles. It must be difficult to come up one that's not sexy, but not bland, but not too religious.

Brenda Coulter said...

You said it, babe. I have no talent for writing marketable titles.