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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