Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Little Help from My Friends

Keith here.

We authors try to believe it's the quality of our prose, the unforgettable nature of our characters, the verve of our plotting, and the freshness of our voice that really count in winning over readers. Maybe. But to win them over in the first place, we have to get them to pick up -- or look online at -- what we've written. That makes the title and the cover of our books critical to their success.

It's a little early to worry about the cover of my work-in-progress. As Jessie noted in her post yesterday, some writers need a title to start writing. Not me. But since I have a draft done, I think it is time to start working on a title.

I came up with the title of my last book in online discussions with blog-friends (here and here) and I'm hoping for a little help from my friends this time, too.

How much do you have to know about the book to come up with the right title? Not much, I think, because the whole point is to attract readers even before they know anything about the book. Okay then. I'm looking for something compelling. So far I've been calling it Two Octobers which doesn't exactly cry out, "Read me." Here are some alternatives I've been mulling over.

1. Brinksmanship
2. Two Times on the Brink
3. War and Love, Won and Lost
4. Twice at the Edge
5. Two Octobers on the Edge of War
6. Two Octobers on the Brink

Now that you've seen some potential titles, should I tell you a little more about the book? Maybe one of you will have an inspiration that trumps any of mine. The book opens at Stanford U in 1940 and then skips ahead to Washington, DC in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK, of course, plays a role. The idea, of course, is to prevent the world from being blown up.

Please leave a comment, opinion, suggestion, or preference.

I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna to try with a little help from my friends



Lisa Bork said...

Keith, "Brinkmanship" did catch my eye enough to look it up in the dictionary. Now that I know what it is, the story sounds very exciting!

"The Nuclear Trump" and "Playing Nuclear Chicken" came to mind.

Good luck with the book.

G.M. Malliet said...

Gee, I don't know, Keith. The Hunt for Two Octobers was taken already, huh?

Seriously, I like Brinkmanship. Short and punchy. The others are wordy and harder to remember.

Too bad Blink has been used, but in another context.

Mary said...

Guess I'm the odd man out.
Twice at the Edge with a smashing cover would grab my attention!
Best of luck!


Lois Winston said...

Keith, for my first two books, my editor wanted the titles changed. I ran a contest on my website. All suggestions were collected and forwarded to my editor. The person who suggested the title chosen won a signed copy of the book when it came out. You might want to give that a try.

I do like Brinksmanship, though. Short and to the point.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I prefer Twice at the Edge or something using the word "edge," which brings a dangerous, balancing act feel to the title.

Funny, just this morning I was brainstorming with Midnight about titles for Odelia #6. My original title was too close to another MI book. My 2nd choice was too close to Murder In Vein. I'll know their choice shortly.

Keith Raffel said...

Lisa, Lois, and Gin, Brinkmanship, huh? Maybe. Gin, should I ask Tom Clancy if he'd mind. (Of course, he used the funds to help buy part of the Baltimore Orioles. What a waste of money.) Lisa, my concern with Nuclear Trump is that it's more about the Missile Crisis but misses the pre-World War II stuff. Mary, thanks much for your contrarian opinion. We'll see.

Alan Orloff said...

I'd combine #2 and 4: Twice on the Brink (of War).

Keith Raffel said...

Thanks, Sue Ann. This title business is never easy, is it? Hope you watched the embedded video. A real upper with Ringo and friends (Elton John, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, et al.) to start the day!

Darrell James said...

Hmmm, let's see, October Sky has been taken, Hunt for Red October... How about: Eve of Destruction (maybe Barry McGuire won't mind.)

Okay, I admitted on Jessie's post yesterday that I'm terrible at titles. I do like short, punchy titles best.

Kathleen Ernst said...

On first glance I liked "Two Times on the Brink" and I like "Twice on the Brink" even better. Most books would only get a character on the brink once, so yours must be good!

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Jeanine said...

The Pandora Effect

Keith Raffel said...

Alan, Kathleen, and Sue Ann, Twice at the Edge or Twice on the Brink? Maybe, maybe. Darrell, Eve of Destruction? Perhaps the reading public will thinks it's an economics text which might be good for sales! Jeanine, good ideas! Did you ever read Armageddon by Leon Uris? Don't remember much except that I liked it.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Just got word that my Odelia #6 will be titled "Twice as Dead" - no wonder I was drawn to Twice at the Edge.

Alan Orloff said...


Anonymous said...

My suggestion is October and October. There isn't another title like it on the shelf anywhere, and it's interesting enough to make people want to pick it up to see why it would have such a title.

Beth Groundwater said...

How about a play on the famous line from the play, Henry V, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends.."?

Twice More Into the Breach

Alice Loweecey said...

Brinksmanship. The others don't catch my eye, but that one did immediately.

Keith Raffel said...

Paul, I kind of like that. Sue Ann, on the one hand, I'm always a little behind you. OTOH, that's not a bad place to be. Beth, the quote is a good idea. Alice, one thing that worries me about Brinksmanship is that it can be said Brinkmanship as well. Think that's a problem?

Keith Raffel said...

I came across at Thomas Merton quote: "October is a fine and dangerous season in America...." So what about "A Fine and Dangerous Season" with the Merton quote as an epigraph?

Darrell James said...

Kieth- I like this last idea! Yes!

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith - I think that's the one. Or even just, Dangerous Season

cncbooks said...

Well, I guess I'll be a bit contrarian, too. When I first read your post, my immediate reaction to "Two Octobers" was "Wow, great title!" If I saw it on the shelf, I'd have to pick it up to find out what this book is about and, for a bookseller, it begs for display on the cashwrap.

Lelia Taylor

Keith Raffel said...

Hmm. I'm really confused now. Maybe Two Octobers is better than I thought. (And October and October is a nice riff.) A late entrant, A Fine and Dangerous Season has generated enthusiasm. If Lisa has to look up Brinkmanship, that's a problem. Twice at the Edge or Twice on the Brink seem to work as well, but maybe I'll leave the twices to Sue Ann.

I really appreciate everyone's help. I do get by with a little help from my friends. Thanks!