By Beth Groundwater
Okay, I'm fessing up. I really suck at picking book titles. Thank goodness others have stepped in to suggest better titles for me. My first title boo-boo was for the book that is now titled A Real Basket Case. Since the protagonist is a gift basket designer in her menopausal late forties and she was suffering from the empty nest and mid-life marital malaise, I titled the manuscript Mid-life Crisis. Boring! I queried multiple literary agents and none were the slightest bit interested.
Then an astute critique partner suggested that I focus on the cozy craft series potential for the manuscript and give it a title related to the sleuth's occupation. So, title attempt number two was Basket Case. After making some other changes, the most important being moving chapter three forward to be chapter one, I hooked my first agent, who sold the book, and the series, to Five Star Publishing. Then I went looking for similar mystery titles on Amazon and found Carl Hiaason's Basket Case and Ralph McInerny's Basket Case. I wasn't going to try to compete with those two! So, after some brain-storming with my Five Star editor, we settled on the title of A Real Basket Case.
After a successful title pick with the second book in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series, To Hell in a Handbasket, I was back in the dog house with another lame choice. This was for the first book in my now-titled RM Outdoor Adventures series, which my second agent sold to Midnight Ink (who then promptly picked up my Claire Hanover series, too). I thought alliteration would be interesting, so I titled the first book (released as Deadly Currents) as Wicked Whitewater and the second book as Evil Eddies.
Midnight Ink’s sales staff nixed those titles for a couple of reasons. First, they felt alliterative titles were more for cozy mystery series, not soft-boiled series. Second, with my proposed series name (the Whitewater River Ranger series), the blurb for the first book would have been, “Wicked Whitewater, the first book in the Whitewater River Ranger series written by Beth Groundwater.” There were just too many “waters” in that! After asking my editor three times if Beth Groundwater was my real name and if I was willing to use an alias (yes and no), they changed it to “Deadly Currents, the first book in the RM Outdoor Adventures series written by Beth Groundwater.”
Again, I managed to squeak out a winning title for the second book in the series. I kept the Wicked and the Eddies and tacked those two together to be the title of my May release, Wicked Eddies. But, I struck out again on my proposed title for the third book in the series. Since it is set in Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River in Utah, a well-known, challenging whitewater run, I suggested the title of Cataract Canyon. (I have trouble with alliteration, don't I?)
Titles are sooo important, because they give readers a quick glimpse into what the book is going to be about. The title is your first--and often only--chance to hook a reader into purchasing the book. It has to really rock! Not really suck--like many of my title choices do. I've almost gotten to the point of throwing up my hands and turning in book manuscripts untitled. I'm ready to let others who have a better eye for sales and marketing pin a label on my books. I'll focus on the characters and the story instead.
Do you have a book title story to share? I hope you will, in the comments!