What makes you pick up a new book? Usually it’s the title that catches my eye first.

Here are some titles that have resulted in the discovery of a great story: The Crossing Places (Elly Griffiths), Though Not Dead (Dana
Stabenow), Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters), She Walks These Hills (Sharon McCrumb), and many, many more. I’m sure when  I blow out the kerosene lantern I’m going to remember several I should have listed. And it would be interesting to see what titles you like.

But this is more about the difficulty in catching just the right title for your own work. What an impossible thing. I’ve recently sent a story off for editing, with no title. Here are a couple failed ideas.

There’s a line in the story about a small house up against a canyon wall, with rocks scattered on its roof ‘like some weird mountain rain’. I love that line and thought ‘Mountain Rain’, great title! Until I realized that this is part of the ‘Mountain Mystery series’, which is just way too many mountains. The title and subtitle could almost form a mountain range on their own.

Then I thought about the name of some liquid libation that shows up in the story: Silver Mist. Because the liquid is distilled in a silver mining area. But honestly that title did nothing for me.

So I’m still wandering around waiting for inspiration. The right title will show up eventually. In the meantime, I’m pondering what makes a good title. Why one works and another doesn’t.

In some ways it’s obvious. A book called Encrypted won’t be picked up by me. Neither will Lady Sophia’s Rescue (but my sister will snap that one up). So the title clues me in that the book is a genre I like to read. Like I said, obvious.

Yet there are a lot of mystery titles I don’t pick up. So just as obviously, the title is simply luck of the draw. There’s something in the words that I as a reader respond to. The mystery reader standing next to me might pass up the same book I just felt an urge to read.

If it’s all so arbitrary  then why is it so hard to come up with a title? Seems like it should be the easiest part. Or at least a little easier than writing the whole story to begin with.

I wonder if anyone has ever titled their book, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’

Some more titles

Some more titles

13 thoughts on “Titles

  1. As I said on Facebook, “pick me pick me” would be an awesome title since I think nobody could resist picking it up indeed to look whats it about.
    I think what is so hard in picking a title is that it is your “baby” and you want something that fits 100%. Just like your child… people are searching forever for the perfect name. It just has to fit. And you are right, we both know this, every title speaks differently to people. The ones that come to my mind right now are “Life as we knew it” for scaring me and changing my look on life, “Return to Crow Lake” with my favorite topic of siblings sticking together, “Secret Daughter” which intrigued me with its combination of story and fact. But the one you would never pick up Lisa is a German book I loved so much for a long time. Translated it would maybe be something like “One who promised love”. Haha indeed it is a great love story as you all might guess with that title.
    I actually like the title “Silver Mist” a lot. It sounds mysterious and it has several meanings in the story, very important too! I would pick that one up with a name like that!
    Silver can have several meanings in a story. It could be an indication for the color, the mined silver, it could be a name or mean jewelery in a way. Silver is shiny but combined with Mist it is not so shiny anymore. and mist is not like fog or rain, I think mist in itself is already mysterious…


    • Now this is just funny. Two people liking the title I had dismissed. Okay, so I have good taste in friends and bad taste in titles! Life As We Knew It was a fantastic book and thanks for reminding me of it. That title caught me right away. And our stories are our babies; you’re right. So it makes sense thinking about it that way, that naming is hard. Though I had no problem naming my child. Since he’s the 4th generation with the same name. And we never thought we might need a girl’s name until I was on my way to the hospital…


  2. The titles almost always come first for me. They inspire me and guide my wondering mind to share what it is I want to share. Sometimes more than I want to share. Of course I do not create mystery novels as you do so very well.


  3. I’m rotten at picking titles. I have held contests to pick titles for my books. The darn thing is, I agree with you. The title is the very first thing that will cause me to pause and consider reading a book — unless someone I know has said, “You MUST read this author!!”. As a reader, I count on the title to clue me in as to the feel of the book. I’m generally delighted if I find out the title somehow works into the story or theme, and have been known to spend a good deal of time after I’ve finished the book pondering all the implications in the title.

    As for the cover … well, it will not so much draw me in as drive me away. It’s probably one of the reasons I love ebooks — I don’t have to be embarrassed by someone else’s cover decision when I find a book I want to read. Also, I suspect I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to advertise what world I’m lost in when I read in public.

    I like “Silver Mist” a lot. It evokes mystery and something more that has me very curious. I adored The Memory Keeper, and honestly, once I’m hooked on an author they could number their books and I wouldn’t care (oh wait, someone has already done that! 😉 )


    • It’s interesting that you like ‘Silver Mist’. For those reading comments, Susan is the author of the Thea Campbell mystery series and is currently editing my sequel. I’m wondering if you’ll still like that title after you read the full story. It didn’t do much for me as it didn’t seem to tell the reader anything about the story. Now that I think about it though, if I can make the cover art work with the headstone in the forest, that might work as a title. See, I would have just dismissed it. I’m clueless. And I agree that cover art can drive a reader away.


  4. I’m awful with titles too, though I’ve definitely picked up books based on theirs. Examples of books I liked: Not All Tarts Are Apple (Pip Granger), Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (Anne Tyler), The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley). Um, I’ve just realized these all have to do with food. Sigh. Must I be so transparent? ;b


    • Covers do catch my eye. I wish book shelves had enough space that books could be displayed for the cover instead of the spine. That’s one of the advantages of e-books and thumbnails!


  5. I am in love with the title of my last novel, What Would Water Do. Probably too much in love, if you know what I mean, like when you write something good but it takes you far, far too long to get rid of that one overly-precious line. Or is it just me? The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. I guess I see a theme in what attracts me to a title, thanks to you: I like too-long titles that are sort of silly.


    • I would pick your book up based on the title. I feel the need to find out what the answer is! Just what would water do? To your list I’d add The Cat Who Walked Through Walls. It seems to fit your list!


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