I’ve actually had good luck with inventing titles lately. I named my critique partner’s two latest books, and both titles have been accepted by her publisher. But I haven’t named my own published books. My editor at Simon Pulse came up with the title of my latest book, THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, while we were still discussing the proposal, before I ever wrote a word of Chapter 1. I named my first book QUEEN GEEK because the heroine was the first female drum major of her high school marching band. (This was before I’d ever heard of Frank Portman’s KING DORK, I promise.) But another book named QUEEN GEEK was purchased by a publisher a few weeks before mine. So a chick in the marketing department at Simon Pulse came up with the title MAJOR CRUSH. I absolutely love this title, and at my editor’s request, I renamed a character in the book after the marketing chick as a thank-you. (Hint: This character’s boyfriend in the book is named Gator after a kid my son was in kindergarten with. The marketing chick should consider herself lucky that I was not feeling more mischievous. I went to high school with a boy named Booger.)
And I can’t say I’m surprised my editor wants me to change the title of BOY IN BLUE. It’s extremely common for editors to ask authors to come up with new titles for their books--or to simply rename the books without consulting the author at all. My friend Kelley St. John was consulted, but her editor turned down 84 of her titles (read them here!) before renaming her first book GOOD GIRLS DON’T.
In this spirit, I’ve forwarded my editor a list of 40 or so titles invented by me, my critique partners, and my writing buddies. I didn’t include two by my six-year-old: RED WHITE AND BLUE LIGHTS (which makes sense--he knows what a police car looks like) and ROCKET BLAST (which makes no sense whatsoever unless you are six-year-old boy who lives for seeing things crash and explode. No rocket blasts in the book? Doesn’t matter. ROCKET BLAST will sell sell sell!).
But I fully expect my editor to say no to every one of my new titles. None of them are really jumping out at me. And I do have a bit of anxiety while waiting. The title may help determine the cover, and the cover is the most important component of a book that sells well, other than the book itself. Which will look most appealing to a reader: the cop angle? I'm guessing my editor thinks not. The night angle? The crime angle? The romance angle? (I love the cover of NICK & NORAH’s INFINITE PLAYLIST--the black and white blurry photograph of them kissing on the hardback edition, not the purple paperback.) The fact that the heroine is missing out on her dream of spring break at the beach? The titles I sent consider these possibilities and more.
But with wonderful MTV titles coming out soon like I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE and WHAT HAPPENS HERE, I have confidence that mine will be just as provocative and creative, whether I thought of it or not.
What are some titles you love--for your books or someone else’s? And where do your titles come from?