by Maria Geraci
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Everyone recognizes Shakespeare's famous line from Romeo and Juliet. And in theory, I have to agree with the Bard. What truly matters is what something is, not what it's called. The fact that we've been programmed to think of a rose as beautiful and sweet smelling and a weed as ugly and nasty is part of our own life experiences. The reality of what something is, is mixed with the name we know it by.
Being in the business of writing books that I hope will sell (and sell big) however, I have to give a lot of credence to titles. Titles are a reader's (consumer's) first perception of what a book is and what it's about and can install either a negative or a positive reaction in the reader. If the reaction is positive, then the reader might pick up your book (or scroll down the screen) to find out more about your novel. But if it's negative, your novel might not even get that chance. In this highly competitive market, your book needs all the chances it can to connect with readers. This is why I spend a lot of time thinking about my titles. I admit, most times, I think of my title even before I really know what my book is about. Titles come to me in my sleep or in both my conscious and subconscious thinking in much the same way story ideas do. Even if I don't get to keep my title (this happened to me only once, with my debut book) the title still forms the basis of the story and the story builds on that title. Which might seem kind of backward to some people, but not to me.
So what makes a good title?
First off, it should reflect the story. I really hate when a title seems disjointed from the story it's attached to. A title should also reflect the genre you write in. Big Bad Mother from Outer Space wouldn't be a typical women's fiction title (although on second thought, it does have a certain appeal, but you get my drift.) Titles should be catchy. They should be original yet also have some hint of familiarity that resonates with us. Here are a few novels that over the years have caught my eye based on the title alone:
When Dashing Met Danger Historical regency romance. It sounds sexy and fun, and it is.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Okay, so this was a film, but really. How brilliant is this title?
Good in Bed One of the best titles ever. Jennifer Weiner, I hate you :)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet I've already got a tear in my eye just from the cover and title on this book.
Little Women I had to put this in here because I love this book so much.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Love in the Time of Cholera You have no idea how much I want to do a rip off version of this title. Still working on it...
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies So not everyone loved it, but I did.
The Devil Wears Prada Great book, but better movie.
I could go on... but you get my drift. What are some of your favorite titles? Have you ever bought a book based solely on the title?