Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Adventures in Self-Publishing: A Rose By Any Other Name...

One of the fun but frustrating things about self-publishing is the complete control one has over one's books.

Titles, for instance.  Most published authors will tell you that the working title they use for their manuscript is often not the title that ends up on the published book. By the time agents, editors, and marketing experts have given their input, the title may be changed to something "more commercial."

Not so when self-publishing.

I can call my book anything I want.  But is that a good thing?

My first self-published book is doing quite well, three weeks into the project.  Its title, "The Honeymoon Cottage," I think might be helping it a bit.  That wasn't the book's original title. The Pajaro Bay romantic suspense series books all had, at one time, titles that kind-of "fit" together: Off the Deep End, In Deep Water, Under the Boardwalk, Out of the Blue, Overboard, etc.  But when I was reworking Off the Deep End, I realized that the title The Honeymoon Cottage fit the story much better, and conveyed the atmosphere of the book.

Now I'm working on the next book in the series, In Deep Water. Hmm. This book was originally called Shady's Lady, because there's a dog in the book called Shady, and it seemed like a catchy title. But along the way the name In Deep Water came along and it has been called that ever since. So, do I stick with In Deep Water, do I change it back to Shady's Lady, or come up with something completely different? If I had a marketing team, I could ask them.  But I don't, so I'm trying to imagine what cover image and title would best convey the mood of the book.

How do you decide on titles? If you are self-publishing, or working with a small press, have you given thought to changing your title to be more "commercial"?  If you have worked with a larger publisher, have they changed your titles?

What titles have caught your eye recently? And how important is a title, anyway?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this perplexing topic.


Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Hi, Barb! I am so enjoying your blogs about your self-publishing journey!

Titles--gah! I usually change my title half a dozen times, often circling back to the original title.

But I've also discovered the flexibility (kind of) in changing titles and covers if they aren't generating interest.

Also as you asked, is this a good thing or not? Well, I've sometimes wished for that marketing team you spoke of. My first three books received new titles, new covers and a new author name (I decided to write under a pseudonym) when I got the rights back. This gave me the chance to market them in a different way when they were re-issued, and I'm also planning another marketing push this summer with these books.

However, I've also made it clear by noting on the cover that these books were released under a previous title and author name. I don't want readers to pick these books up and become angry because they have already read them under a different title.

Thank you for sharing your self-publishing journey! I'm learning a lot!

Deborah Wright said...

Great post, Barb. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my titles.

I've worked on some projects where the title came to me as soon as I had the initial idea for the story. Most of the time, though, I struggle to come up with a title that works and that doesn't sound dorky or cliched. My original title for The Lazarus Gambit was The Lazarus Equation, but that didn't really work with the story. For awhile I considered The Lazarus Con, but that seemed way too modern, besides also not quite fitting the story.

I really like both The Honeymoon Cottage and Shady's Lady as titles. If the books were heavier on the suspense side, the other titles would work, but I think what you're going with actually sound fresher, if that makes sense.

Meggan McQuaid said...

I'm enjoying these self-pub-journey blogs, too. Very much.

I like my current title, "The Wooing of Sadie Witherspoon," more than the others for this story. I think the title should convey the mood/tone/theme of the story as much as possible. Also, I Google/Amazon my title ideas so they're not in too much competition.

Once, when I was trying to name a character, I did a Facebook questionnaire. It worked out really well. I think if I were ever really stuck on this, I would compile a list and ask a bunch of people which title was most appealing, without telling them anything about the story. That way, I'd have a list of appealing titles and could then choose the one that fit all my criteria best.

I like Shady's Lady better, because of the alliteration, and because I like the word "lady." But I have another suggestion..."In Deep Water" is hard to say, the rhythm of it is odd. If the tone of it is better--because of the suspensefulness of the story--I would play with those words a little to find a new title. Here are some top-of-my-head suggestions.

Deep Water
Lost Footing
Watery Abyss
Shady Water
Deep Shade

I have been studying the science/art of naming for many years, and I feel that it really is very important. Make sure it feels right on your tongue, conveys the meaning you intend, and has some alliteration or that thing where the vowels match, "assonance," or just some great flow to it. There should be something memorable and enjoyable about saying the name.

Christine Young said...

when I decide on titles I look for a link to a part of the book. Sometimes I have title block and nothing seems write. My first published book had the working title, Dakota's Bride. I didn't really care that much for the title. It seemed like a cliche. But I figured they would change the title anyway. When Kate Duffy bought the book and I asked about a change for the title. She said, "Don't fix something that isn't broke." And the title remained Dakota's Bride.