Embarrassing Titles

True story.

So one of my co-workers at my nice, new, ultra-conservative job comes up to me. "I hear you're a published author," she gushes. "That's great! What kind of book is it?"

Since I've already gotten into the whole Pocket-is-the-imprint-not-the-size debate, I just smile and say "Oh, it's a romance."

"What's the title?"

You could practically hear crickets chirping. I mean, how to answer that?

1) "It's called Sex Starved." Followed by strange co-worker looks.
2) "It's called Sex Starved because it's about a girl that has to have sex to live. HA HA. Isn't that funny?" Followed by strange co-worker looks.
3) "Um, I don't know. Marketing gets to pick the title."

Guess which one I went with? That's right.

See, once upon a time I was talking to someone (possibly my sister) and they mentioned that some book had a 'sex-starved vampire' in it. And immediately, little sirens went off in my head and I thought, What a friggin awesome title for a book! The entire concept of Sex Starved wasn't born for several months later, but I can say with sincerity that the book was a title first, then a story.

Thing is, titles are funny (punny?) creatures. We, as writers, can spend MONTHS agonizing over just the right title. Sometimes it comes to you in a fit of brilliance...and then ometimes you just stick it with something so you don't have to call it "Working Manuscript #3". All of this drama over the title is 90% wasted, though.

Titles are picked by marketing. Or your editor. Usually not by you.

That's right. You have very little say over what your book will be called, just like you have very little say over what your cover will look like.

I got lucky - my editor (and marketing) love the title Sex Starved. The next book? To follow the punny, it's called Sex Drive. I'm hoping the third (should it ever be acquired) would be Sex Fiend. Those titles are a brand, no matter how awkward it might be to me to try and explain to my relatives over Thanksgiving dinner. And it's a good brand. It stands out in a crowd (which is what I wanted) and it cleverly ties in with the book (again, what I wanted).

Not everyone is so lucky. Remember all those Zebra romances in the eighties? Love's Passionate Fury? Love's Savage Splendor? Yeah, ten bucks says they weren't writing this book and thought "My god, this would be perfect if it had a vague, swoony romance name!" I always wonder if Cassie Edwards cusses when she hears her newest title. "Savage what? #&%$ marketing!" (I bet not - I've heard she's really classy)

Anyhow, my point is that when you see a strange, or obvious title, you shouldn't mock the author. It's a brand name like "Cheerios". But instead of a tasty breakfast treat, it's "Her Cowboy's Secret Baby".

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