Guest blogger: Susanne Bellamy
What’s in a name?
As Shakespeare wrote: What’s in a name?
When my son was born, we felt the weight of naming him and the need to get it just right. Nurses kept asking us if we had named ‘the baby’ yet and we shook our heads. After three days and several attempts, we were finally able to answer Yes. His name felt right.
Authors are like parents with a newborn, crooning over their creation and in love with their ‘baby’. And like parents, we have the difficult task of naming our book baby. Titles are generally chosen by publishers, which can be a good thing. Consider how different our perceptions of To Kill a Mockingbird could be if Harper Lee had published it under the earlier working title of Atticus or F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby had emerged as Trimalchio in West Egg. While the first might have worked I suspect the only egg might have been on Fitzgerald’s face!
But for those of us who are hybrid authors (i.e., we have books with both a publisher and self-published works), we are so involved in creating our stories that it can be almost impossible to step back, assess our writing and encapsulate it within a brief phrase. Publishers have marketing staff whose job is to understand what resonates with readers and the ability to consider our book baby objectively. Indie or self-published titles are the responsibility of the author.
Titles have to earn their keep. They not only catch the browser’s attention but also set up reader expectations about content. Effective titles should also provide a good idea of the type and genre of writing, for example ‘Shifter Magic’ and ‘Twilight’ could only be paranormal, while ‘The Billionaire’s Christmas Surprise’ should be no surprise to us as readers!
Given that the title is often the first contact readers have with an author’s work, it is important to get it right.
My Harlequin Escape release began life as a work-in-progress called ‘Merger in Melbourne’. I liked the alliterative effect but was told to aim for a more ‘high concept’ title so renamed it ‘Besting the CEO’. This made use of the gerund (-ing form of the verb) and the hero’s occupation. Then my publisher came up with ‘Betting on the Boss’. (same pattern but with alliteration added.) My editor suggested a change after first round edits and finally we had Engaging the Enemy!
It’s clever on so many levels, not least of which is that it picks up on modern Romeo and Juliet elements, feuding families and all!
Series names present a different challenge. When it came to naming my new rural series, geographical setting seemed most appropriate and Hearts of the Outback graces the cover of each book. For the wary Doctor Middleton, Just One Kiss was all it took, although it took him a while to give in.
My wonderful husband was my sounding board for book two. As I outlined the darker plot and setting, suspicious death, and an orphaned baby, he came up with Heartbreak Homestead. A world of emotional turmoil fills the word ‘heartbreak’, and there is an apparent contradiction when it is set beside ‘homestead’, a word which implies safety and nurturing.
Long Way Home was the easiest to name; Sarah Tait sets off on an endurance ride to raise funds for a riding school for the disabled, but along the way, she learns how to deal with her past thanks to Detective Caleb Richards. Her journey is literal and figurative, external and internal, present and past.
Book four is under way, tentatively titled Winds of Change and will be available for pre-order soon. A second chance story, its hero is a soldier grappling with PTSD who is co-opted to assist his ex-girlfriend, lead actress in a mini-series being filmed in the north west of Queensland. As the title suggests, there are changes in the wind for both hero and heroine.
All love stories are a journey … not just to finding the love of one’s life but to finding something more within oneself. Naming that journey is an important aspect.
What titles are your favourites?
Long Way Home
The first time they met Detective Caleb Richards snapped handcuffs on Sarah Tait and she vowed never to forgive him. But when he seeks her help to find a kidnapped thoroughbred stallion she becomes his unwilling assistant.
Sarah sets out on a marathon endurance ride. As Caleb tags along, he realises that the horse whisperer has deeper secrets than he’d ever suspected.
Can he uncover Sarah’s secrets and win her trust?