March 2016

What's in a Name?

You've heard the expression, "You can't judge a book by its cover." Yet, despite this admonition, publishers and authors pay a great deal of attention to cover design. Is it intriguing? Is it compelling? Cover art can become distinctive branding for series or even authors themselves. But as important as a cover might be for attracting readers, a title is what lives on long after the dust jacket has disintegrated into, well, dust.

Who can ever forget such classics as
The High-Bouncing Lover, Fiesta, The Last Man in Europe, and Tote the Weary Load? How many readers wouldn't have bothered to pick them up if not for these catchy titles? Had other choices prevailed, the books we know so well by these all-to-familiar names could have been long forgotten. Each title so perfectly captures its story that you find it difficult to conceive of them otherwise.

Which brings me to my own title experience. For the last year I've been writing a sequel to my Washington DC thriller,
The 13th Target. I thought Rusty Mullins was investigating A Most Intelligent Murder, the title I'd created at the story's inception. But a funny thing happened along the way. The story decided it wanted to go in another direction, one leading to national and even global consequences. The cover design captured that, but the title didn't. So, although the story contains a most intelligent murder, my editor suggested The Singularity Race as more accurately describing the driving force behind Rusty Mullins' dangerous investigation.

Does the title make a difference? Stay tuned for the Fall 2016 release when we'll find out. Meanwhile, read or re-read one of the four classics I've mentioned and think how other title options could have ruined these literary treasures. Imagine picking up F. Scott Fitzgerald's
The High-Bouncing Lover burdened with the title The Great Gatsby, or Ernest Hemingway's Fiesta as The Sun Also Rises, or George Orwell's The Last Man in Europe with the innocuous title 1984, and finally Margaret Mitchell's Civll War epic Tote The Weary Load if christened the imminently forgettable Gone With The Wind. Yes, these titles were actually in the running.

What's in a name? Sometimes, everything.