Monday, February 4, 2008

Title Me

I’m not talking about Sirs and Dames. I’m talking about book titles.

I often speculate about why an author (or publisher) titled a book a certain way. Some titles are obvious like Memoirs of a Geisha or The Time Traveler’s Wife, but others keep me stumped until halfway through a book, “Aha. That’s it.” Sometimes the reasoning is not clear until the last page. I always feel very clever when I figure it out. It's fun to come across a double (In Her Shoes or Disobedience) or even triple meaning (I know there must be some, but I can’t think of any right now!)
Some of my favorite titles (Great books, great titles—the meanings unclear until close to the end):

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Second Glance, by Jodi Picoult
The Ice Chorus, by Sarah Stonich

For weeks I’ve been searching for a new title for my WIP. The perfect few words that will sum up 75,000 and entice a reader to pick up my book (when it actually lands on a B&N or Borders table). In truth, it’s more important for the title to entice an agent at this point; I’m aware titles often change after reaching the publisher’s desk.

Since my WIP is set at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, I wanted a title to incorporate the setting, without sounding non-fiction-y. The Bodleian’s nickname is Bodders or The Bod. But the titles using Bod in the title sounded like, well, bodice rippers as one of my critique partners pointed out. Since I don’t write bodice rippers (my characters never take their clothes off--my mom will read the book!) that reference was out.

Thanks to my critique partners for the great suggestions. After much agonizing (too much probably), the winner: A Night at the Bodleian. (Thanks Pamela!)


pamela hammonds said...

I think as the author you are simply too close to the work to see the obvious choice for the title. Or we just plain try too hard. I know I agonized over mine and even queried a few agents with a horrible title before deciding on a better one. And still, if someone would suggest something different, I'd very likely change it without hesitation.

Joan Mora said...

Good point about being too close.
I would have a hard time changing The Cemetery Garden, but if I'm faced with that, I'll be so thrilled about being published I'd give in!