on January 18, 2007


Carolyn, please email me your snail mail address at allison @ (no spaces) and I’ll send you an early copy of SPEAK NO EVIL!

Okay, I didn’t pick Carolyn’s title, I randomly drew her name from all who commented last Thursday on my NAME THAT BOOK! blog. THANK YOU everyone for your help! I loved the suggestions. So much, I couldn’t narrow it down to three. If my editor picks a title that someone gave me, that person will also get something 🙂 I just don’t know when.

Anyway, here are the titles I’m sending in:


The top two are my favorites, but I like the others as well. And Jake is right–keeping EVIL in the title might help with brand recognition. Though this is the title of my story in the anthology, not the anthology itself.

Now, getting back to business . . . what IS in a title?


Marketing can nix a title. Sales can nix a title. Book buyers can nix a title. All it takes is one important person who hates it, and the title is gone. That’s why so much thought goes into deciding book titles. They’re not usually pulled out of the universe and tacked onto the book.

THE PREY had five titles. My title (THE COPYCAT KILLER). My agent didn’t like it, so re-titled it DEAD LETTERS when she sent out submissions. Ballantine bought the book and immediate told me to start thinking about titles. They ended up picking a title: KILLING SECRETS. I had that for quite awhile before they said we needed to change it because it was too similar to another title coming out at the same time. And, they wanted three connecting titles. So back to the drawing board and I enlisted the Title Queen Kate Perry to help.

Because both Kate and I loved THE HUNT as a title, we tried to come up with ideas around that book. Kate came up with THE CHASE, THE HUNT and THE KILL. I loved it, submitted that idea, and my editor loved it, marketing loved it, sales loved it. They stuck!

For awhile.

But the art department didn’t like THE CHASE on the cover. It was too soft sounding. And because the word was longer than the other two, it didn’t look right when the three titles were side by side.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to do anything. The powers that be picked THE PREY and asked if I liked it. I did. (Frankly, at this point I would have said yes to anything!)

BTW, a little bit of trivia. When THE PREY was called KILLING SECRETS, I had two working titles for the other two books. THE HUNT would have been KILLING SEASON (which I still love!) and THE KILL would have been KILLING JUDGMENT. Maybe those titles will come back some day . . .

Anyway, titles are as important as cover art. The two need to work together to sell the book. Because let’s face it, we (who read this blog) are not normal readers. We know a lot more about the business, we read avariciously, we love books. We look at a lot of things beyond the front cover when making book selections. But the average bookstore browser needs to be wowed by the cover–the title needs to be compelling, the cover needs to reflect the genre, and they need to work together to sell the book.

Sol Stein said that he was observing the patterns of bookstore buyers in a NY bookstore one lunch hour. While his original point was to show that when people picked up a book, they would often read the first 2-3 pages and either put the book back or buy it.

But go a step further. What made them pick up the book in the first place? The author’s name, the title, and/or the cover. Often buyers purchase based on a list of titles–the often don’t even see the cover art.

BTW, I learned something new in this business. While the cover art itself needs to reflect the genre and tone of the book (to meet reader expectations–though the blurb is also important), the title doesn’t matter. The title doesn’t have to have anything to do with the story. I think that’s why we have a lot of generic titles that appeal to our emotions rather than reflect the story.

Now let me ask you: Do titles matter in your selection of a book? When you hear a title, do you think, “Oh, that sounds good!” Or is it the combination of the title and the cover that’s most important? Or does a title not even matter?