I’m looking for a title. I did have one, but my publisher doesn’t think it works. It doesn’t matter what it was because it doesn’t exist any more but it was one I’ve been living with since I began writing at the beginning of the year when it defined the story for me. However when she described the negative reactions of her colleagues to it and their reasons, I began to see what she meant. There was little point in fighting for it when the people taking it into the world didn’t think it would work.
So how important is it to get the right title for your novel? I’d say very. The title is a vital selling tool. It’s the first thing to make an impression on any potential reader. It needs to pique their interest, make them want to know more. So it’s got to be arresting or intriguing, and make your book stand out of the crowd. The Madness of a Seduced Woman, A Woman’s Guide to Adultery, I Don’t Know How She Does It, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café – they all did it. But so does Stoner, The Poisonwood Bible or Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship. At least, I think so.
The title should convey something of the content of the book – whether you use a phrase, an object, a name, an event, whatever. Although I have once been told that this isn’t true, that if the title’s good enough it doesn’t matter about how much it reflects the content. I don’t think this was a joke.
But how do you find the right one, the crowd pleaser? Sometimes they just float unbidden out of the ether. Sometimes they’re to be found hiding in the text. Sometimes someone else suggests one. And sometimes they’re the result of weeks of thought, argument, slog and despair.
The problem I’m finding is that all this is very subjective. As with everything else in life, we bring our own baggage to interpreting what’s put in front of us. Different words and phrases have different connotations for different people. It’s hard sometimes to explain or justify one’s preference for one title over another. You just respond differently. And that’s why deciding a title by committee can never please everyone.
My list of new possibilities is growing. Some are better than others. But somewhere in there must be the one that will please me, reflect the book, and appeal to the publishers. All I have to do is find it.