Thursday, June 03, 2010

Book Titles


As I’ve said before on this blog and elsewhere, I love good titles. I know I’m in a minority, but a good title on a book is far more likely to earn the work a second look by me than is a good cover. If the cover is interesting I may look at it and no further. But if the title is good I’ll always open the book to have a look inside.

As far as my own longer works go, Writing in Psychology was a natural in nonfiction but Write With Fire was tough to come up with. I spent close to a week trying out and discarding different titles on that book, but in the end I’m pretty happy with the one I chose.

With fiction, the Taleran books were pretty easy to title. I wanted a format that was in keeping with common practice in Sword and Planet fiction, such as Warlord of Mars or A Sword for Kregen. Cold in the Light seemed a natural title for a horror thriller, and Bitter Steel is a title for a heroic fantasy collection that I’ve had in my mind since graduate school. My vampire haiku chapbook was harder. I wanted something to evoke the sense of the vampire, and also suggest a certain eroticism. I ended up choosing Wanting the Mouth of Lover, which was a title I’d already used years before on a vampire short story. My image today is the cover of Wanting the Mouth of a Lover by the way, which was drawn by the Lovely Lana.

Now I’m struggling with a title again. And this one, too, is going to be for a collection of vampire material, in this case short stories. My original choice for a title was Holocaust in Rosary, which is the title of one poem in the collection. I like that title a lot but I’m worried that it might be a bit misleading. Here’s part of my problem. Although there will be some pretty nasty vampires in the collection, the majority of the stories feature more of the romantic/erotic kind of vampire made popular by writers like Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton. These are the kinds of vampires that were popular and selling when I first started writing vampire fiction in the 1990s. “Holocaust” seems to suggest a bit more bloodthirstiness than will be evident in the book, although “Rosary” certainly seems to soften the edge a bit.

A second issue, and one I’d like some feedback on, is that I believe this is the first book of mine that could be more popular with women than with men. Now, I hope I don’t get blasted for being sexist. I know plenty of women who like hardcore horror fiction and who read sword and sorcery and hard boiled noir fiction. However, I still think the readership for books like the Talera novels is more likely to be male, while I know a lot more females who read Rice and Hamilton. I hope my collection will appeal to both genders, but the core of the material seems closer, to me, to the kind of fiction that is more popular among women.

That being said, I have to wonder whether “Holocaust in Rosary” is the kind of title that might appeal to women, or if I should try something different. Here are some possibilities that I’ve been thinking of. Anyone have a preference?

HOLOCAUST IN ROSARY
MIDNIGHT IN ROSARY
BLOOD IN ROSARY
MIDNIGHT IN CRIMSON
MIDNIGHT IN RED
MOUTH TORN WITH SORROW

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37 comments:

David J. West said...

"Holocaust" brings a resonance with it that I think would work against you and Rosary just isn't enough to soften it.

Any of the Midnight titles in contrast should resonate with potential readers much stronger.
I personally like "Midnight in Crimson" best. I love evocative titles.

Shauna Roberts said...

I agree with David West that "rosary" doesn't soften "holocaust" enough.

I too like the "midnight" titles, and again like David, I like "Midnight in Crimson" best. "Red" just doesn't stand up to near-synonyms such as crimson, vermillion, cardinal, scarlet, ruby, and claret, all of which have so many more resonances.

Charles Gramlich said...

David J. West, Yeah, I was a little afraid of the connection of Holocaust with the Jewish Holocaust, when I really am speaking just of the word and its normal usage. But that's about what I was thinking of.

Shauna, hum, Midnight Claret has a ring to it. Thanks for the input.

BernardL said...

Midnight in Crimson

jodi said...

Charles, please do NOT use Holocaust in your title. It's imagery is so negatively formed by the event. I love the, "Midnight in Rosary", and "Midnight in Crimson" title options!

Richard Prosch said...

The "blood rosary" is a specific kind of Catholic prayer bead -you can find them on eBay. But I like the juxtaposition of holy/horror in the title. Jennifer MacPherson has a book of poems called "Rosary of Bones," --which sounds cool.

Steve Malley said...

My personal favorite is Mouth Torn in Sorrow. Just resonates. I think you're most likely to actually *sell* one of the Midnights, either Crimson or Rosary.

I'm a big fan of titles too. Once I picked up a book with an AWESOME title: Rules of the Knife Fight. I couldn't wait to read it.

Turned out to be some boring courtroom drama. Bleh.

Heff said...

A book COVER often does more for me than a title, but I'm weird that way.

"MIDNIGHT IN ROSARY"

laughingwolf said...

rosary-torn mouth[?]

invokes all kinds of possibilities...

Cinnamon said...

Midnight in Crimson is my favourite!

G said...

I'm partial towards the word "Midnight" but perhaps another added word or two.

Instead of "Midnight in Crimson" how 'bout "Midnight of the Crimson Red" or "Midnight in the Crimson Red".

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't know exactly what the connection is between rosary and a holocaust so I would be puzzled. I would assume religious themes as a casual book buyer. Neither a title nor a cover sells me. It's good reviews and word of mouth.

Harry Markov said...

Midnight in Crimson is my pick as well, you know. I myself enjoy alliteration as a means to get a title, though I am sure that this method is not popular with some people.

Travis Cody said...

I like Mouth Torn in Sorrow, but only if the majority of your material is sorrowful, you know?

I think I like Midnight in Crimson best of the titles you have listed. But Shauna is also on to something with the different words for red...claret in particular.

Sarah Hina said...

For some reason, I like the simplicity of Midnight in Red. It sounds better to my ear. But Midnight in Crimson works, too.

Cloudia said...

4 or 5




Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Charles Gramlich said...

BernardL, Definitely a bit more romantic sounding, I think

jodi, I learned the meaning of the word holocaust before I ever learned about the Nazi murder of the Jews so the word doesn’t create those immediate connotations for me, but I can see why it would be disturbing to some.

Richard Prosch, yeah, I grew up Catholic and so the rosary has lots of resonance for me. I definitely like the word.

Steve Malley, I’ve used “mouth Torn in sorrow,” or with Sorrow” in a couple of poems. I like the phrase a lot.

Heff, you are in the majority there, my friend.

laughingwolf, there are definitely some neat word combinations that could be created.

Cinnamon, so far that seems to be the front runner.

G, I haven’t thought about combining more words, but I can see some possibilities. “Midnight Torn With Sorrow,”

pattinase (abbott), there is actually a bunch of Christian elements in the vampire stories in the collection. It’s certainly not a religious book per se, of course.

Harry Markov, I like alliteration, although a little goes a long way for me.

Travis Cody, the stories are quite full of pathos, although not completely. I do like that Claret.

Sarah Hina, I like “red” too. Very simple and clean, but it isn’t maybe as visually powerful as Crimson.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, thanks for your vote.

X. Dell said...

Lulu.com has, or used to have, a feature in which you could input a title, and it would tell you the odds of its book becoming a best seller. I don't know as if I'd recommend it, but it does remind me of what you're saying here: the title plays an important role in your choice of reading material.

It's kinda hard to judge a book by either its cover or its title, though.

Cold in the Light was an excellent title (IMHO) because it's counterintuitive, yet an essential component of the story. Still, I didn't buy it because of the title.

Randy Johnson said...

This one has me in a quandry. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it might be more popular with women. I'm not at all into the romantic vampire story. I made it through Interview With The Vampire(good), but got stumbled badly on The Vampire Lestat and never finished it. Or tried any other Anne Rice.

Laurell Hamilton is a different matter. I couldn't get through even one of her books.

I won't offer any thoughts on titles as I feel enormously under qualified.

Greg Schwartz said...

Cold in the Light is one of my favorite titles, because of the sharpness and juxtaposition of it.

Of the titles you listed for the new collection, I like that last one, Mouth Torn with Sorrow, the best. I think it's the most descriptive, as well as the most appealing to both genres.

You're gonna run out of titles soon, with all the books you've been putting out!

Bernita said...

Midnight in Scarlet.

AvDeeBee said...

I personally like "Blood in Rosary." But, if you're pushing towards the LKH readers, then I agree that anything with "Midnight" will work better for you, sales -wise. Of the three, I like "Midnight in Red." It's simple, and--although I don't know this for certain--there have to be a thousand vampire novels out there with the word "crimson" in the title.

"Mouth Torn with Sorrow" sounds too Japanese, like the beginning of a Haiku. And you've done that, already.

Charles Gramlich said...

X. Dell, no, I won't buy because of title either, but a good one can prompt me to look deeper into the book. Definitely important.

Randy Johnson, I did read a couple of Laurell K. Hamilton's. the first was not bad. One of the later ones I read I was reeling against the ropes by the time I finished it. But she did have some cool titles.

Greg Schwartz, yes, as soon as I put down COld in the Light I thought it was perfect for that book. this one is harder.

Bernita, something along those lines is definitely the front runner.

AvDeeBee, I looked up Midnight in crimson on gootle and didn't find any titles using it but yes, I imagine crimson is fairly common.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

I think Midnight in Red. That's the one that hits me right away. I also like Midnight in Crimson. I love titling things for some reason!

sage said...

if I never finish a book, i'll never have to worry about this problem... I like Midnight in Red (midnight in crimson might sale well in Alabama) Holcaust, to me, seems too tied to Nazis... Any Brownshirt Vampires?

Charles Gramlich said...

Michelle, I'm torn between the simplicity of red and the complex harmonies of Crimson.

Sage, there actually is a Nazi vampire in the collection. lol.

Ocean Girl said...

Midnight in Rosary. Whatever you do, don't drop Rosary. Synonyms for rosary is long and deep. Women will be drawn to it.

Rick said...

I have a feeling you're not done coming up with titles for this. They're all kind of cool, but can't you get in trouble with the Pope if use the word "rosary" in a vampire novel?

Charles Gramlich said...

Ocean girl, thanks. the term rosary has great resonance for me too. I don't know if it does for as many other people as I thought it did.

Rick, I'm expecting that the pope won't be reading my novels. Here's hoping anyway. :)

eric1313 said...

Mouth Torn With Sorrow!!!!!


That is one of the most evocative title lines I have ever read.

Hands down, i don't even need to read your page to see who thinks what. No argument could sway me to another...

Holocaust in Rosary is my next choice, but if only guided by poetics of idea, i would no doubt go with Mouth Torn with Sorrow...

Would LOVE to write a poem with the title of choice here, but it's your work to use and I would feel as though I were treading your toes in the process.

RRN said...

I like to the first instict. Always trust that first pure thought ....

Too much thinking and/or contemplation tends to lend itself to....
blowing it.

Charles Gramlich said...

eric1313, I don't mind if you use that line. I've written a poem with that line in it, and it appears in the collection. It came to me many years ago as the start of....something, but it was quite long afterward that I completed the poem.

RRN, many times you are absolutely correct. I see it a lot in my students when they erase the correct answer on tests and put in the wrong one.

cs harris said...

Not sure I'd put "sorrow" in a title. Many people don't want to read books with downer words in the title because they worry the book will make them sad.

I like Midnight (had a midnight book myself). Also like rosary, torn, crimson. Torn Crimson? I had an editor do that to me--take words from two different title suggestions and put them together.

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, I've done that myself with titles before.

Lana Gramlich said...

You're a sweetie. Sorry I'm not a lot of help with titles. As you know, I abhor even having to title my paintings, as it is.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, but birds on white is a great idea/title