The title of a book is important. It’s the first thing a prospective reader sees . . . or at least it used to be. Now the author’s name comes first and apparently is a much better selling tool than the title ever was.
A title is still important, however. It often sets the mood for the book, it lays out the theme, and it tantalizes readers into opening the book. Think of Gone With the Wind. With such a title, you expect a wide sweep of a story. The title speaks of loss and perhaps survival in the face of broad changes. Even before you open the book, you are primed to find out what is lost and why it disappeared into the wind. Imagine then, how different your feeling would be if the book had been published under its working title. Pansy. Would the book, the movie, the character have ever had such an impact if that had been the name? Of course not.
Another major work with last minute name changes was Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Originally Catch 18, it was changed because of another book that was coming out at the same time: Leon Uris’s Mila 18. And 1984 was originally 1948. So not the same feeling!
Marshall Karp, who is now co-authoring books with James Patterson, once was a guest on my blog talking about Titles: What Makes a Good One. He says they should be short so that the title stands out online in a thumbnail (good point!) and it has to grab a reader in a way that makes her want to grab the book.
My latest book is called Light Bringer not because the title is short or a grabber, but simply because there was no other possible title since bringing light is the theme of the book. Light is brought to hidden places, both in the world and in my characters’ hearts. Light is brought to truth, or at least the possibility of truth. Light, as love, is brought into the lives of my characters.
How do you choose your titles? Does the title come first or does the story come first?