Thursday, November 29, 2018

Book Titles and Some Personal Pitfalls

I often have a hard time getting started on a new manuscript without first coming up with at least a working title. Having a title makes it realer to me. I know the title of a Work in Progress (WIP) is always subject to change, but I've got to have a name for it while I'm working on it. I'm sure many other writers operate that way, too.

While my manuscript is still just a rough draft, the title can be anything. I've got one WIP  I'm calling "Lady Punisher" even though I know that will never be the final title. It simply reminds me that I intend to write a book that attempts, among other things, to gender-flip the popular Marvel comic book anti-hero, The Punisher.

The closer I get to publication, though, the more decided I become about settling on a viable title. Sometimes that title comes to me easily, and sometimes it's a frustrating process that involves making long lists of possibilities, many of which are quite bad. My first published novel was called Midnight Burning. I had submitted it to the publisher as "Midnight Sun" because the story was set in Alaska ("Land of the Midnight Sun") and featured twin siblings from Norse mythology who represented the Sun and the Moon. But alas, Stephenie Meyer (author of Twilight) had a rather notorious side project at the time called Midnight Sun in which the Twilight story was re-told from Edward's point of view.

Ultimately, my publisher and I decided we didn't want readers to draw assumptions about my novel based on Meyer's work, so we came up with a long and tedious list of alternatives before settling on the final. You'll find quite a few "Burning Midnight" titles (since Burning the Midnight Oil is a common phrase) but Midnight Burning is rather unique and original and conveys the idea I'd wanted to get across with the "Midnight Sun" idea. It also set the tone for the sequels as we decided to stick with the time-of-day themes: Arctic Dawn and Molten Dusk.

My next-to-be-released book is a YA Epic Steampunk Fantasy called Crown of Thunder (Releases next week on December 3rd! Pre-order now!). It's the third and final book in a trilogy (The Stormbourne Chronicles). I had decided on the titles before ever approaching the publisher with the first book. And when the publisher announced the series, all three titles were reported at that time: Heir of Thunder; Quest of Thunder, and Crown of Thunder.

The series documents the journey of young demi-goddess, Evie, as she grows from a naive heiress to a confident, powerful queen. The succession of titles was rather easy to determine because they demonstrated Evie's character arc. Also, "Heir of Something" is a common naming device in young adult fantasy, and I chose it intentionally to signal the genre and target audience.

But even after all the consideration I give to choosing titles, sometimes it's impossible to avoid sharing titles with other works. Just the other day, fellow ATB Blogger, Mary Fan, was discussing her latest read, a book called Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi. I'd been interested in the book, too, and while discussing it with Mary, she mentioned its upcoming sequel will be called, of all things, Crown of Thunder.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Oh well

So, it's a good thing, perhaps, that book titles can't be copyrighted, no matter how hard some authors (ahem... Cockygate) wish it were otherwise. It's actually a common thing in the publishing world for books to share titles. Without that flexibility, some of us would have run out of options for naming our books long ago.


Mary Fan said...

Love this post!! OMG titles are the hardest... and then there are the times you come up with the *perfect* title only to find that it's been taken, and you have to weigh whether the Other Thing is far enough from your thing that they wouldn't get mixed up... we had that happen with Brave New Girls! Though hopefully the subtitles help clear up any confusion

Carrie Beckort said...

Great post, Karissa! I also like to have a title of some sort before I start writing. For my three published books, I was able to come up with the title easily and there were there from the start. I have a working title for my current WIP, but the path of the book changed a bit and I don't think the title works anymore. I've been struggling to come up with something new -- or determine if I should stick with what I have.

Karissa Laurel said...

I went down dozens of Amazon and Google rabbit holes before deciding on Touch of Smoke (which I'm glad the publisher liked and didn't ask me to change). I found a book on Amazon called Touching Smoke. Close but still different enough I think.

Karissa Laurel said...

It's funny how some titles are easy and perfect fits from the start and others take as much work to figure out as it does to write the book in the first place.

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