My Adventures with Titles by Pauline Chandler
Friday, March 21st
What’s in a Title? ‘A Rose By any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet…’ Well, .No, Actually it Wouldn’t..
It can take ages to choose the title of your next book. All writers know that the process can go on for months, with traditional publishers usually making the final decision. I always have a title for my work-in-progress, a ‘working title’ that's useful when approaching publishers. Then, if all goes well and the book reaches the publication stage, there has to be some serious thinking about the final title. Some titles, I must say, are quite mysterious.
They don't reveal much, do they? Perhaps that’s the point!
The title is important to me from the moment I put pen to paper. It’s a sort of seal on the deal, a promise that the work will be a proper book one day. As such, it has to be both inspirational and associated with the heart of the work.
For months, my first book, ‘Dark Thread’, was called ‘Through a Glass Darkly’. That just about summed up the process of writing it, a sort of feeling my way in the dark, and the plot did hinge on a mirror, which acted as a doorway into the past. When I approached a publisher, the title and the magic mirror were soon discarded.‘Cliché!’ the editor cried.
As the story is about spinning and weaving, real and figurative, I came up with the title ’To Weave the Dark Thread’, which I thought had a certain gravitas for quite a serious book, but, on the fine principle that ‘less is more’, the publishers and I finally decided on ‘Dark Thread’ and I'm very pleased with it.
My second book, now available as an ebook on Kindle, is simply called 'Warrior Girl'. That was not the title I chose, but the one decided on solely by the publisher. The book tells the story of Joan of Arc through the eyes of her friend, Mariane, who accompanies her on her campaign to save
France from the English.
I wanted to call the book ‘Jehanne’, the name Joan of Arc used for herself and how she signed her name. She was illiterate and could only haltingly write her name. You can see her signature reproduced on this postcard I bought when I visited her birthplace, Domremy in France.
By the same rules, the publisher preferred ‘Viking Girl’ for the title of my next book. (Also now available as an ebook on Kindle). I wanted to call it ‘Winternight’, the name of the Viking festival, which features in the climax of the story, but the final title was chosen to match ‘Warrior Girl, and so help build up a series.
For my next book, set largely in ancient
Britain, I chose ‘At the
Back of the North Wind’, which I loved. It was a description given to Ancient Britain by the Romans, some of whom were quite afraid of going there! Then I discovered that there was another book by that name, so it had to be changed. Boo! The title I finally chose was ‘The Mark of Edain’ which refers
to the tribal tattoo carried by the two main characters, and the publisher liked the suggestion. Hooray! 'The Mark of Edain' is also now available as an ebook on Kindle.
Finally, I'm in the happy position of being able to choose my titles for myself. Do other writers choose their titles with an eye on the market? Do you consider the reader when you're choosing titles? Do titles matter?
Pauline Chandler March 21st 2014