Recently, I’ve been pondering about book titles.
Some authors find the titles the easiest to create, while others struggle with them from the first syllable. I admit I’m in the latter group. I have working titles first then I come up with indecipherable titles with little to no point. They certainly are not the hot titles that attract readers.
It’s funny how just a few words can mean so much when behind them is a work with many more words, thousands in fact. But just like the book blurb, or promo, the title is the first thing people see—unless they consider purchasing the book just for the author’s name recognition. And that’s a rarity. Let’s face it; the world is full of great romance writers.
There are some words that catch people’s attention, especially in the romance and erotic romance genres. They suggest that the book has a sweet romance and hot sex, fascinating characters and an intriguing plot.
“It’s a potent, effective theme because most people like to cheer for the underdog, for the masculine, kind-hearted hero or the smart, beautiful heroine who are not automatically in charge of their lives, but face challenges along the way toward their happily-ever-after.”
But just what are these magic words?
Well, first comes the general terms: heat, fire, passion, pleasure, bliss, paradise, desire, delight, craving, yearning, heart, sex, and of course, love. These indicate the kind of literature being offered, romance and erotica, a connection between two or more people, a happy-ever-after.
Plot-wise, terms like redemption, salvation, secrets, mystery, and the like indicate a specific kind of plot device and suggest that the hero(es) have to struggle to get their woman or man. It’s a potent, effective theme because most people like to cheer for the underdog, for the masculine, kind-hearted hero or the smart, beautiful heroine who are not automatically in charge of their lives, but face challenges along the way toward their happily-ever-after.
Second, there’s the subgenre. For example, a BDSM genre prefers words like training, submission, dominance, lesson, bound, captured, caught, master, slave, taming, taking, collared, cuffed, etc. As you can see, this vocabulary has to do with the very heart of the genre and the lifestyle. The two match. As the Fifty Shades of Grey series has shown, people are searching for a voice of authority and knowledge in the genre. Handling the terminology right is the author’s best choice for making an impact that lasts, title-wise anyway. That’s of course just the first step.
Another genre example. For cowboys and westerns, it helps to have the word cowboy in the title, as my recent story—Cowboy’s Challenge—has proven. My other titles in the series were more cryptic, and that might have impacted my success. I can’t dismiss the thought, not after an editor has twice told me to reconsider a title. And I was glad Siren Publishing takes such an active interest in their authors. Other words for this genre are riding, wild, untamed, ranch, rodeo, horse/stallion/stud, rugged, rancher, chase, etc. The life in the frontier of old and in the rugged outdoors of today stand as a testament of times and places where men were and are men, and as such the words describe those conditions and impressions, whether real or not.
“Two- to three-word titles have a tendency to get noticed quickly and entice the buyer to check out the blurb.”
Genres do not dictate the rules for authors to choose their titles, but from the sale’s point of view it’s sensible to consider them. Like the words that work with werewolves and shifters, such as mate, hunt, moon, chase, teeth, bite, fangs, fur, hunter, blood, ride, wild, beast, alpha, omega, pack, wolf, etc. Any kind of nature analogies work as well, since these men and women are connected to the animal kingdom, and therefore they have a bond with a kind of feral sexuality that humans suppress. Evocative stuff. How about the words for ménages? Well, ménage, three (or the number of your choice), or any plural terms seem to work, plus the more passionate and heated these terms the better.
There are a lot of other considerations, for example, the number of words in the title. Two- to three-word titles have a tendency to get noticed quickly and entice the buyer to check out the blurb. And then you’re halfway there, on getting a new reader and possibly a fan.
Another consideration is suggestive titles, such as double entendres, that function with the titillation factor. Titles like Dirty Laundry, Magnetism, Burying Bones, or Wild Ride could mean more than one thing, from the literal translation to the more provocative, sexy allusions. The reader needs to get hooked from the first words read, and those happen to be on the cover.
These title suggestions work for both established authors and newer writers. Readers are waiting for something to catch their eye and their attention, and they don’t usually spend a lot of time perusing bookshelves, be it in a bookstore or online. A properly, or even perfectly, racy title can nudge them in the right direction, toward the checkout. Remember, as authors we are searching for lasting readers and fans.
So, get cracking, write, and create those alluring titles that draw people in.