What’s In A Name?



By Stormy Glenn

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”

—William Shakespeare


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a commonly quoted part of a dialogue in William Shakespeare’s 1597 play ‘Romeo and Juliet’, in which Juliet argued that the names of things did not matter, only what things were.

This statement might be fairly true…unless you’re a writer and then it takes on a whole new meaning. I have had numerous conversations with other authors and we’ve all come to the same conclusion…naming a book is harder than actually writing one. How do you take 40,000 words and put it into a couple of simple words that will grab a reader’s interest enough that they will want to read the actual blurb?

First rule… the cover and title is the first thing that grabs the reader.

Second rule…the blurb grabs the reader.

Third rule…the excerpts grab the reader.

From then on out, it’s word of mouth, etc.

So, how do you create the perfect title for a book? Is it something important in the storyline? Scales and a Tail for example, an easy enough title to understand considering it was part of the Midnight Mating series. It was about a dragon shifter (scales) and a bunny shifter (tail)…that one was a no brainer.

John Henry’s Beautiful Charlie on the other hand was one of the hardest books for me to create a title for. In fact, I really didn’t. Lynn Hagen came up with that title for me. Granted, it turned out to be the perfect title, but I never would have thought of it.

The subsequent books in that series have been easier to name as they titles had a lot to do with the stories written. Tattooed & Taken, My Guardian Angelo, and Harley’s Heart…every title had something significant to do with the story line.

When creating a title for one of my books, I have to take into consideration what type of “idea” I am trying to get across to my reader at first glance. Do I want the reader to know that the story is intense, action packed, a mystery, full of lust, funny, or sweet and gentle?

Do I want to say Love & Spaghetti on Aisle Eight and let the reader know there is some humor involved as well as a really hot Italian cop? Or do I want to go with Dangerous Desires and let the reader know that there is danger involved in the erotic romance I am writing? Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Bet you know what this story is about, don’t you?

Fangs and All… obvious vampire book, right? How about Just a Vampire? Another obvious vampire book. But what about Sweet Oblivion? That really doesn’t scream vampire romance, does it? And why? Because it’s not just about vampires. There is a whole lot more involved in that book than simply vampires.

So, all of that being said, there is still the category where I “play” with the words. The entire Blaecleah Brothers series had the word “cowboy” somewhere in the title. This kept the reader knowing it was about cowboys. My Elemental Demon series is much the same. Fire Demon and Air Demon… big clue there, right? It’s easy to guess that there is a demon somewhere in this story.

But how about my latest submission?

Heir of the Wolf That Bit You

Any idea what that’s about? I’m sure you’ve already guessed that there is a wolf shifter involved somewhere. But what about the rest of the title? In my neck of the woods there is a saying “Hair of the Dog”, which basically means the morning after a drinking binge, when you feel like your head is going to explode, have a small drink of exactly what you had the night before and it should cure your aches and pains.

Now, I’m not saying this statement is true. It’s just a phrase. However, in the title Heir of the Wolf That Bit You, I’ve obviously played on the word “hair” and replaced it with “heir”. As what that means for the storyline, well, I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

In ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Juliet argued that the names of things did not matter, only what things were. In her world, I can understand where she is coming from. In my world, the titles of books are just as important as the stories I write.

photo credit: shutterbugamar via photopin cc


  1. You are so very right. Choosing a book title can be harder than writing the book itself. I usually end up with a couple of pages of titles starting with the song that might have inspired any part of the story. This post I think shows readers that the majority of writers don’t just stick a title up there and say there it is. We give as much thought to the title as we do to the story itself.

  2. A K Kinley /

    This was good article, Stormy. As an author myself, I agree that the first thing that grabs a reader is the cover and title. In my own writing, both in books and blog postings, a great deal of thought goes into the titles of my work. I also try to provide clues, or actual written acknowledgement, within a story itself that joins the title with the story line. I will admit that in some instances I have written a piece, using one title, and upon completion the work has a completely new name.