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The Title Dilemma
Monday, June 19, 2006
I'm not a happy bunny today. Nope, not one little bit. Even though I've finished editing and polishing the first three chapters of Sherry and Leo's story, I'm nowhere even close to being the bright little ray of sunshine I ought to be.


Because I can't think of a bloomin' title for my book, that's why!

Being as HMB have a tendency to call their stories things like "The Spaniard's Secret Mistress" and "His Pregnant Virgin Bride" (Ok, maybe not the second one, but you get the gist, right?), I thought I could just send my manuscript off without giving it a title. Or just call is "Sherry & Leo's Story", as I've done for the past three months. When it was a 'Presents', it was called "The Canarian Millionaire's Shagbandit" but since it's now a Tender, the shagging came out and the title was scratched. Not that I would have sent it off with that title, but at least it had one.

According to Julie Cohen, who kindly came over and left a comment after I'd posed the question of titles on the UK Editors Board at eHarlequin, it's best to give them a title as that's part of the sales ploy. Your title says something about the story, much in the way that the synopsis does.

Obviously, if that's the case, I'm not going to ignore her advice because I want to use every marketing tool I have available to me.

Being as useless as a [add something you consider to be utterly useless here] when it comes to thinking up titles isn't helping me much. Even when I write articles I usually end up agonising over the title for hours upon hours upon... and still end up with something really naff. Not that naff will matter when it comes to HMB. In fact a naff title is probably what's needed. It's finding something that's naff and still fits the story that's the problem.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

  • The Canarian's Forbidden Love - A typical HMB type title that fits the story because Leo's ex was emotionally blackmailing him, using his daughter as the weapon. Because he didn't want to risk hurting his daughter, he couldn't commit to Sherry.

  • Love Unleashed - Not typical HMB but it definitely fits the story. When Leo decides that enough is enough and calls Allegra's bluff (that's the ex wife), he and Sherry are finally able to be together and their love is well and truly unleashed.

The question is, which one should I go for? Or should I forget them both and find something entirely different?

I'm going to give myself until tonight to decide. If I haven't made a definite decision by then I'm just going to do the 'eeny-meeny-miney-mo' thing because the manuscript has to go.

Being as I gave both my possible titles a run through The Book Title Scorer, I thought I'd share the link with the rest of you.

It's just a bit of fun, really, but here are the results for my titles (sounds a bit like Eurovision, doesn't it?):

The Canarian's Forbidden Love - 10.2%
Love Unleashed - 63.7%

Basically, they're saying that if I go with 'Love Unleashed', my story will have a 63.7% chance of becoming a best seller, whereas 'The Canarian's Forbidden Love' doesn't stand much of a chance at all.

Of course, it's all a load of old baloney, because according to this thing, 'Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire' only stood a 14.6% chance of becoming a best seller and we all know what happened to that one!

Still, taking time out to have a bit of fun during the day never hurt anybody.


Technorati Tags: Book Titles, Writing, Mills & Boon, Harlequin, HMB
Posted by Sharon J on 10:26 AM   

Blogger Debi said...

Love Unleashed does it for me. Link doesn't work?

11:05 AM   

Anonymous Sharon J said...

I do prefer Love Unleashed and will probably go with that one. It's definitely the less naff of the two.

Link's working now.

11:27 AM   

Blogger Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Hmm... I'm going to go with the first title, purely on the basis that is 'sounds' HMB. We know from the published authors' experiences that the title probably won't be used, but I feel it gives the editor at HMB a good first impression and shows that you've researched the market.

3:33 PM   

Blogger Eva said...

I prefer Love Unleashed too. It's not very HMB-sounding, which you point out, but it's does a better marketing job.

4:12 PM   

Blogger Martyn said...

I tend to agree with the percentages as well. Love Unleashed is quite a snappy title. I struggle with titles for articles , when it comes to naming the novel I'm going to be a right pain ;-)

4:42 PM   

Blogger Karen Erickson said...

I have to admit that though it's not quite HMB, I definitely prefer Love Unleashed. It says a lot without having to say much at all. Did that make sense? Probably not. :)

I suck at titles. They're so hard! I find inspiration from music - a few of my titles have come from a line in a song...

7:09 PM   

Blogger Kate Walker said...

Sharon, I think that at this stage you should stop thinking that this is or isn;t 'an M&B title'

If you think the titles are naff - then why try to title your book that way. The point about this title being a selling point is not that you should follow a tried and tested line that many authors have never managed to get right but that you should name your book your way - in the way that decribes for you what you think your story is about.

Right now, what an editor is looking for is a great story with fascinating characters. The - what was it - The Canarian (???) etc doesn't say that to me. It says someone trying too hard to write one of those generic titles. The generic titles have grown up because the readers - particulary in America had wanted to have a quick idea of what the book was about. But buzzwords like Spaniard, Greek, Italian etc are much more in usual conversation than Canarian.

But the rest of it - the Forbidden Love bit has a lot more potential. It has, to me, more of the emotional conflict of the book cencapsulated in that.

Can I give you a word of advice - strong advice - please stop trying to think in terms of 'typical' HMB - that tends to mean that you're thinking too much on 'formulaic' lines.

Much better to go with the story you really want to write and give it the title that really sums it up - that way you're expressing much more of yourself, your characters and your story. Editors are most definitely not looking for formulaic stuff in titles or in stories. They want fresh new voice with individual apporaches to a tried and tested genre of writing

One thing about writing - or aiming to write Romance - is that you can't be original, most of the plotlines have been done over and over - but you can be authentic - authentically Sharon.

Hope some of this helps


8:30 PM   

Anonymous Sharon J said...

Phew. Lots of comment and food for thought.

My first port of call with a question like this one would normally have been Penny but she's off on a cruise at the moment so unavailable. Still, Kate kindly came along with her advice which certainly helped put things into perspective.

Of course I shouldn't be thinking in terms of "naff". I just happen to think that 9/10 HMB titles ARE naff. That doesn't mean I have to give my story a naff title, though, does it? No, of course not. I'm just getting too hung up in what is and isn't expected of us (or what I think is... rather than what actually is). The story is definitely written in my voice but at the same time I have tried to follow the guidelines for the line... what are they there for otherwise?

I've had a lot of fun writing the story and really grew to love the characters. Especially Leo. I've even grown quite attached to Allegra, for all her faults. It's just a shame that it changed lines mid-way because that kind of spoiled it but it's something I've learned a lot from, and you can never put a price on experience.

I still haven't actually decided on a title, though. Maybe tomorrow :)

1:20 AM   

Blogger Maxine said...

I too prefer Love Unleashed. Or "Forbidden Love" (without the canarian bit, too puzzling).
But these titles, though snappy, might well already be on their lists? As they are good but a bit generic?
The shagging one was good but I see why you had to drop that ;-)
How about something quizzical, eg "Tender Love Unleashed"?

8:14 PM   

Anonymous Sharon J said...

Hi Maxine. Not sure about Tender Love Unleashed. I don't think it ought to have the name of the 'line' in the title. That just doesn't feel right to me but thanks for trying to help :)

8:53 PM   

Blogger Minx said...

What's wrong with Shagbandit, perfectly acceptable in my book!

Okay, okay, I don't do the romancy thing - I'll go with LU - sounds sellable.

9:46 PM   

Anonymous Sharon J said...

Minx. The problem is that there isn't any actual shagging. There's some heavy petting, but no shagging. Otherwise I'm sure Shagbandit would have been a perfectly acceptable title !

10:02 PM   

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