How to decide on a new book title? – Guest Post by Debbie Johnson

I am so pleased to be welcoming Debbie Johnson to the blog today. As part of the blog tour for her brilliant new book, Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper, she has written this fantastic guest post.

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Guest Post by Debbie Johnson

I have a confession to make…out of the six books I’ve had published, only one of them ended up with the title I suggested!

That was a supernatural crime thriller called Fear No Evil, featuring a female PI called Jayne McCartney, who I have the hugest girl crush on (she’s like me if I could invent myself). I have the sneaking suspicion that it might be the last title I ever successfully come up with! Sadly – I say wiping a tear from my authorly eye – I just don’t seem to have the ‘knack’.

The dark art of coming up with a title is mysterious indeed. There are so many factors: does it suit the current market; will it be a pull for readers; will it stand out/will it fit in; does it match your brand; will it look good on the cover, is it commercial? There are probably dozens more points I’m unaware of – because, as I’ve said, it’s a flare I lack.

As a case in point – Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper, my latest release,  took literally months to name. By the time I wrote this book, I’d come to the conclusion that I  am rubbish at titles, so it was very imaginatively called ‘Christmas Book 2’ as I worked on it.

After that, my publisher made some suggestions, and I made some suggestions, and possibly the office cat made some suggestions – and we ended up with a list of more than 30 titles. Some of them were great, and for a while we were going to go with Single All The Way (in homage to both Christmas, and the fact that my heroine, Maggie, is a dressmaker who creates fabulous wedding frocks for loved-up ladies, despite never having been in love herself).

Some of them – mainly the ones I came up with – were frankly awful. Looking back at that list, the high/low lights include: Mistletoe and Pine; Christmas Bells and Wedding Belles; Soulmates and Snowflakes; Driving Me Christmas Crackers; The Man Who Saved Christmas and my all-time worst, Love is for Life…Not Just for Christmas! I think, to be honest, I was losing the plot a little by that stage!

For a while it seemed like the book would never have a name – which, as it is my all-time favourite of the romances I’ve written (with the hero I’d most like to meet in real life!), would have been a shame. In the end, quite close to when we were going to have to make some kind of decision – and when Single All The Way even had its own cover designed, along with two alternate titles – my editor, Charlotte Ledger, sent me an almost apologetic email.

I’m sure she won’t mind me quoting her: “Ok, I’ll just say this first but you have my permission to shoot me the next time you see me. I promise you though I am only being an annoying pain in the a**e because I love this Christmas book so much!”

After that ominous start, she went on to say that although the cover for Single All The Way was gorgeous, and the two alternate titles were great, they’d come up with something that combined  ‘cheekiness and Christmas’. And who could resist such a combination?

That, after long last, was the one that we all immediately agreed on – Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper. Marco, the super-hot, super-funny hero, had a neat line in festive knits that his sister-in-law and nephew bought for him. Finally, after what felt like years of trying, we had it!

Now, I’m quite tired after even typing all of that – and believe me the process isn’t much fun in real life either! To demonstrate further, Cold Feet at Christmas, from last year, was for me originally Bride on the Run, then The Snow Bride, then Jilted All The Way – before it finally found it’s ‘true’ name! Pippa’s Cornish Dream, which came out over the summer, was less troublesome – I’d been calling it something totally lame like Heart in Hiding, and Charlotte and the team suggested Pippa’s Cornish Dream, which I was immediately happy to go with.

Working with a different publisher on an urban fantasy novel which eventually came out as Dark Vision, that also had many different title incarnations before it was released.

It’s a lot harder than it looks – and thank goodness, some people seem to have the gift of coming up with unusual, fun, suitable, and commercial titles.

Sadly – proud as I am of the story in Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper – I will probably never be one of them!

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is available now. Debbie also has a new full-length novel in the pipeline. The Birthday That Changed Everything will be released at the end of January 2016. 

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6 Comments

  1. March 26, 2016 / 9:12 am

    I think it’s probably one of those things … you either have it or you don’t. I’ve seen a few authors not entirely sure of the titles but as a PR/marketing tool to get the book noticed, they work 🙂

    I don’t really take much notice of titles to be honest.

    Love Debbie Johnson’s writing.

    #TalkoftheTown

  2. March 26, 2016 / 9:25 am

    I called Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines, “A Twinkle in your Wrinkle” until 24 hours before it went off for publication! I really struggled with that title. Some are easier than others but I always worry I have got it wrong. The only one I have been confident about was Grumpy Old Menopause which I had in my head a year before I wrote the book. An agency told me it was the best title they’d read for ages. 🙂
    I invariably ask my readers and give them a choice. My brain can’t focus on titles after writing a novel.

  3. March 26, 2016 / 10:39 pm

    I find this process so interesting to read about. And the process of cover design. I always find it fascinating when titles change for different countries – it must all be a delicate marketing balance!!

    Thanks for posting!

    • Heidi
      March 29, 2016 / 11:19 am

      I couldn’t agree more. The process really must be a lengthy one!

  4. March 26, 2016 / 10:56 pm

    Titles are funny things. They have to be so short and snappy, not easy to get right.

    • Heidi
      March 29, 2016 / 11:18 am

      I can only imagine how long it must take for authors and publishers to come up with the best fitting title – I believe it is also so very subjective – not everyone might like the title. Very similar to deciding on a cover I would have thought.

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