Coming up with a decent title for a novel may be the hardest part of the whole process. I hate the title of my first novel, Under the Suns. It was originally called Deified, but I called an audible at the last minute and have regretted it ever since. I suppose I could change the name and re-release it, but then it must have a whole new ISBN which means it will appear as a new book. Even if I made that change with a disclaimer that it’s just a new title, the scant (but glowing) reviews I have would be tied to the old title. One of these days, I’m determined to rewrite the whole thing anyway, so by then the old reviews won’t apply. Until then, I’m stuck with Under the Suns.
I almost called it Same Shit, Different Solar System, a phrase that is now emblazoned on the back cover, but I didn’t go with that because I was afraid the word “Shit” was bad for marketing. That was before I became keenly aware of this new trend of cuss words in the title—Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, Sh*t My Dad Says, Tough Sh*t, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Go the F*ck to Sleep (a children’s book), and my personal favorite F*ck Off! I’m Coloring.
I find titling a book so frustrating that if I’d continued down the self-publishing path, I was just going to give all my books generic titles and covers. I even did mock ups of the projects I had in the pipeline:
Am I a marketing genius, or what?
Don’t answer that.
The book I’m working on now (The One About the Dead Muse in the slides above) was originally called Dead Muse Wake until my publisher rightly pointed out that that title focused on one component of the story rather than the driving force of the narrative itself. I mean, one minute you’re expecting a book about a zombie muse who becomes increasingly depressed eating the brains of bipolar artists until she resurrects, the zombie equivalent of suicide, only to find out the book isn’t about that at all! If any book deserves to be pitched across the room in a fit of unfulfilled rage, it’s one that promises zombies but doesn’t deliver.
So now I’m faced with the dilemma again. What the hell do I call this thing? I’ve poured through the text looking for key phrases and come up with nothing. Free association. Brainstorming. Keywords and their synonyms. Antonyms. I’ve even tried online title generators, but the titles I get are about what you’d expect from someone whose knowledge of the English language comes solely from flash cards they found at a sci-fi convention.
So now I’m left with voodoo. I think I have a handle on the rituals, I’ve seen season three of American Horror Story, after all. I made a circle of ash and since chickens are hard to find wandering around the city, I settled for a one-eyed pigeon with a broken wing. I also made a headdress of construction paper feathers and I’ve got my youngest son banging out a primitive beat on assorted bits of cookware we pilfered from the kitchen. The other two kids are dancing wildly around the circle with their eyes rolled back into their heads. Very creepy. I’ve got about an hour before my wife gets home so I’d better hurry.
Wish me luck!
If all goes well, I’ll have a title straight from the spirit world by tomorrow morning.
However, if you see me with a beak for a nose and feathers coming out of my ass, you’ll know something went horribly wrong.