What’s in a Title?

I’ve never given much thought to the titles of my books. For my first several manuscripts, they justpintip came to me during the beginning stages of the writing, and they seemed to fit perfectly (in my humble opinion).

The title of my latest book was more problematic. During the writing, I used a placeholder title I wasn’t crazy about because I couldn’t come up with anything better. Before the manuscript went on submission, my agent and I settled on a new title I wasn’t crazy about because we couldn’t come up with anything better.

And then last week, my editor said to me, “We need a new title.” I knew this was it — if I didn’t come up with something better, my book would be stuck with a title I wasn’t crazy about.

But how to come up with a new title — a title I loved — when I’d already tried and failed over the course of the last year?

Based on the advice of several friends, I used the following ways to brainstorm potential book titles:

1) I looked at the structure of popular movie titles and tweaked the words.

2) I read through my manuscript and pulled out interesting phrases.

3) I looked up quotes containing key words pertaining to my manuscript and jotted down interesting ways in which those words were used.

4) I read through song lyrics of the music I listened to (and was presumably inspired by) while writing the manuscript.

5) I looked at the communications contained in my book — a note from one character to another, a journal entry — to see if I could substitute a new phrase that would make a good title.

From these five methods, I compiled an enormous list of titles, many of which were terrible and could be discarded immediately. I chose the top forty and sent the list to my agent and editor.

My agent narrowed the list to nine titles, and then my editor narrowed it to three. Of those three, I campaigned for my favorite. My editor agreed, and then my agent agreed, and . . .

Voila! I think we have a new title! I don’t know if it’s final yet, so I won’t announce it here. But I will say that although the title didn’t originally stand out for me, it grew on me the more I thought about it.

And now, I can finally say: I’m pretty crazy about my title.

How do you come up with book titles? What is your favorite book title (yours or someone else’s)? How many times have your titles changed?

Please share!