Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Thorn By Any Other Name

Up until a couple months ago, I could see an establishment called The Gold Club from my daily commute. Yes, it was a strip club. And no, I never set foot in the place; I know full well all that glitters is not gold.1

Then one day, a new banner hung out front. The club had a new name: MYNX. Later, fancier signage showed the full name as MYNX Cabaret. Though they likely employ the exact same dancers as before, it now seems like they're trotting out a lower quality product, doesn't it? Gone is the (perception of the) high-class establishment, replaced with girls and a club that are, at best, saucy. Thus, the discerning strip club connoisseur enters with lowered expectations.

And that got me thinking about book titles.

Let's say you've written a book. It's ideal title would both fit your story and catch the eye (or ear) of potential readers.2 And of course, novelists must take genre into account. Titles that play well for thrillers or mysteries will rarely cut it in women's lit. And any overlap between horror and romance is purely coincidental.3

It's also best to match your book's tone. If what you've written is quirky or humorous, try to work a hint of that into your title. Avoid puns at all costs unless they are truly clever puns. (Yes, there are such things as clever puns. No, you shut up.) And only use a trashy (a.k.a. mynxy) title if your book calls for it.4

If all else fails, just stick with something simple, and either hope the publisher comes up with a winner, or reel your readers in via the cover, jacket copy, and word of mouth.

For your perusing pleasure, here's a small sample of the titles I've considered for my first novel (about an invisible assassin whose mission is repeatedly stymied by morons):
  • And Then Came the Invisible Monkeys
  • The Unseen Agenda
  • See No Evil
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Invisible
  • Unvisible
  • Scythe Unseen
  • Invisibility for Idiots
  • How Not to Be Seen
  • The Final Defenestration of Rupert Fenwick

Most have some merit, but alas, none are fervor-inducing. The closest might be that last one, but sadly I made it up just now, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my novel. Clearly, I still have work to do.5

But no matter what, I won't sell my readers short. I'd rather my title promise more than I can deliver ("Gold Club") than lose readers by limping in with something less appealing ("MYNX") or lacking in creativity ("Naked Chicks on a Stage").

Come to think of it, I should have come up with a better title for this post. This probably isn't at all what you were expecting.

1 A partial list of glittery things other than gold and strippers: silver, bronze, iron pyrite, six-year-old girls, jazz hands, far too many greeting cards, fairy godmothers, vampires of the Meyerian oeuvre, and Gary.
2 Okay, its ideal title would actually grab people by their lapels (whether or not they're wearing lapels at the time) and instantly instill in them the innate need to buy/borrow/steal/claw each other's eyes out for your book, all before they've even seen its jacket or learned anything else about it. But, you know, good luck with that.
3 La Petite Mort: Return of the Bodice Ripper
4 You know, for instance if it's a cheap, tawdry affair... about a cheap, tawdry affair.
5 For instance, I have to finish writing it.


  1. I'd go with the first one. Although the cover art with invisible monkeys might be difficult...

    1. Dotted-line monkeys would work, likely stealing someone's hat. Or for the physical copies, they could be shown as a layer of shiny translucence most visible at an angle... (That was the first title I came up with, so I've had time to think about it.)

  2. this was a really good post! Also, i'm having a hell of a time naming my current WIP. I'm hoping something will just show up at some point, but we'll see

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Sometimes the title just presents itself to you -- I have ideas for future novels that are already perfectly named -- but with others it's a struggle. I hope the perfect one works its way into your brain (and from there onto the page) soon.

  3. I have always favored something alluding to the Invisible Monkeys, so I vote for #1. Even if I weren't predisposed to that, I would be most inclined to "actually grab people by their lapels" to get my copy, just based on the promise of invisible monkeys!

    And I do think the cover is equally important, I mean, don't most people see a book cover and decide to pick it up, as opposed to hearing or reading a title (and usually that is in connection with a recommendation, which gives weight to a title no matter what it denotes)?

    So, how is the project going?

    1. It's settled then. Based on your and Alex's votes, my working title will once again promise monkeys.

      I'd agree the true ideal is a great marriage of cover and title, yes. (Even better with a recommendation attached.) But since this post was specifically about names, I opted to ignore the other two for now.

      If by "project" you mean "novel," then it's currently on hold whilst I spend time with my son, repair the house, and occasionally procrastinate in other, far less productive ways. I hope to dive back in soon...ish.

  4. I want to see a novel named A CHEAP, TAWDRY AFFAIR. I think that would be cool.

    1. I can make that happen. Not because I'd write it, though. Because I'm good at Photoshop.