“So how do you come up with book titles? And how much say do you have about the final title and cover art?” These are questions that often come up at author events.
Generally, when you’re under contract with a traditional publisher, they have the final say on the cover art, cover copy and the title, as well as a host of other things. But I’ve been lucky. My editor always asks for my ideas on titles and cover art. They’ve used elements I suggested for the cover art on all the books (so far). And they used a title I came up with on the first three books. Not necessarily the FIRST title I suggested. In fact, it was never the first title I suggested. But I kept plugging.
I do have to work within very specific parameters, which can make it tough. I was delighted when the publisher stuck with the series title I wanted, Liv & Di in Dixie, which emphasizes it’s a Southern mystery. But since the series title gives no indication that the protagonist is a party planner, they have insisted on having “party” in all the titles. Coming up with a cozy title that relays both “party” and “murder” is fun — and maddening.
The first book started life as Death of the Party, changed to A Party to Murder, then Murder Crashes the Party, before ending up as “Death Crashes the Party.” I lost track of how many titles I pitched to my editor on the second book, trying hard to work in the Halloween setting, but it ended up as It’s Your Party, Die If You Want To. It’s fun and I like it. But in retrospect, the title is a bit long, which can make cover art and placement of cover quotes tricky.
For the third book, I really wanted to work in the Fourth of July setting. “So Gallantly Screaming” met with universal disdain from pretty much everyone except me. Insurmountable problem: it didn’t include the word “party.” I dug in my heels and desperately pushed for some alternate word for “party.” I pitched Fete to be Tied, but we decided it was too “Southern” and some people might not get the reference (fit to be tied). So I suggested “One Fete in the Grave” and my editor liked it. My agent did not. She would prefer we use only the word “party” and nix the synonyms. Again, hindsight is 20-20 and, as much as it pains me to admit it, I should have listened to my agent. Some people weren’t sure about the pronunciation of “fete” (Rhymes with fate. Although my husband said “rhymes with pet” is correct American pronunciation). Either way, not really what you’re going for in a title.
But, I think we’ve hit pay dirt on the title with Book 4 (releases March 2018). It’s set mostly in Las Vegas and involves a wedding. The title is “Til Death Do Us Party.” My agent came up with it.
In the comments, share some of your favorite titles or title struggles (authors), or share the process you went through deciding on a baby name.