Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A rash of titles

My upcoming release started its life with the abysmal working title of Helen Incriminates Herself. 

It's an accurate summary of the premise for the story (amateur sleuth who tries to prove she DID kill someone, instead of trying to prove she didn't do it), but not exactly catchy. It's more a function of my analytical, legal brain than my storytelling brain.

When it came time to send out queries, where every word matters and needs to be catchy, I had a brilliant inspiration. The protagonist, Helen, is a tad cranky (with good reason), and she's got a nurse who really annoys her (and who subsequently ends up dead). I got to thinking that Helen was nursing a grudge against the nurse, and voila! a title was born: Nursing A Grudge.

Catchy and representative of the story, so we were all set to go with it.

And then came disaster.

It's not uncommon for multiple books to share the same title, but it can get confusing if they share other features that make them difficult to differentiate, like genre and date of release. Generally, it's best if the title hasn't been used in the last year or two, and if the books are in different genres.

At the moment, there are three books on Amazon with this title. One looks to be a legal thriller released in September of last year, another is a traditional mystery released in 2012, and then there's a cozy mystery, released just a few months ago.

The last one rang the death knell for my using the title: same general timeframe for release, same genre, same SUBgenre, and even a similar style of cover (cartoony, rather than a picture or realistic painting).

There's just no easy way to distinguish the two books. I can't say "it's the one released this year," or "the one without any blood on the cover," or "the one that's lighthearted instead of grim." I'm more than happy to support my fellow authors, and I'm sure it's a great book, but I don't want to confuse my readers.

So, brainstorms happened. My faithful betas helped, even when I sent them after a red herring. For a while, I was obsessed with getting the word "pill" into the title, and came up with "A Pill A Day Keeps the Nurse Away." My publisher wisely vetoed that one, and the whole "pill" theme.

And finally we came up with the real title. I'm thinking it's kind of like the trope in fantasy novels, where everyone has a given name and a "real" name, and knowing the "real" name for someone (or something) can be powerful.

So, promise me you won't abuse the power, and I'll introduce you to the story formerly known as Helen Incriminates Herself, briefly referred to as Nursing A Grudge, and now openly celebrated as A Dose of Death.

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