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Entitled

No, I’m not talking about privilege and THAT kind of entitlement. I’m talking about the names of books. Titles are important. They are the first, the VERY first, encounter your reader has with your book.

With my Worldweavers series, “Spellspam” and “Cybermage” were my own titles, and they were taken as is by the publisher, and that was that. But I had originally wanted the title of the first book to be, “The Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent.” I thought the phrase would be catchy and memorable and I proved right because when the reviews came in most of them made some reference to that school in those terms. People liked that, they sniggered at it, snorted at it, chortled at it, and REMEMBERED IT.

Instead, the book went out under the title “Gift of the Unmage” which was essentially a title done by committee, hammered out between me and my editors until we could find something that we could ALL live with. But it’s too vague, too bloodless, and too unmemorable because nobody knows what “unmage” is means.

Marie Brennan has a genius with titles when it comes to her Onyx Court series – “Midnight Never Come”, “In Ashes Lie”. These SOUND like they are part of something else, something bigger, something GREATER, and they call, they invite you in, they lure and they bat their little title-eyelashes until you pick the book up, intrigued, to find out more, and once you do you’re sucked in and it’s over.

Too many fantasy book titles are generic. Most of them follow “The SOMETHING of SOMETHING” pattern, and such titles, to me at least, always feel as though they were kind of slapped on to the book afterwards, by a group of people, possibly in Marketing, who may or may not have read the book in question at all.

What’s in a name, Shakespeare asked once. Does it really matter? What do you think? How important is a title to a book? Have you ever rejected a book because the title was boring, or repulsive? Have you ever picked up a book BECAUSE of a title and found it had nothing to do with it at all? Did either experience leave a mark?

Are the readers “entitled” to a good title?

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About AlmaAlexander

I am a novelist, short story writer and anthologist.

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