And on a related topic….

… Do you notice titles?

The was my Big Personal Revelation for the week. As my editor and I were wracking our brains over this latest title, it occured to me that I seldom notice titles on other peoples’ books. Oh, I remember the titles– most of the time– so that’s not the issue. It’s more that title has little effect on why I pick up or reject a new book, since I generally take for granted that the title will have little or nothing to do with the actual content of the book.

I think this is largely because the trend during my formative reading years was to have relatively nondescript titles that had little to do with the actual content of the book. My childhood shelves are packed with “Passion’s Burning Lust”, “Lust’s Burning Passion”, and “Burning Passion’s Lust” (ah, the joys of interchangeable title words). There were all those Amanda Quicks that began with S’s– although I can’t remember now what the actual titles were– and those eternally optimistic Judith McNaught titles, like “Something Wonderful”, “Paradise”, and “Perfect.” Even my mystery novels all sounded the same, with Copenhagen Connections and Camelot Capers running riot through the shelves. Covers were generally a safer guide than title.

I remember titles as a means of identification, but they’re seldom a selling point for me, even the really good titles, like “Through a Glass Darkly” or “I Capture the Castle”. I will admit to a susceptibility, though, not to titles as a whole, but to individual words in titles. Words like “castle”, “king” and “lord” tend to catch my attention (sense a theme?). I always feel very betrayed when these then turn out to be dystopian novels about dysfunctional families in the Bronx in the 1920’s, or something of that ilk.

Do titles have any effect on whether or not you pick up a book? And, if so, is it the title as a whole, or individual words within the title that get to you?


  1. Chelsea :) on May 14, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I’ll admit. I’m a sucker for a clever title. Pride and Prejudice. Great Expectations. Sense and Sensibility. The Thirteenth Tale. Eclipse. Amazing!!

    … however, I’ve recently read some other books, and they were total letdowns. I was drawn in by the curious titles and fancy-schmancy covers. Don’t let them take you in!! 😀

    I’m also a fan of the title’s size being bigger than the author’s name, too. My friend and I were just talking about this the other day…. crazy!

    Chelsea 🙂

  2. Dawn on May 14, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Initially I’m drawn in by the cover artwork of a book then the title. That is how I discovered your novel Lauren. I was just browsing around inside my local Borders Books and Music and your cover artwork stopped me in my tracks. I just had to read the back and find out what the premise of the story was.

    I like you, am drawn in by certain key words from book titles. They tend to reach out to me from off the cover of the books and make me stop and take notice.

    I’ve had the good luck to not be deceived by any books that I can remember….this could because I tend to not take too many risks in my reading and stick with proven authors I admire and enjoy.

  3. Angie on May 14, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    I agree that titles can be deceptive. There is a romance novel on my Mom’s shelf called The Hawk and the Jewel. I read it as a kid and was puzzled to discover that the book contained no mention of either object…
    However I have to say that I picked up and read some of my favorite books because of the title, and good example of that is The Blue Castle…one of my favorite books ever with a very sweet and fitting title 🙂

  4. Maggie on May 15, 2008 at 9:34 am

    I think titles encourage me to pick up a book and read the back, but the cover really gets me. I initially picked up The Secret History of the Pink Carnation because of the woman in the beautiful dress 🙂 Actually The Blind Assassin did get me with the title now that I think about it. I’ve written a book called All That’s Best of Dark and Bright, and the title sure hasn’t helped me get an agent 🙂

  5. Lois on May 15, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Ooh, I like Pink V’s title! 🙂

    On another blog, might have been Risky Regencies, we were talking about why it is that historicals/Regencies always seem to have titled heroes in them, do people prefer that over a regular gentleman. (I figure not, I mean, Mr Darcy, anyone? LOL) But this is related to the question because if I can simply browse the books in a store, or I’m looking at list on a website about what’s out or coming out, a title with a title (ah, sorry ’bout that) will make me look at it — since I’m a huge Regency reader, I immediately think it might be one, and I want to know more.

    That will be a reason why a title might catch my interest — or if it has words you tend to see with historicals, like rake, rogues, and I can’t think of any others right now. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure a title alone probably will not make me pick a book up (or click a link, as the case might be) to find out more.

    Lois, who thinks she just repeated what everyone else said, which, in that case, I agree. 🙂

  6. Desiree on May 15, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    When I am looking for a romance novel I tend to go for the cover not the title. If the cover is appealing then I will read the back or inside cover. If there is a man on the cover he needs to be attractive for me to even glance at it. I tend to research what authors I like to read. I will read more of a particular author if I enjoyed one or more of the books. I rarely ever look at a title any more they don’t always describe the book or anything remotely close about it.

  7. Lauren on May 15, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Hi, Lois! Interesting point about all those titled men running around Regency ballrooms. (Enough dukes to jam a football field! I feel vaguely guilty for adding to the ducal overload with the hero of Book V). I wonder if we’re seeing the beginnings of a backlash to the glut of titled heroes– but that’s a topic for a whole post.

  8. Lauren on May 15, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Maggie, your comment about your (extremely lovely) title made me think of Elizabeth Peters’ “Die For Love”, where a naive young author has lovingly named her Wars of the Roses era book “This Blessed Plot” (after the John of Gaunt speech), only to be told that it isn’t sexy enough and that the new title will be “Dark Night of Loving”.

    My first title changed between manuscript and final version, too– the original title of Pink I was “A Rogue of One’s Own.”

  9. Camille la Flamme on May 16, 2008 at 12:11 am

    Since titles are what one sees on the spines of the books on their shelves, I tend to rely on them.

    After all, that is how I was attacked by a brihgt-pink book entitled “The Secret History of the Pink Carnation”. C:

  10. Emily darling on May 16, 2008 at 1:12 am

    It depends on what kind of day i’m having… if i’m feeling intellectual, i pay more attention to titles (and they have to sound dramtic in my head when i say them… almost like a line of poetry). If i’m feeling stressed i go for covers… i like covers that have pretty people on the front, or have really dramatic photography. Flowery, frilly things cath my eye the most… as do portraits of women in long dresses. :]

  11. Laura on May 16, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I actually picked up your book because I was doing a search on the French Revolution! I was sold when I saw the cover! I’m a suck for a well done cover, and even if I read a synopsis that sounds interesting, if the artwork is terrible I can’t bring myself to pick it up! How funny that when it comes to something with no pictures that we can still be so visually minded!

  12. Jessica on May 16, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I guess titles might catch my eye, but I have to read the blurb on the back to actually buy or check the book out of the library.

    For Pink I, Lauren, I have to say it was the Eloise part of the blurb on the back. Being a put-upon grad student myself, I was excited to see a novel about a grad student! The historical romance was a plus. And now I’m just hooked. And almost not a grad student anymore!

    So, yeah…umm…titles definitely catch my eye but they are not the be-all and end-all.

  13. Amy on May 17, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    The rich colors of the first book’s cover caught my attention then the lettering style along with the words “Secret History” and, to seal the deal, the excerpt on the back. Consistently using the same combination on future books links one to the next, for me. I can’t wait to continue the story and adventure. To be honest though, after the third one I would still buy the book if I didn’t particularly like the cover.

    When the Amelia Peabody book cover art changed over to a different graphic scheme I was dismayed but still purchased the book(s). The titles were still good but the new cover graphic didn’t create any excitement, I had to wait until I read the book.

    Finding the right title could give “brainstorming” new meaning. I can’t help but think of Frasier and Niles shut up in a hotel room to write a book…

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