Sunday, March 10, 2019

Thoughts on Titles

I have just finished the first draft of a new book and we are about to debate titles.
In the past finding a title for a book was so simple: If it was a mystery you titled it
Death on....
Murder in.....

The reader knew what he or she was getting. Everyone satisfied.

Then came the evolution of cozy mysteries and the birth of the pun titles:

Grime and Punishment
Butter Safe Than Sorry
Death of Pie

So many clever titles. Although I notice from the current Cozy bestseller list that puns now seem to be passe. Writers seem to have reverted to Murder At, Death on... etc. Interesting.

Until now my stand-alone titles have been short and to the point. THE TUSCAN CHILD. Everyone knows what they are getting.

But my new book is not a cozy mystery. Or primarily a mystery.  It is a historical novel about Queen Victoria on the Riviera with a murder in it. It's about a young woman who becomes a royal cook. So:
Cooking for the Queen
Feeding Victoria
Feeding Queen Victoria
The queen's chef
Queen Victoria in Nice

Many permutations but none of them quite right yet.
Current titles often seem to include relationships:

The Clockmakers/Shoemakers/Storytellers/ Daughter
The Paper Wife, The Clockmaker's Wife, the Shoemaker's Wife etc
Spitfire Sisters, Sisters in War, etc etc.

So should my title be: The Drunkard's Daughter?
The Sister of the Girl who Married a Butcher?

It seems these days the buzz words in title have to include
 The Girl who cooked for a queen?

 The girl who made a bone broth?


What the Wind Knows
Where the Crawdads sing.
What the girl cooked for a queen.
Where the girl cooked the bone broth.
When the girl cooked for a queen.

TRAIN was popular for a while, but I think that's gone, as she would find it hard to cook her bone broth on a train.

I've just realized that the covers I have posted include the word NIGHT.
The girl who cooked on a train for the queen at Night!  Got it!

My own favorites are books with titles that don't say what the book is about but give me a tantalizing clue: Atmospheric. Evocative...
The Shape of Water was a favorite.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky
The Ragged Edge of Night.
The Lost Girls of Paris.

So all suggestions gratefully received.

What makes you pick up a book? Is it the title? The cover art? The color scheme?

And I don't know why I am worrying. These days my titles all have to go through marketing and they will toss around the current buzz words, debate what stands out when a reader is searching through Amazon and come up with the perfect title (I hope).
I'll let you know when I have a big cover reveal.


  1. Who knew the title of a book could cause such consternation? The titles that grab my attention aren’t necessarily the long and/or gimmicky ones . . . perhaps simpler is better?

  2. I am famously terrible at coming up with titles, punny or otherwise. But I like The Queen's Cook, or something along those lines. Good luck!

  3. Rhys, I like the more evocative titles, hate all those titles du jour Girl/Train/Bone, etc. I must say, this one's a doozy--historical, murder, cooking--what a combination in need of a pithy title! Can't wait for the reveal! I'm betting the cover will be stunning!

  4. So glad to hear that punny titles are fading away; same with ones that have Girl in the title. I don't know your character's name but I'll pretend it's Sally so my idea is Sally, the Queen's Cook. Probably way too simple.

  5. I like the queen's chef, Rhys. I would love to see you in that marketing meeting teasing them for terrible ideas:)

  6. The idea for my first book started with the title, but after that it was a lot harder. I've been collecting book title ideas for years. Just in case, dontcha know. Not a single one of them, though, could be shoehorned to fit your book premise, Rhys. Durn.

    Is your chef/cook someone who travels with the queen, from England? Is she the regular cook from the palace, or someone who is on her staff? She could be Victoria's Cook, or The Victorian Cook. Either of which would fit better with your most recent titles.

    At any rate, the story is one I will await with a delicious anticipation.

  7. Miss Sally in the Kitchen with the Spoon?

    Rhys, I had to read Death of Pie twice, then again out loud. And THEN I choked on my coffee.

  8. Titles. Are they market tested now? I just spent a few minutes looking at y'all's titles on this page. I would, and did, pick up any of them. Short titles are easier to remember, i.e "Frankenstein",or "Green eggs and ham". Tantalizing titles draw me in, "Come and find me",or "The Ghost of Christmas Past".
    I think new authors might have a harder time with titles. I trust your writing enough that the title would not matter, you could call it 'waldo cooks Victorian', and I would buy it.

  9. What the Wind Knows... since the pic was placed right after the line about changing trends in cosy titles (thank goodness!) I assumed it was an example of the new trend. What a shift in style!

    However, I soon realised it was no such thing. It's a beautiful, compelling cover and title, so I hopped over to the author's website. Very enticing.

  10. I'm awful with titles. And in the end, while they might catch my eye and make me look at the book on a shelf, I need more than a catchy title to make me pick it up. I'd say an eye-catching book cover is more enticing to me than a catchy title.

  11. I choose my books based on the content or author but I admit to buying books that have a cat on the cover.

    I agree with Rhys that titles are important; they help you find a book that matches your mood. A punny title means it's a lighthearted cozy. A serious title (like those of Julia Spencer-Fleming or Louise Penny) mean a serious, possibly dark, story. Just reading the title The Ragged Edge of Night makes me want to read that book! It reminds me of the title of my all-time favorite soap Dark Shadows (don't judge me! LOL).

    Rhys, I've always liked your titles. Of the ones you list, I like Cooking for the Queen best. Whatever title you decide on, I know the story will be wonderful!

  12. I think "Bone Broth" would catch my attention, as would "The Drunkard's Daughter." Too sad entirely that you can't call it "Victoria's Secret." Perhaps "Victoria's Other Secret"? I think a lot depends on the tone of the book. It shouldn't be too funny/punny if the book is serious in tone, or too gothic if the book is fun. Now, of course, I'll be popping out totally unsuitable book titles all day long until Debs is bored with me.

    1. I love Bone Broth!!! Going to be snickering over that and Death of Pie all day. Good thing I hadn't made my tea yet or I'd have snorted it.

      Seriously, I like The Queen's Cook. I'd pick that up in a second, and it fits the simple titles of your standalones. Can't wait to see the cover!!!

    2. The title The Queen's Cook sounds good too.


    3. I like The Queen's Cook as well. But, since I'm assuming this is set after the death of Albert, how about The Widow's Cook? Since it seems Victoria elevated widowhood to just about a life-long profession. Also, just done with the Girl titles.

  13. I usually like simple titles but for an author whose work I love,I will buy the book no matter the title.

  14. I’m partial to Feeding Victoria.

    What attracts me to a book by an author who is new to me? Mostly I now read books recommended on JRW and a couple of other blogs, regardless of cover or title. At the library or bookstore, if I pick a book by an author new to me, it probably will NOT be one with a cutesy title. (Note: this does not apply if the book was recommended on a blog or by a friend.) If the cover gives me an idea of the subject matter I’ll page through the first chapter. I read the jacket description. I NEVER base my choice on the first line!

    Can’t wait for the book, Rhys, no matter what it ends up being called!


  15. I thought: the death of pie? What’s so funny about that? And then I burst out laughing. Rhys you are too much.

  16. While a title might get me to pick up a book off a store shelf, it doesn't make me want to buy a book in and of itself.

    Assuming the book is not written by an author that I'm already reading and is instead by a new/new-to-me author is the story synopsis on the back cover. If the story sounds interesting, then the book is likely to go on my list to buy or become an immediate buy.

    Of course, reading about the books/authors on blogs like JRW and BOLO Books helps too. But the synopsis is all in my estimation.

  17. Rhys, I think your name is now more important than the title. A great place to be. But for this one, imho, include Queen or Victoria. And btw, I usually love the Lady Georgie titles. Another writer's recent title I think is brilliant (ie. makes me want to know more) is She Rides Shotgun.

  18. Rhys, you crack me up! This is exactly what authors go through over titles and then none of it matters because sales
    and marketing have the final say. I have a friend named Victoria so naturally we call her Queen V. So...Cooking for Queen V or a take off on the current movie The Favorite but it could be The Chef. Personally, I like The Queen's Chef as you know you're getting a chef under the thumb of the queen - Winner winner, chicken dinner! LOL! Do let us know when you know and I can't wait to see the cover.

  19. Titles, like trying to name a child, are so tricky! How do you reduce an entire book to a few evocative, alluring words? Good luck with "The girl who cooked on a train for the queen at Night!" I'll read it no matter what title you end up with. P.S. Sue Grafton had it easy. A, B, C. D....

    1. Sure, easy, except for the 26 books in a series thing! No wonder she didn't want anyone to finish it.

  20. Unfortunately, I am so bad at remembering titles. I often mix up the titles. When I recommend a book, I have to look at the book to get the exact title.

    What makes me buy the book is often when it is written by authors I know and like. I follow authors on goodreads, Instagram and facebook. If it is a new to me author, I read the book jacket to see what the story is about. If it sounds like an interesting story, then I will read the book.


  21. Titles can draw my attention, but when I am exploring books by authors not yet known to me, I have to admit that the cover art plays the biggest role. It tends to quickly telegraph the genre.

    That being said, I have to say the recent trend in cover art for cozies has made me hold my nose and buy them anyway. I can think of several good cozies written by excellent authors that I would definitely have rejected on the basis of the cover art, which was just nauseatingly cute. Overly cute, punny titles affect me the same way. Like Jay, the synopsis is the most important piece for me.

    Rhys, on your title, I vote for Feeding Queen Victoria.

  22. I sympathize with you so much. The few times I've dipped my toe into fiction, the title was the worst part. And I hate coming up with the titles of my reviews. It's why I use quote so often for movies and TV shows.

  23. Travels with Vickie! Just kidding, but since the travel part is intrinsic to the story (as I recall), maybe work in some aspect of it in your title. Your description of how she moved her entire household is so fascinating.

  24. I love clever titles and I love book covers, and I have often picked up a book in a bookstore to peruse based on either or both. However, I read so many authors automatically, favorites that I've come to rely on for great storytelling, that my reading is more guided by that and by looking for books dealing with a particular theme or subject. Of course, since I am a fan of titles and books covers, I do appreciate my regularly read authors' books holding up their end on their appearance. I'm also a fan of the title that has to do with the theme of the book, whether the title is catchy or not, and I'm reading in the book and come to a point where the heavens open up to a gloriously bright sky and the title becomes abundantly clear in its meaning to the story.

    Like some others here, Rhys, I like The Queen's Chef, but I'm thinking that it might be important to include which queen it is, because Queen Victoria's chef would be so interesting to historical fiction readers. However, I'm not sure I like Queen Victoria's Chef as a title like I do The Queen's Chef. I quite like Cooking for the Queen as a title, or Cooking for Victoria. Oh, gee, it does get rather difficult to choose that title that nails it.

  25. Victoria's Cook. And I actually like Bone Broth. Bone Broth for the Queen? Or maybe that's because I just made bone broth for onion soup. SOOOO good.

  26. I love the punny titles for cozies but I don't think Victoria would be amused. I think most of the titles mentioned are good. I will read the book whatever the title is.

    1. Which leads me to "Victoria is quite amused".. but Victoria's chef really has my vote.

  27. The copy of Still Life I purchased, a few years back, did not have what I would call a still life painting and it was definitely phrases from much loved hymns drew me to Julia's books. I think titles draw me more than cover art. New title for your new book? I spent a few minutes and only came up with Her Majesty's Chef. But I think it reminds a different book.

  28. I saw this book title and thought it might be a very fitting style for your book. Bertie: The Complete Prince of Wales Mysteries by Peter Lovesey might work in your case. I love historic fiction and especially when it includes a mystery. A cover is a seller to me also since it is the first thing that catches my eye.