Why Book Editors Reject Fiction ProposalsBy Anne Barton

Women want killer shoes.

Men want killer abs.  (Also, women want men with killer abs–but I digress.)

Writers want . . . killer titles.

Some titles just have it—that certain something that makes us smile, sigh, or gulp.  It’s hard to explain what that something is, but I gave the matter serious thought (meaning, I gazed at my bookshelves while sipping red wine) and I’m giving it a shot.

Like anything in art (or life), killer titles are a matter of taste.  What works for paranormal might not fly for historical romance.  What turns one reader off has another clicking the Buy Now button.  But a really great title has broad appeal.  Here are some of the elements I especially like.

1. Irony

 I vividly remember my first case of title envy–it was at the RITA®/Golden Heart® Awards Ceremony.  Diane Kelly’s manuscript flashed on the screen:  DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE.  Giggles rippled through the crowd.  The juxtaposition of weighty topics like death and taxes with the frivolity of a manicure (note to self: make salon appointment) is unexpected—and brilliant.

Here’s another one.  Hope Ramsay’s WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE.  Just four words—a friendly greeting followed by a hint of desperation.  Great irony.  Besides, you know any town named Last Chance is going to have a cast of quirky, memorable characters.

Some other wonderful titles containing irony:  Cynthia Justlin’s HER OWN BEST ENEMY; Jeannie Lin’s BUTTERFLY SWORDS; and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s THE RELUCTANT SUITOR.

2. Voice

Some titles convey the author’s voice so well you’re guaranteed an enjoyable read.  Young adult titles are among my favorites.  Addison Fox’s 2009 GH-nominated book, MY BIG, FAT, ROCKIN’ REALITY is a prime example.  I can’t even type it without smiling.

Same thing goes for Darynda Jones’ FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT.  Who else but a grim reaper could be so nonchalant about directions to a grave site?  The title promises humor, thrills, and a sexy touch of darkness.  (If you’ve read the book you know it delivers!)

A few other titles with a lot of voice:  Tera Lynn Childs’ OH. MY. GODS.; Vanessa Barneveld’s 2009 GH nominee, CALL ME CRAZY; and Laurie Viera Rigler’s CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT.

3. Allusion

I’ll admit it.  I’m a total sucker for titles that reference pop culture, music, or literary works, and they’re hot right now.  One of my favorites is Amanda Brice’s 2008 GH-nominated YA story, PARTY LIKE IT’S 1899.

Here are some more fabulous ones:  Vivi Andrews’ THE SEXORCIST; Kieran Kramer’s WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY; Eloisa James’ MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU; and Julia Quinn’s A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE WEDDING. 

4. Passion

A sensual, provocative title hints at pages brimming with passion and emotion—precisely what we romance readers crave.  Stellar examples include:  Tamara Hogan’s TASTE ME; Elizabeth Essex’s THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE; and Meredith Duran’s WICKED BECOMES YOU.

So, these are the things I like in a title, but I’ve barely scratched the surface.  What kinds of titles grab you, move you, or make you smile?  Share your favorites—including your own story titles, if you’re game!

Also, just for fun, here’s a website that claims it can gauge the bestseller potential of your title:  http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php.  (For kicks, I entered The Hunger Games.  It was predicted to have a 35.9% chance of being a bestseller.) Anyway, if you’re feeling adventurous, go there, pop in your title, then come back here and share your score!


This post originally appeared on The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood and was reprinted with permission.


annebartonAbout:  Anne Barton began swiping romance novels off her mom’s bookshelf as a teenager, so when she had the chance to spend a semester in London–home to her favorite heroes–she packed her bags and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.

Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anne found her way back to writing the stories she loves and in 2011 won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart for Regency Historical Romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Her weaknesses include reality TV, cute-but-impractical shoes, and caffeinated beverages of all kinds.

Her debut novel, WHEN SHE WAS WICKED, releases in early 2013 from Grand Central Publishing.

Learn more about Anne at http://www.annebarton.com.