Many authors who write book series, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton, to name a few, have written books that have common words in them. Patterson uses the word ‘Cross’, as in his character, Alex Cross, in such books as Cross My Heart, Cross Country, etc. Interestingly enough, however, he started out titling his Alex Cross books with nursery rhyme references like Along Came a Spider and Jack and Jill.
Janet Evanovich uses numbers for her Stephanie Plum novels. She started with One for the Money and is about to release Hardcore Twenty Four. Sue Grafton used the more limiting letter scheme for her titles. Starting with A is for Alibi, she is now about to release Y is for Yesterday. Having titles like these for a series is a great marketing idea and, in the case of Evanovich and Grafton, it gives you an idea of the order of the series. Patterson didn’t use the strategy of indicating the sequence, he just weaves the word ‘Cross’ into his titles to make them catchy. I liked Patterson’s approach and decided to try this with my first novel assuming that there would be a series. Right out of the gate, I was afraid I painted myself into a corner.
My first book, Frankly Speaking, was titled based on the main character, Detective Frank Rozzani. For the second title, I actually used social media and, giving my followers a synopsis of the book, I ran a contest for the title and the winner had their name used as a character in the book. The winner came up with the title, Let Me Be Frank. This title actually fit the story quite well.
Sometime after this book was released, I attended an author event and sat on a panel. I said something about the title issue and, after the panel, a man approached me with a list of about 30 Frank-related titles that he came up with. I still have that list somewhere, although, I haven’t used any of them yet.
The next title, Frank Incensed, is a pun-based title on frankincence, one of the gifts from the three wise men. The book has more to do with Frank being incensed at what is done to him in the book.
Frankly, My Dear, the fourth book in the series, is a story about a woman that prides herself on destroying men that don’t give her what they want. The title comes from the famous Gone with the Wind quote.
The most recent book, Frank Immersed, was originally going to be titled Frank in a Box, but my co-writer and I decided it wasn’t a great title, so we changed it.
I’ve got some other ‘Frank’ titles lined up, but I’m not married to this strategy as it can be a limiting strategy.
So, How do you select your titles?
Here are some tips when working on selecting them:
- Just write – your title will come to you eventually, don’t spend an inordinate amount of time agonizing over what to call your book or story. You can do that later, but, like me, the inspiration may come when you least expect it.
- Be creative – Your title can be intriguing, tell the reader a bit about the kind of story it is and can draw them in.
- Duplicate of other titles – Don’t worry so much about this. If your book is a different genre or fiction vs. non-fiction from a book with the same title, that’s okay.