Coming Up with Titles: the Pain and Glory

Spring has sprung here fully into summer and the flowers are so lovely! This is my pink anemone clematis that I’m training to climb up the grape vine in the arbor. Love how it’s coming along!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is “How do you come up with your titles?” Come on over for a long and involved story of one of my titles!

Clickable Titles – Bait and Switch?

I’m packing up my bags today and leaving my pretty garden behind, alas.

I’ll be in Charleston, SC over the weekend, prowling the streets and doing a little book research, then I’m in Providence, RI all week, winding up in Boston Thursday night and Friday. If anyone wants to hook up, ping me!

So, I’ve been working harder at creating better blog titles. This is one of the conventional pieces of wisdom for increasing blog traffic – a title that’s nicely clickable. I can see the point, and I know I have a tendency to do obscure, poetic titles that amuse only me and tell no one what the blog post is actually about. And it’s made a difference, too, both here and at Word Whores.

But I’ve noticed something else, too.

A lot of venues are getting this memo. Blogs, news outlets, what have you. Because the almighty click is the most important part, I’m finding that my level of dissatisfaction and disappointment is growing. Why? More and more, the article or post I click on isn’t about what the title led me to think it was about.

I’m not talking about people who title their blog posts “Crazy Sex!” and then say “now that I’ve got your attention…” That’s just a stupid, annoying trick which only alienates your readers and isn’t funny at all. I’m thinking of a post titled something like “Making Your Story Compelling,” and I read it and it’s all about the writer wondering how to make her story compelling. It’s not a false title per se, but I do feel misled. I didn’t get what I hoped to.

Now, some of this is just par for the course – it’s always a gamble whether something you read will satisfy you. But I’m encountering this more and more. Some “news” sites are particularly bad, offering enticing headlines and then a three-line “article” that completely fails to deliver. Not their problem, right? They already got my click.

However.

I’m starting to notice which sites are the most egregious violators and learning to know better than to fall for the lure.

At the same time, I’m trying to be aware that when I title my posts, that they’re interesting and informative of the content – in an accurate way.

Erf. Maybe I’ll go back to poetic and obscure…

Picking a Good Book Title

We get the most spectacular sunrises this time of year. I’m not sure why. All that mysterious meteorology stuff.

I’ve been noticing something interesting since Sapphire came out. One word titles suck for tracking.

Not that I don’t love that title – I do. It was my title all along and Carina let me keep it. It matches the cover nicely (or vice-versa) and reflects a crucial aspect of the story itself. Now, it was counter-productive in a way I didn’t expect because I now have to change the title of my novel coming out in July, formerly known as Obsidian.

I know, I know – me and my one-word precious and semi-precious gem titles. I don’t know what my damage is there. At any rate, Carina said I should retitle Obsidian, because it would sound like a sequel to Sapphire. Since the novel is a totally different story, genre and heat-level, there’s no case for that. I saw their point, brainstormed a list of titles and we’ll see what the marketing team decides.

I’m interested to see what they decide on.

And I hope it’s better for tracking.

See, I have Google alerts set up for mentions of my titles. And Twitter columns set up for those searches. Correction – I have Twitter columns set up to watch for “Petals and Thorns” and “Feeding the Vampire,” but I only lasted about a week with the “Sapphire” column. Seriously. Do you know how many mentions there are of Kate Middleton’s sapphire ring? Or of some credit card? There’s also a Gentleman’s Club (which apparently markets ALL THE TIME), a fancy mall in Istanbul, a watch, a “nettop” computer and a surprising number of people celebrating their 65th wedding anniversaries.

In short – finding mentions of my book is like wandering through a supermodel convention hoping someone will tell you you’re pretty.

Just ain’t gonna happen.

Not to mention that there just happens to be a kind of famous author named Sapphire who hogs all the Amazon searches.

So, I’m extracting a lesson from this one. I know we don’t always have control of our titles, but so far, everyone I know at least gets to send a suggested list. I wonder how people with even more common one-word titles like “Fallen” or “Fated” do. I would think it’s even worse. (Though, for the record, “Twilight” totally rocks the Google search at this point.)

So my whole list of really fab one-word titles? Eh. Send those to circular file #13.