Choosing the Right Title

I sometimes find it a struggle to come up with a title for my work. Titles are not always that easy to come up with— good titles at least. The original title for my young adult novel was “Bittersweet” for several reasons that I can’t go into without giving away a key part to the story.  I hadn’t been able to come up with a title until the very end and then it struck me in one of those “eureka moments” you hear about all the time. Just like that I knew what the title was!!

But then things got changed the way they sometimes do in the publishing business. Let’s face it publishing is a business and, when it comes right down to it it’s about book sales and marketing and making money— but, hopefully, a whole lot more. It’s also about producing the best book possible but at the same time keeping the author happy.

So you can believe me when I say “Bittersweet” really was the right title for the book. As a matter of fact, my editor told me that everyone at Nimbus really loved the original title but they were a bit worried because there were a ton of books out there with Bittersweet as the title or with Bittersweet in the title.(Try doing a search  and see for yourself) But still, no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t come up with a title that fit the book better than “Bittersweet.” So as a compromise they came up with “Bitter, Sweet.”

But the final decision rested with me. Was I willing to go along with their suggestion? I thought about the title for a few days before I got back to my editor. To be honest I wasn’t sure what I thought about the comma. Now a comma is just a little bitty thing you might say but still it seemed to jump out at me as if it had a life of its own. Could I live with the comma? And if I couldn’t live with the comma could I live with a totally different title? These things weighed on my mind. It took me several days to be able to say yes I could live with the change and really mean it. For me it was more of a visual thing because realistically it’s pretty much the same title and I was actually surprised by the fact that it seemed like such a big deal at the time. I even tried writing it out to see what it would look like. It is a bit different from the original and as my editor pointed it out gives the book a really nice literary feel. After all, life is filled with compromise and to be perfectly honest, now that I’m used to it, I really like the title.

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10 Comments

  1. Melanie

     /  July 16, 2009

    I really like the title, too. It’s different, and memorable. Who knew one little bitty comma could have such an impact!

    And hey. At least they didn’t suggest something way out there like “Bitter’s Wheat”! lol

    Reply
    • You’re right, Melanie, I really might have had a problem with something like “Bitter’s Wheat” I think I made the right decision!! LOL

      Reply
  2. I think it is great title! I thought so as soon as I saw it.
    Titles can be a challenge for me – they are either born with the story, or not. Took me a few years to find the ‘right’ title for the novel I am querying now, and still not sure of it. The novel I am currently working on came with a title :)

    Reply
    • Thanks Jennifer,

      Often times the publisher will change the title for marketing purposes. That said, we still want to come up with the best title we can, something that hopefully will ring true as well as inspire us along the way. I was literally in the home stretch before I knew what the title was. I had an idea set in my head early on but couldn’t make it work and it was difficult to get that earlier idea out of my head.

      Reply
  3. Titles are so tough. Then you come up with one you think is brilliant. You google it. Gah! Ten other authors thought it was brilliant for their novel too.

    For the record, I think the comma in your title is kind of cool. Makes it stand out.

    Reply
    • I’m sure to many a little thing like a comma seems pretty minor but when it’s your own work it’s a whole other story. Thanks for the positive comment!

      Reply
  4. Being a visual person, too, I can absolutely see how a comma would make you uncomfortable, especially if the title has been in your mind without one for so long!! That said, I really like your title. They did a great job with the art, too. Both of those things set your book apart as unique and interesting right off the bat.

    Reply
  5. One never knows how they will react to something and I wrote it out quite a few times and still wasn’t sure but once I made the decision I was good with it. Now I’m very happy. I actually like it better than the original.

    Reply
  6. Lynn

     /  December 23, 2009

    Hi Laura,

    When I learned what your book’s title was I wondered that it was so close to Bittersweet. I am in touch via email with an author (from Ontario) who lives in the US where she writes and teaches writing. One of her books is titled Bittersweet. FYI, I have read both your book and hers and they are not at all similar. :)

    I have found that I enjoy reading YA books, although my own yet unpublished writing seems to be more for younger readers, so far. I think I am still trying to find my own voice, but it will become apparent to me eventually. In the meantime, I enjoy the writing of others and am privileged to ‘meet’ a few authors along my journey – you included! :)

    Reply
    • Hi Lynn,

      When I first began writing I pictured myself writing for younger children but I soon found myself writing adult short stories. The adult short stories gradually became short stories with children as my MC and I found that to be a fun and comfortable place to be. My short story writing, however, prepared me making sure I wouldn’t talk down to my audience. When I wrote Bitter, Sweet, it just seemed a natural progression. I loved writing every bit of it. I wrote is as I would any short story I was working on.

      It does take time to find your own voice. One author once told me to simply write the story and then decided later who your intended audience will be instead of trying to fit a story into in certain age group. I did find that helpful. And there is no reason why one can not write for different age groups. There are writers who do that all the time. I really think it depends upon the story itself.

      Reply

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