Friday, February 06, 2009

A rose by any other name...

The book I'm currently reading for my book club is The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society . I'm loving it, but the thing I find funny is that when I first saw this book in a bookshop window, I swore I would never read it.

I was walking home one evening from our favourite Thai place around the corner with E and my son and part of our ritual is to stop and look in the window of our favourite bookshop Mary Who?
A small mountain of the Guernsey book had pride of place and Andrew said very disparagingly, 'That looks like the sort book you'd read, Mum.'
'Never!' I protested hotly.
But when I discovered it was the next book for my reading group (made up of women I used to teach with and whose tastes closely match mine) I discovered just how fickle I am, because I was suddenly intrigued by the title and eager to read it. Of course, comments by others about "couldn't put it down" helped.
But it also confirmed a few points about titles and target readers.
Many people are surprised when I tell them that we have very little say in the titles of our books. This is because the titles are so important at hooking readers and we authors often don't have a clue.
Although I'm proud to say that two of my bestselling books had titles I chose. These were Outback with the Boss (reprinted this year in Her Outback Boss) and Having the Boss's Babies.

On the other hand, In the Heart of the Outback was a book I loved. My publisher chose the title and I was quite happy with it at the time, but it didn't sell as well because the title didn't have enough hooks.

So it's a tricky business the titling of books, especially in series romance where the books are only on the shelves for such a short time.


JoyfullyHis said...

I can concur about the book titles. They really do lure people in. One of my all-favorite book titles was on a book list I had to choose from in college. I chose it mainly for the title and because it wasn't as long as the rest on the list. It was called "Rats, Lice and History," and it wasn't half as interesting as the title. :) As for most of the books for the Harlequin line, we fans don't normally read the title, just the author and we snap it up. ;)

Barbara Hannay said...

That's interesting about Harlequin fans. It's great to know that diehard fans buy by author, but I still think the titles must be important for hooking those other readers who are skimming the shelves, not sure what they really want to read.
And it seems to take a long time for new authors to get name recognition.

Liz Fielding said...

I adored the Guernsey book, Barbara and was lucky enough to be reading it in Guernsey where my daughter was married earlier this year.

But you're absolutely right about titles. I have my fav authors who I don't even have to think about buying but I'm a sucker for something intriguing and have found some interesting books that way.

Barbara Hannay said...

Liz, How wonderful to read the Guernsey book right there in Guernsey and on such a romantic occasion.

I couldn't help thinking how much Anne Weale would have loved that book.