What’s in a name? Picking the perfect book title

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I mentioned in an earlier post that Fremont’s working title was Magnet to the Face of a Compass. We weren’t crazy about it, so we all sat down and tried to think of a better one. We went through The Fremont Inheritance (too romance-saga), Homeground (kept getting it mixed up with Homeland), and The Something Fremonts (we could never find an adjective that seemed right: Extraordinary, Lost, Legendary… they all sounded a bit Victorian). Lesley came up with about 40 progressively more caffeine-fuelled titles in a late-night brain-spew, most of which are too awful to list, though they were very funny. This helped us to focus our minds and we narrowed it down to a few.

Elizabeth suggested some really poetic out-of-the-box titles, such as Night CreekVirgaThe Somewhat United States of Fremont, but we felt that the first two sounded more like poetry collections than novels. The latter had real legs for a while, but in the end we decided that to do that, we would need a typographer rather than an illustrator for the book cover. By this time we had already chosen Emily and were in love with her cover designs. A really long title would have changed the balance of the cover. So the search for the perfect title continued.

All three of us then voted unanimously for Homeground. However, we quickly realised that we all really missed the word ‘Fremont’ and felt that the family had worked themselves into all of our hearts. We wanted a strong title, which Homeground did well; however, it felt like a possible title for many crime books, poetry or essay collections, and we wanted something unique. And so the book finally became Fremont – bold, intriguing with understated charm.

Finding a good title is critical for a book’s success, and it is very hard to get right. The amount of books that come in through our submissions process with really dreadful names is quite staggering. I won’t name and shame any authors, but puns should be avoided (one of our title suggestions that made its way into the book as a chapter title because it was too funny to lose was Born Fremont), as should quotes from Shakespeare or Scott or indeed quotes from any famous poetry (this is a very old-fashioned conceit for titles now), or anything called The Something’s Daughter (so late noughties). Of course, then you get the plain weird: full sentences, platitudes and titles that have already been used by very famous books. When I consider the time it took us to think up loads of really awful titles (Land of the Fremonts) and then reject them all and wind up with just plain Fremont, I think I would have every sympathy with writers who sent in a manuscript entitled Book.

We hope that Fremont works its way into your hearts too. Last week a twitter follower said that the title ’hangs in the air beautifully’. Let us know what you think…

LEILA CRUICKSHANK

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