Wednesday, May 16, 2018

All the Truly Nasty Titles I've Thought Up

Okay… titles, huh? I’m going to have to punt on the expertise here because I’ve never successfully titled a work. Let me explain.

I have two books out. The first was a cyberpunk romance featuring a BladeRunner-type android assassin, and in my overwrought newbieness I called it On the Squeeze. Note the singular lack of cyberpunk or romance imagery there. To my ever-patient editor I submitted more than twenty terrible titles, each terribler than the last. Don’t believe me? Feast your giggler on these gems:
  • Lost Things
  • Hard Drive
  • Hard Wired
  • Guardian Machine
  • Full Metal Seduction (<-- Seriously, I sent this. Amazing SFR author Cara Bristol had just done a poll on Facebook asking readers what words in a title were appealing for romance, and "seduction" was the clear winner. So I guess I thought I was being marketing savvy or something. Am blushing with embarrassment now, though. Pretty sure this was not the context the voters had in mind.)

Finally, in the last batch via email, I said, um, maybe Wired and Wanted?

At that point, either I’d worn down my editor with the sheer volume of badness or that title was close enough to what we needed. She switched it around to Wanted and Wired, and voila.

But wait! The follow-up book was going to be even more fun to title, for both of us. And by “fun” of course I mean agony. My working title for book 2 was Claws in Chrome, which, again, wasn’t super romancey, but at least it had a cyberpunk feel and called out the robot cat, who is a pivotal character in the story. (I had in my mind the cover image of a shirtless cowboy facing away from the camera, a la Daniel Craig on that hot Cowboys & Aliens movie novelization cover by Joan D. Vinge, only with a creepy robot feline peering over his shoulder, possibly in full ears-back hiss mode. THIS IS WHY VIV DOES NOT DESIGN COVERS.)

My poor, poor editor. 

None of the titles I suggested were even close to suitable, and just in case you don’t believe me, here’s the complete list I sent with the launch paperwork:
  • Fire and the Fall
  • Desire and the Desperado
  • Spurred and Smitten
  • Trust and Treason
  • Tampered and Tempted
  • Bliss and Bravado
  • Riled and Ready
  • Claws in Chrome
  • Evils and Angels
  • Passion and Power
  • Outlaw and the Oratrix (<-- OH YES! Clearly targeted at readers who always have a dictionary handy!)
  • Shadow Trust
  • War and the Wild Things
  • Fire of Forever
  • Best of the Beasts

The title we ended up with, Perfect Gravity, has nothing to do with the book, but lordy is it better than anything I submitted. We may have gone back at revisions and added a couple of lines about the pull of gravity, or the heroine’s magnetic personality being like gravity or something. Regardless, it’s a pretty cool title.

That I would never in a zillion years have thought up.

So that's my unimpressive track record so far. The third book in the series has a working title of … (wait for it)…Bits of Starstuff. And okay fine, I love it and it’s so appropriate for my noncorporeal, sentient-chatbot heroine Chloe. So what it isn’t romantic. So what no stars actually explode in the story. So what it’s punny with “bits” having two meanings, and no one likes puns.

We’ll have to see what happens with that book, but hey, if you have title ideas, please feel free to pass them along. They can’t be worse than the crud I’ve thought up.


  1. Fun post, Vivien. And I actually really like Shadow Trust and Fire of Forever. But then, my first novel was titled P2PC (which no one would understand until they read the book, which they probably never would, because...bad title.) My agent said--not surprisingly--um, no. Try again.

  2. "War and the Wild Things" might not scream ROMANCE, but I do love it.

  3. I voted for it once and I still vote for it now, Desire and the Desperado. That's still what I think it's called even when I read Perfect Gravity.

  4. Coming up with a title is just as hard as writing the book!

  5. You're so right! Coming up with a good title is an art form unto itself. My agent and editor came up with my titles, so I was a lucky duck. I had it easy. Some of your titles are good. I like Shadow Trust .