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What's in a Title?

So today I thought I'd talk about titles. This can be a polarizing topic, especially if I express dissatisfaction with a title someone reading this has recently used. Warning: you don't have to agree with this post. I'm not putting down anyone's book, I'm just poking a bit of fun at the title. And hey, I've earned it. I read enough to fund a small library and/or country. This post is what it is--MY opinion. That said, let's continue.

To me, a title is almost as important as the book. Granted, something tame, like My Heart's Desire, isn't all that special. It's actually kind of bland, but it won't throw me from buying a book. Recently, however, I read some buzz on the Net about a particular book title that offended many a reader. I don't even remember what the title was, but that it had the word c*cksucker in it. Yes, you read that right. No, this book was not intended as part of a porn collection. It was an erotic romance, and I stress the word "romance." While those of us writing steamy fiction include sex in the work, we don't normally advertise what's happening in the book in the title.

My new book, Caging the Beast, is about a man called "the beast." He has anal and oral sex with the hero. My title is not, however, Takes it Up the Ass, Swallowing a Load, or Hand Job Harry. Kind of crass, to my way of thinking. But the more I read about the c*cksucker book, the more I realized this might in fact be a publicity stunt, and if so, more power to the author and publisher. The publisher apparently apologized for offending the many readers who complained, then promptly put out a c*cksucker II (again, not sure about the actual name of the book or its author and publisher.)

Honestly, I had to laugh. I'm not offended enough to complain about the book. I just won't buy it. The title is that off-putting to me, as it, perhaps wrongly, implies that the book is really only about someone giving head, when I'd like to read an erotic romance more for the story that includes sex, not about a story that is ONLY sex. I think in that case, I'd be reading erotica or porn.

In any case, I enjoy reading interesting titles. Here are a few I've enjoyed a chuckle or two over. I make no comment about the book itself, but the title seems forced to me, even for an erotic romance. Why not just title the book, "Having Sex, All Over the Place, In Every Position"?
In all fairness, I realize authors have very little say in their titles when published by large publishers. I included the links to these books because while the titles are just wacky, the stories themselves look pretty good. And that's my thought for the day.

Caging the Beast, avail now from TEB!


Devon Rhodes said...

LOL, great post! Covers get a lot of talk, but I don't remember seeing much discussion on titles, and to me, they are so important.

As a writer, I choose my working title with the same care as my characters' names, and as a buyer? The title can pull me in or repulse me just as quickly as the cover. For me to get as far as the blurb (unless it's by a tried-and-true author I already know), the title figures heavily in my initial impression.

And yes, I prefer something evocative and subtle to being slammed over the head!!

Marie Harte said...

Hey Devon.

Yeah, you said it. Subtle is sometimes way more intriguing than that title that knocks you over the head.

:) Marie

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Marie,

I nearly spit out my soy milk!

Titles are critically important-the ones you quoted would get me laughing but unlikely to buy. Even in the world of erotica I feel that some subtlety is required.

I do like titles with some double entendre to them, though. I'm partial to my title Exposure, in which the main character is a stripper, but which also features a missing role of film as a plot element. (It's erotic suspense.)


Marie Harte said...

Hey Lisabet.

Exposure is nice. Subtle, provocative. It's not an outright "Do Me on the Kitchen Table Right Now." Yeah, that's blatant, but some titles (and don't get me started on covers) tend to give erotic romance that "porn" descriptive. And it's not the same thing at all, which is a discussion too lengthy to get into in and of itself.

:) Marie