I was chatting with thriller author J A Andrews on Twitter about how our book titles have changed. All four of his novels changed titles. And both of mine!
Titles are so important, yet so tricky to get right. The title is the first thing potential readers see of our books, so ideally we need something catchy, memorable and unique which hints at the story and what genre it is.
When I pitched my new thriller THE BAY to my agent and publishers, I called it: THE TRIBE or SURF TRIBE. They didn’t like it. They thought ‘The Tribe’ sounded like a science fiction book and ‘Surf Tribe’ was too niche – it would only appeal to surfers. I brainstormed alternative titles with my agent and publishers. Ideas included ON THE BEACH, THE SHORE, UNDERCURRENT, THE RIP and DARE. In the end, my UK team went for THE BAY.
But my American publishers felt it wouldn’t suit their market. Books sometimes do have different titles in different countries, as obviously each country has a slightly different market and publishers want to pick the best possible title for their market. In the US, surfing is seen as glamorous and sexy, my publisher explained, so they wanted to highlight that aspect. They came up with THE SWELL, which I love.
My debut novel changed title too! It was called THE ICEBREAKER when I submitted it, after the warm-up game the characters play at the reunion. My agent, Kate Burke at Blake Friedmann, felt it wasn’t strong enough. Plus ‘icebreaker’ is a type of ship that sails in icy waters! Kate came up with SHIVER at 4am one morning and I will always be grateful to her for that!
There are already several other novels with the title ‘Shiver’ but there’s no copyright on book titles so it didn’t matter.
As SHIVER gets translated into different languages, I’m always fascinated to see what title they give it. Sometimes its a direct translation of ‘Shiver’ such as ‘Tremblor’ for my Spanish edition. Sometimes it’s totally different. In Germany, the title is FROST GRAB which means ‘icy tomb.’ The Czech edition is ‘Mraz Pod Cuzi’ which means ‘frost under the skin.’
If, like me, you struggle with titles, my advice would be: don’t fret! You just need a good-enough working title for now. Down the line, your agent and/or publisher might well change it.