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The Evolution of a Title

By Sherry Harris, enjoying lovely fall weather in northern Virginia

Jessie recently talked about What’s in a Name and her joy in naming characters. Some of my characters seem to show up with names. With others I have a much harder time finding the right name. I just finished the second Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery. I had one character named Blank and one named Place until the month before I turned in the manuscript. They became Olivia and Gennie. It isn’t only naming characters that gives me trouble but also titles.

I love all the cleverly named books that are plays on words. Edith’s book A Tine to Live A Tine to Die was named as one of the punniest cozy mystery titles of the year by RT Book Reviews. You can read their picks of clever titles here: The Punniest Cozy Mystery Titles. Liz has Kneading to Die, Barb, Clammed Up and Jessie, Drizzled with Death. Julie — we’ll find hers out soon enough. It seems like there are plenty of clever things Julie will be able do with a theme of time.

The title for the first book in the series, Tagged for Death, came to me easily. It references tag sales (a New England term for garage sales), the tags on yard sale items, and the person who is targeted to die. In my proposal the second book was titled “Marred Sale Madness”. I thought marred was a decent rhyme with yard. As I started talking about the book and telling people the title they always said, “What?” Some people thought I was saying “March,” others just didn’t understand. Then I’d have to carefully enunciate the word, M-a-r-r-ed. I don’t know if it’s my Midwest nasal tones or it’s just that hard to say, but I decided a new title was in order.

At the Wicked Cozy retreat last April I told the Wickeds that I needed a new title but was drawing a blank. Barb came up with Deal or Die. I liked it and wrote my editor asking if that was okay. He agreed it was. But as time approached to turn the second book in my editor decided to go another direction and titled the book “The Longest Yard Sale”. It’s cute and fun. I double checked on Amazon to see if there were any other books with a similar names. I found: The Longest Yard Sale by Sherry Harris available for pre-order! It comes out June 30, 2015.

The third book’s working title is: Murder As Is. I have a feeling that might change too.

Readers: Does the name of a book influence your decision to read it? How do you come up with titles? Do you have a favorite?


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