Guest Marilyn Levinson

News Flash: Kay Garrett is the giveaway winner! Congratulations, Kay, and please check your email.

Edith/Maddie writing from a dark and cold north of Boston.

But a bit of light comes from today’s guest, Marilyn Levinson, whose Death on the Shelf is her fifth Haunted Library mystery (written as Allison Brook). And she’s giving away a copy of the new book to one lucky commenter!

In Death on the Shelf, librarian Carrie Singleton is attending her best friend’s wedding reception when a guest suddenly dies. Was it illness or murder that ended the life of the good doctor? Carrie investigates and discovers secrets and intrigues.

What’s In a Title?

Authors know that choosing the right title for a book requires considerable thought. You want something clever but not so clever that its meaning is obscure; catchy but not overused; trendy but not derivative. It needn’t be original because titles are sometimes used again and again.  The title should give some insight into the story printed on its pages as well as reflect the book’s mood and genre.

Years ago when I was writing kid lit, I usually came up with the titles for my books. I loved taking a line from my novel, a line I felt summed up the mood and feeling of what my book was about. But perhaps that type of novel-naming is a thing of the past, along with borrowing phrases from the Bible like THE SUN ALSO RISES, SONG OF SOLOMON and EAST OF EDEN.

These days certain words are popular in titles. Think of the number of books that include the word “girl” in their titles. Like GONE GIRL, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON to name a few. “Last” is another recent popular word in titles, along with “widow” and “wife.”

Cozy mysteries have whimsical titles because while they involve murder and mayhem, their tone is lighthearted. Cozy titles let readers know that these are fun books to read and often are puns of familiar sayings such as NO GRATER CRIME by Maddie Day, THE GUN ALSO RISES by Sherry Harris, and A CHRISTMAS PERIL by JA Hennrikus.

Alas, my success rate of creating titles for my HAUNTED LIBRARY series that I write as Allison Brook is rather low. The first title came easy enough. Since the series centers around a library, I wanted the title to have something to do with books or a library as well as murder. Since a cold case was involved, I thought that DEATH OVERDUE was an appropriate title. My publisher agreed and that became the name of book number one. Afterward, I discovered there was already a mystery out with that title, but they weren’t concerned and neither was I.

I was asked for title ideas for the following books and happily came up with a list of possibilities. My group of cozy authors also provided their wonderful suggestions. Some of their proposals were taken. Other titles came from my publisher. None came from me.

It doesn’t bother me . . . anymore. After all, what’s in a title? In truth, I sometimes confuse my own titles. I even posted a giveaway in my newsletter changing the first word in DEATH ON THE SHELF to MURDER. No matter. The winner received her prize. Most importantly, my readers know what to expect when each new book in the series comes out, regardless of the title on the cover.

Readers: Does a book title determine whether or not you plan to read the book? I’ll send a copy of Death on the Shelf to one US commenter.

A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. Her books have received many accolades. As Allison Brook she writes the Haunted Library series. DEATH OVERDUE, the first in the series, was an Agatha nominee for Best Contemporary Novel in 2018. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series and the Twin Lakes series. Her juvenile novel, Rufus and Magic Run Amok, was an International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice. And Don’t Bring Jeremy was a nominee for six state awards.

Marilyn lives on Long Island, where many of her books take place. She loves traveling, reading, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and chatting on FaceTime with her grandkids. She invites you to sign up for her newsletter:

59 Thoughts

  1. I love puns, but I’m horrible at coming up with them, so I’d be bad at naming cozy mysteries. But a great cozy mystery title certainly makes me take notice, especially by an author I haven’t read before. (No need to enter me in the contest.)

  2. I’m more of a visual person, so it’s the cover first and then the title will determine if I pick up a book.

  3. Welcome, Allison/Marilyn to the Wickeds.
    I enjoy reading your series, and am looking forward to seeing what happens at the wedding reception.

    I did often wonder how easy/hard it is for author to come up with their book titles, so thanks for sharing your experience. I do read a lot of cozy mysteries so I am used to seeing titles with cute puns.
    But the book title usually does not affect/influence whether I pick up the book to read.

    Don’t enter me for the draw: I live in Canada, and I have a Netgalley ARC of the book.

  4. It can be a combination of factors for me in why I decide on a book. Could be a title, cover, or I just love the author’s series or other books. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway!! pgenest57 at aol dot com

  5. A book title might catch my eye and get me to pick up a book from the shelf. However, in order for me to actually buy it, I’d flip the book over and read the synopsis. That is far more important to me than a title.

  6. I love a good title as much as the next reader. But it’s more often cover art that’ll get me to pick up a book and read the back cover or peek at the first page.

  7. Like Mally, I love a good title. But the cover art is a bigger draw to picking up the book, and the back copy plus first few paragraphs a better indicator for whether I’ll buy.

  8. Like several of the folks here, a good cover or an author I’m already following would draw me in first. Sometimes the titles don’t mean much until you really get in to the book, not at first. But boy do I appreciate a good pun in the title!

  9. Although titles and covers intrigue me (and I always go back after reading the book to see how the cover photo relates to the actual story), but it’s not always what has me picking up a book. A lot of the books I read are from authors that I’ve come to enjoy their writings or it’s a book a friend, blog or an author I follow has suggested as a great read. I do enjoy finding new to me authors which does happen from time to time through being drawn to a book by title and cover photo. Love cozies so I can tell by the title that it’s a cozy and something I would enjoy and I love when they give me a chuckle at their creativity or play on words.

    Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to win a copy of “Death on the Shelf”. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected so I can read this book on my TBR list.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  10. I love the punny cozy titles, but not enough to have one influence my buying habits. A cover, now that is a different story. I have bought books based on the intricacies and promise of the cover.

    Congratulations on the latest addition to one of my favorite series.

  11. If a book has a punny title and the cover has light, bright colors and a cute animal or food, then I can be pretty sure it’s a book I will like. Thanks for the chance to win the next book. I love this series.

  12. I enjoy books centered around libraries which is not surprising as I am a retired librarian, and several things encourage me to buy books. I like more realistic covers like RahRah the cat on Debra H. Goldstein’s Sarah Blair mystery books. And, I look for author endorsements, so having Kylie Logan write the blurb on your cover of Death on the Shelf makes me want to read your book. If an author I like endorses a book, I want to read it, too. Titles also are incentives to get me to buy a book. I enjoy clever, punny titles. I have not read your series, but reading about you and your background motivates me to give it a try. Best of luck in your writing career!

  13. A title may catch my eye but whether I have enjoyed books by the author or like the premise of the book determines if I will buy it. So many books and not enough money if I want to eat means that I have to make choices, and just a picture won’t do it for me.

  14. ¡¡Hola Marilyn!! I buy so many cozy books because of the title AND the cover, and am delighted to get hooked on an author because of that. Your title and cover are immensely appealing, so I look forward to getting ‘hooked’ on your books. Thank you for sharing your writing talents. Happy Thanksgiving!

  15. In a way it does. The cover catches my attention which in turn has me reading what the book is about. That decides whether or not I buy and read the book. It can be the best story of the year but if that cover doesn’t grab my attention, I’d never know it.
    Don’t enter me in the drawing as I’ve already got a copy, read it and reviewed it. I loved it. It was so good.

  16. Excellent cover and title, Marilyn. The cover draws, but it’s usually the title that encourages me to click. Cliched and overused titles suggest unimaginative thought or research, steering me toward other books. Publisher Rocket helps writers avoid overplayed titles. Thanks for asking!

  17. I totally admire the effort that goes into coming up with a good title. I’ve never been good at naming things and to be able to choose an eye-catching title that fits the story- yikes! That being said, I look at a cover and blurb before title when choosing a book, but if the title contains a word relating to one of my favorite mystery themes (food, books, crafts, animals) I’ll be that much more likely to pick up that book for a second look.

  18. A title will catch my eye if it’s an author I’m unfamiliar with. The colors are also a factor and I like how cozy mysteries are more vibrant than say, a James Patterson mystery cover. I’m a sucker for food and animals on a cover, so cozies have always been right up my alley! I started reading this series last winter and really enjoyed it! I’m excited for the new book! Congrats!!

  19. Welcome, Marilyn. I’m excited about learning of an author and series I’m unfamiliar with. There’s nothing I love better than a really good punny title. They make me look at the cover more closely and then read the back. Since I love haunted places and libraries, winning this book would really make my day – and get me started on the whole series.

  20. Hi, I first look at the cover, then the title and then I read the back of the book. I love all the Cozy book titles! Have a great weekend and stay safe. Thank you for sharing about your book, it sounds and looks like a great read!

  21. I am very much looking forward to reading Death on the Shelf! I have read all of the other books in the Haunted Library Mystery series and have been enjoying them very much and have always given them a good rating. Keep on writing, Marilyn, and I will keep on reading!

  22. This is a delightful series! I’m happy to see that there is a new one, no matter the title. Quite honestly, I rarely choose a book to read because of the title, since many of them are so similar. I was at B&N today and spent some time in the ‘cozy’ section, thinking that I could match titles to authors without seeing the author’s name. Nope! Even book references in the title only narrowed the possibilities a little.

  23. The Book title and cover will make me pick a book up to read the blurb about the book, but it’s not the deciding factor. If I’ve read an author and like her books then I would buy the book no matter what the cover looks like.

  24. A punny title and colorful cover will entice me to try a new author. Reading my favorite authors is a given. Thanks for the chance. I liked the other books in your series.

  25. Actually, the cover grabs my attention first. I would say that the title maybe second in determining if I purchase a book. Thank you for sharing.

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