Readers often ask where book titles come from so, I thought I’d give you a recap of how the garage sale titles came to be. Often a writer will have a working title in mind, that can change and morph as they write. Editors also have opinions on book titles, and I’ve found that mine was usually right. Yes, we had a few discussions about some of the books’ titles.

I sold the Garage Sale mysteries on proposal. That means I didn’t write the entire first book and sell it – I wrote a proposal instead and sold the first three books in the series based on that. One of the things my soon-to-be agent told me was the titles should be puns – no pressure – ha! In the proposal the first three books were titled: Tagged for Death, Marred Sale Madness, and Murder As Is.

Tagged for Death – most of you probably know that garage sales are called tag sales in parts of New England. This title was easy and stuck all the way to being published.

The Longest Yard Sale – oof, this one was a bit of a tussle. I realized fairly quickly that Marred Sale Madness wasn’t going to work. Say it out loud – it’s a tongue twister and when I would say it people would always react with, “what did you say?” I think my next suggestion was Deal or Die. Apparently, my editor didn’t like that one because one day I got an email saying that the title was The Longest Yard Sale. Wait. What? No, no, no! This book is about New England’s largest yard sale. The longest yard sale goes from Georgia to Michigan. Well, I guess we all know who won that round. And I came around – it was a good pun on the movie The Longest Yard.

All Murders Final! – My editor came up with this one too. I wasn’t crazy about this one either – if I remember correctly there was another cozy with a similar title. Oh, it was All Sales Final by Josie Belle. But I wasn’t that enthused about Murder As Is either.

A Good Day to Buy – I liked playing off movies so came up with this one off A Good Day to Die Hard. My editor liked it too! Woo-hoo!

I Know What You Bid Last Summer – I can’t remember if this one just popped into my head or if I used the big cheat – an online pun generator. Actually, I love that pun generator and it helped me more than once – now if I could just remember for which titles! I was worried that it was too wordy for a title with seven words, but the cover artist at Kensington for my books is a genius and it looks just fine.

The Gun Also Rises – sigh, another bit of a battle. When we were first tossing ideas around for this book my editor suggested including a Hemingway like character. After reading the story about the lost Hemingway manuscripts, I knew I wanted to include them. One of the main characters is Belle. I thought the title For Whom the Belle Tolls would be cute. And there was a novella on Amazon with the title The Gun Also Rises. Plus, when I wrote my original proposal for the first three books, my agent told me guns aren’t cozy. So I worried about having a gun right there in the title.

Let’s Fake A Deal – a pun on the game show, Let’s Make A Deal — this one always make me chuckle (cue the evil laughter) because I’d proposed it for an earlier book and my editor was all, “nope.” But this time he thought it was great.

Sell Low, Sweet Harriet – this was epic. EPIC! The Wickeds, alas without Barb who was about to become a grandmother for the second time, were gathered in Connecticut. The next day we were going to visit Kensington as a group for the first time. That night I got an email from my editor saying he’d changed the title from whatever it was Sell Low, Sweet Harriet. But, but, but there’s no one in the book named Harriet. Just change one of the characters’ names, he said or throw in an epilogue with someone named Harriet. WHAT? Are you kidding me? That wasn’t going to work. If the person’s name is in the title, they must be important to the story. Thankfully, I was with the Wickeds and they talked me down. So, as I was waiting for my copy edits, I was rewriting and adding Harriet to the story. I love Harriet and she became important to the ninth book Absence of Alice. My editor liked her too and at one point we discussed spinning her off to her own series.

Absence of Alice – This is a tale of a tail wagging the dog. Somehow, my editor came up with this title before I’d started writing the book. Again, by a stroke of luck, I was with Wickeds when we did a mini-book tour in New England. Julie and I were driving back from New Hampshire to Boston and talked about the different ways I could incorporate Alice. And I love how that book came out. It’s one of my favorites, but ssshhh, don’t tell the others.

There you have it– I’ll save the Chloe titles for another day! While choosing some of these titles was stressful, my editor was right and I’ll always be grateful to him for that and many other things.

Readers: Have you ever thought about how book titles came to be? Writers: How has your titling process been? I’m traveling today so it may be hard for me to respond to comments until later.

29 Thoughts

  1. I wish you could write this series another 10 books or more. I LOVE it!!!!

  2. Love the series. I always assumed that good titles were hard to come by. It is interesting the different ways they come about. I figured authors had to do all the work.

  3. I Love this post and am printing it out and putting it with my books (of course I have them all!). Thanks so much for sharing this; it adds yet another layer to enjoying the series (which ended all too soon…..)

  4. I have wondered how authors come up with such clever titles. I will sometimes choose a book by the title and a cute cover helps too.

  5. What a great history, Sherry. I’m not sure I’ve kept track of my various title negotiations, but there certainly have been some.

  6. You just have to love cozy titles! They draw my attention and have me wondering how it plays into the story line. I had wondered how some of them came about – whether they were the author’s choice. Never thought about having to change the book some because of the title though.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  7. What a great topic and your titles have all been great! I’m looking forward to a follow-up for the Chloe mysteries.

    Titles are hard. I often turn to my SinC sisters for help. Death by Blue Water was originally titled Diving Diva – I think my editor made a stellar choice in changing that title! Death by Sunken Treasure was originally titled Death by Doubloons. I still like that title better, but my editor felt no one would know what doubloons were. I’m still torn about that, but my editor probably knew best! My current is set in Maine and creatively titled Maine 1 – I’ve not a clue as to a real title yet. Sounds like a problem for the hive mind!

  8. YES – titles are so hard!! I think it’s partly because it’s difficult to distill a 70K or 100K book that we know and love (and have parts memorized, for gosh sake) down to three or four words. My first book A LADY IN THE SMOKE began as THE VISCOUNT’S DAUGHTER, but the marketing team felt it sounded to bodice-rippery and no one would be able to pronounce Viscount. It went through, no joke, about 12 titles, back and forth between me, agent, editor, marketing, and back. My agent finally started calling it Choo-choo Go Boom (it’s about a railway crash in London 1874). He still calls it that, as a joke. My editor came up with the final. 🙂 I have a friend who’s good at titles and we hash them out over the phone — A Trace of Deceit was hers.

  9. How fascinating, Sherry! I love punny titles, colorful and fun covers, but mostly…I’d read anything any of you dear Wickeds write:-) :-)!!! Thank you for sharing such an interesting account on how titles come alive…or murdered! Luis at ole dot travel

  10. I absolutely love the punny titles, can’t count how many times I’ve either laughed right out loud or said to myself, “How clever is that!” – thanks for all the brainpower you use to create them!

  11. It’s always interesting to hear how titles came out. I can’t believe they would spring something like Harriet on you like that, however. As you now, I love puns, so I always love seeing what the next punny title in a series will be, and you’ve definitely had some good ones.

    I love Murder As Is. That would have been a good title, too.

  12. It’s always interesting to know how titles came to be. I didn’t know garage sales are also called tag sales. I just figured the title was related to the price tags on the items. I am looking forward to starting book 1 of this series this month!

  13. Yes. I understand that sometimes the writers get to pick a title. Other times the publisher choses the title. It is not an easy process. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

  14. I loved them all and wondered why a publisher would tell you to quit writing them. I needed more of the garage sales and Sarah Winston and at least closure. But I am now invested in your Chloe Jackson ones, and I love those titles.

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