The main marketing advice in the indie author arena, is to treat the cover, title and blurb of your novel as marketing tools to alert the relevant audience that your book is for them. But with my first novel, Deviants of Giftborn, I had never been thinking about the marketing considerations of writing to the epic fantasy market. My motivation was writing a story I’d love to read, which happened to be epic fantasy.
When I initially embarked on the journey of writing a book, I had been very much concerned about craft, plot and world building. so I didn’t really think in depth about a name for it as I wrote it. In fact, I had nicknamed it The Ancient Child, because the Etherya had originally been called the Ancients and Nemma had been planned to be a younger girl. As the story developed, the term ‘ancients’ was replaced and the story changed into something with a more adult feel. By the time I was sending it to editors the story changed so much I couldn’t figure out a title that would represent it.
So I had a major problem.
I had to name the novel something that would be representative of both the genre and the book.
This may not seem like a hard thing to do, but I, personally, struggle to name things. And as a creative, it’s a pain the ass.
In the past I have hounded my family and friends with help to name dance companies, dance pieces, business/company names, shows, events and characters. Now, whenever I mention the need to name something, they find a way to disappear – fast! With character names, I started a system. I write down every interesting name I come across in alphabetical order in a document so that whenever I need a name I can just simply browse the file and choose one or amend one. But it’s different naming a novel. You don’t tend to randomly just come across a name that fits a fantasy novel. It has to be specific to the world and the story, it has to be just right… And the perfectionist in me has to be satisfied (as well as the developing marketer in me!).
So here was my process…
- Scanned the manuscript (MS) for terms and phrases that could be used as a title. [Didn’t work because none of the interesting phrase were fantasy specific, or they were too typical. One of them was ‘Game of Treason’! Hmm… what does this say about my writing?!]
- Considered the name of the chapters. [When I first started writing the novel, I named chapters, but by the time I got half way, I decided it didn’t add anything to work. None of the title chapters I had named were appropriate anyway – the most interesting was ‘Between Storms’.]
- Wrote down nouns, adjectives and verbs that are in the book or represent the story, and played with word combinations. [This generated titles like ‘Furore’ ‘Obeying the Sovereign Order’, ‘Ripening the Rot of the Order’, at which my sister laughed her head off. She declared two thirds of the list can never see the light of day lol]
- Analysed titles of works in the genre. [Great to get the feel of the type of words that are interesting.]
- Tried fantasy title generators. [They never came with anything unique enough, but some had the right feel of the type of titles that suited the genre.]
- Played around with words using a thesaurus [This generated a number of lists that became better as time went on.]
- Read articles that looked at the fantasy novel titles. [This was really helpful.]
- Paid $5 to a guy on fiverr who claimed he could name anything. [He came up with ‘Desperate Times Call’… so that was a waste]
- Hounded my sister constantly for advice. She’s amazing. [She had read the book and knew the story so she was best placed to advise. Also she’s a fantasy writer too so she has a special type of patience for this kind of thing!]
- I decided the word Giftborn should be in the title. [I was initially reluctant because of the popular Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. But then I realised there are loads of ‘something’-borns in the genre.]
- Asked my beta readers [This was helpful.]
- Decided which parts of the story was more important to be reflected in the title, and created more lists.
Eventually I came up with a list where most of the titles were appropriate and could be used across the series. Thank goodness the MS needed lots of preparation, otherwise I’m not sure I would’ve given myself the time to go through the process to find the right name. I didn’t even start using the term ‘Giftborn’ in the MS until just before I sent it to my copy-editor (I seem to work better on a deadline – it’s the same when I choreograph, write an essay or have to get somewhere by a certain time!).
Here’s what I learned:
- Phrases or words from the MS would have been best if I had been able to find ones that fit
- Always write down an idea, no matter how small, silly or seemingly slight
- Making lists helped to compare titles
- My title suggestions started to head in the right direction when I considered the common themes or situations that ran throughout the novel
- A Thesaurus helped me to come with interesting words based on ones I already had
- This article at Thoughts on Fantasy really helped as it has some good advice on the construction of fantasy titles by sub-genre
- The best advice came from those who had read, and liked, the book
- Don’t ask people with no understanding of the Fantasy genre
- Browsing the bestselling list of the fantasy genre helped a lot. I wrote down all the titles I liked and read the blurbs. I tried to figure out if they had anything in common
- Finding the right name takes time, and it was worth spending that time
So there you have it. The title ‘Deviants of Giftborn’ may seem like the easiest, most logical and even a lazy title for my book, but as you can see, I struggled all the way!
If you’re a dab hand at titles and you’d like to help me out with future titles I’d love to know your methods. Or you may be interested in joining my Readers List.
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