There are book titles that I’m not fond of, but I hate to throw stones because I have experienced my own struggles coming up with titles. I also realize that a bad title can’t always be pinned on the author because publishers typically have the right to title or retitle a book.
In writing my first book, I tried out a number of titles but ended up with “Freefall.” I wasn’t in love with it, but I thought it was reasonably appropriate because (1) the book was about a young attorney whose life is falling apart and (2) the first chapter features a lawyer who is, literally, in freefall from the roof of a San Francisco office tower. The negatives for that title, in my view, were that it was a bit generic-sounding and the most-excellent
My publisher felt that “Freefall” didn’t sufficiently convey that my book was a legal thriller, and I could see that point. They proposed the new title “The Insider.” Maybe “proposed” doesn’t convey the tenor of the exchange. The publisher informed me of the new title and “hoped that I liked it.” I expressed some misgivings because I was afraid that my book might be confused with the movie “The Insider” with
Pacino and Russell
Crowe or ’s
corporate thriller of the same name.
However, as a new and relatively powerless author who was not going to
win that battle anyway, I trusted that my publisher knew better than I how to
position my novel in the marketplace.
Now I couldn’t imagine that book with any other title. Stephen Frey
My upcoming book is entitled “The Adversary.” While some might say that this one is also a little generic-sounding, I’m comfortable that this is the right title for the story. First, I think it conveys that the book is a thriller. Second, it relates to a central element of the plot. “The adversary” is the term that data security experts use to refer to an unknown black hat hacker that they are facing. My book centers on tracking down a hacker and uncovering his identity.
Both of my books have two-word titles (yes, I’m counting the “the”) and that’s in keeping with thriller conventions. The titles of thrillers are supposed to be terse, right? Perhaps the practice evolved to reflect the pace of a thriller. These laconic thriller titles in effect say to the reader, “No time for a second noun or even an adjective -- we’ve got a pace to maintain here.” You know, I’m starting to think that the “the” in “The Adversary” might be dead wood.
To conclude, here are a few titles that I think are awesome:
by Meridian . Cormac McCarthy
(Rambling Digression: If you’re writing crime, mystery, thriller or supernatureal, you really can’t go wrong with “blood” in the title. Similarly, when you’re writing in a comic vein, it’s always better with a “monkey” (see
“Bad Monkey” and ’s “Gun Monkeys”). Victor
wrote a recent thriller called “Blood Money” which I initially misheard as
“Blood Monkey” – I thought it was the genius title of all time. I offer it up to the world and hope that
someone puts it to use someday in a darkly comic tale of crime and monkeys.) David Ignatius
* To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper
* Portnoy’s Complaint by
titles Raymond Chandler
* And our very own
“The Big Reap,” “Dead Harvest,” and “The Wrong Goodbye.” Chris Holm