Here on the blog, we spend a lot of time discussing the importance of book covers and branding in getting our books into the hands of the right readers, the ones who will love our particular genres and stories. It probably goes without saying, but in case it doesn’t, I’ll say it now: book titles are an important part of the overall package that positions books.
With that caveat, you can probably see where this post is going. Turns out, the title I selected for my next book, a title I’ve loved and attached to and had at the forefront of my brain while I wrote the book, might not work for my romance sub-genre. It all started when I was working on cover concepts with my new cover designer (this is designer number three, for those of you following along at home). After several discussions of the book with her, I woke up one morning to find an email in my inbox that changed the way I now see my beloved title.
As she had been setting up a design and working on fitting the title into it, it struck her that Three Husbands and a Lover sounded like a reverse harem erotica title. If you haven’t heard of the RH subgenre, it’s one woman with multiple male lovers, and tends to be erotica. Um, no. Not my genre, and not what I intended communicate with that name. If I thought it was just her opinion, well-versed as she is in the romance field, I could ignore it. But now that she’s put that thought in my brain, all I can picture when I see that title is my heroine surrounded by her four lovers. As a reminder, my genre is Victorian Romance, steamy and sexy but not erotic, with one-to-one partners.
That means it’s time for a new title! And while there is absolutely no rule that the new title has to contain the word “three” or “third”, I would prefer it. First, I’ll share a list of titles I’ve brainstormed. Let me know if any appeal to you on their own merits. Then I’ll share the short, one-paragraph blurb (which is a work in progress, not final copy, and only included here to give you a sense of the story). Please let me know if that changes your mind or sparks any new ideas!
Third Husband’s the Charm
Three Weddings and a Lover
Three Weddings and a Husband
Three Weddings, One Husband
Third Comes Love
Quick Story Summary:
Captain Percival Carlyle, the Earl of Granville, is plagued by nightmares that convince him a missing friend is a victim of foul play. When no one believes him, he worries he’s succumbing to the mental disease that destroyed his father’s life. Twice-widowed Finola Tenney Simmons stands to lose her hard-earned fortune to her scheming stepson, unless she can enlist the help of a powerful ally. Percy and Finola agree to a fake marriage so he can protect her financial interests and she can guard him from his own failing mind. It’s the perfect business arrangement, as long as neither of them falls in love…
Do any of those title possibilities strike your fancy? Do any other thoughts come to mind? And is anyone interested in using Three Husbands and a Lover as the title for their next RH novel?
I would go with Third Comes Love, because I almost always think that shorter is better, not that Sarah MacLean would agree with me! However I don’t really see a need for the number three or a variation thereof. This must refer to the two previous husbands, and unless they play a role in the book, I can’t think that they matter.
Ah, well, the two previous husbands are dead, but the first one definitely contributes to the heroine’s internal misbelief that requires her to have a character arc, and the second one set off the chain of events that lead to the plot. But the three or third is just a nice to have, as it fits in with my series titles. Third Comes Love works in the sense that with the third marriage, she finally finds love. I will cogitate on this!
I like 2 and 3… I get it that the original title may come up as erotica but so what? I like it, too. 🙂
You and I are on the same wavelength :-)! The writer in me still loves that original title. But then I have to put on my marketing hat, which is always the buzzkill.
If readers who could be my audience because they like steamy VR but think the book is erotica, they’ll skip right past the thumbnail on Amazon and move onto a different book. On the flip side, if readers looking for erotica buy the book based on the suggestive title, they’re going to be disappointed, and then I’ll get nasty-grams. Or really bad reviews. Either way, unhappy readers.
I tried my hand at erotica (unpublished and really soft) but if I were to publish any of it I would struggle the same as you. Because my stuff isn’t porn-y I’d have to be really selective with my title in order to attract the right readers and avoid nasty comments.
Have you decided now?
I am still getting input from my newsletter readers and have a running tally. Two have emerged as front-runners. I will do the final count this coming weekend, and send the title to my cover designer. I’m not going to share the new title until I release the cover, though, in August!
LOL, she’s right. It does sound like a menage, not a consecutive arrangement. Now, let’s see. You must have a number in there, because that’s the thing you’ve got going with your series’ titles.
To tell you the truth, I like the simple “Third Time’s the Charm” — it also can be read as triple charm: 3x the charm. “The Best of Three”?
Reference: Too Clever by Half (prequel); One Kiss from Ruin; Two Scandals are Better than One.
Is the lover a fourth guy, then? Three Skips of a Louse is a saying, apparently. But if the lover is going to be the third husband, then . . . . I really like “The Best of Three” but it kind of leaves you hanging for books four and five. One, Better, Best . . . . It seems like you need a scandal or ruin or something in there, too. “The Three Disgraces”? I don’t think that fits. “Three Cards to Win” (I’m thinking of three-card monte because of the trick Percy is playing, and also the saying, “oh, he’s a real card.”) Three Wishes for Finola? Um . . . . I don’t think any of that is right, but perhaps it’ll trigger a thought.
Third Time’s the Charm was my first thought. I quickly eliminated it because not only has the title been used often, it’s been used recently and in the romance genre. And while you can’t copyright a title, it could cause confusion, and between same-genre authors is considered bad form.
To clarify, the lover is also the third husband. He starts out as marriage-of-convenience material, but they’re ‘married’ and living under the same roof and hot for each other (but again, not erotica ;-)), and since she’s twice married she’s definitely not a virgin, so they give into their attraction. And–spoiler alert!–that eventually turns into love. Because romance :-).
I like Third Comes Love but for reasons other than already stated above, or rather in addition to those above. With your short synopsis, I read 1) save the fortune from step-son, 2) save man’s sanity and 3) they fall in love.
Also, I like how you have the numbers in the title.
Yeah, the numbers thing started out as a way to amuse myself, and now I hear from readers fairly regularly that they enjoy them, too! So I’m sticking with them for this series. Not sure what I’ll do for the next series that my brain seems to think we’re going to right after this one. But maybe I can come up with some other fun convention for those titles.