Kay: What’s in a Name

blondePhoneThe first book I ever wrote has languished on my hard drive for years. I was woefully ignorant when I started this book, but still, it wasn’t bad. A well-known publishing company held onto it for two years, promising acceptance and revision letters as editors revolved and changed and the company reorged. Ultimately, they rejected it.

As time passed, I learned more about writing. I did a couple of strong edit passes on it, and a few months ago, needing a project, I decided to look at it again and see if I could salvage it.

I could.

By now, it needed only a light edit, which I have completed. A cover is in the works. But I’ve never been happy with the title.

The premise is this: My heroine, Maggie, is 35, divorced with three children. She lives in a small town in Iowa and works full-time. She’d like to remarry, but she doesn’t have much time or energy for dating, and in any event, she doesn’t see any likely candidates.

The gods decide to intervene, and Jupiter, or Dr. J, as he likes to be called, sends Venus and Mars to present the suitor that will be Maggie’s heart’s desire. Venus can only point the way, but she’s powerful. The way is clear.

Unfortunately, the cell phone connections between the Roman pantheon and Cedarburg, Iowa, are not at all clear, and Venus doesn’t get the directives she needs. Instead of pointing Maggie to the guy who runs the hardware store, as she should, she instead sends Maggie first to the guy who’s rotten to the core and then to the guy who’s an incredible bore and finally to the guy who comes to the door, thanks to Dr. J’s garbled communications. The sequence of bad dates is almost enough to put Maggie off men altogether, but Ed, who runs the hardware store, comes through, and they ultimately find their HEA. (For those who follow the blog closely, this is the book I mentioned a few weeks ago, when Maggie glues her eyes shut.)

So, the title. The working title for this book has been Calling for Maggie, because of the bad cell phone connections. I’ve never liked it, so I submitted some suggestions to my critique group for comment:

  • Dial L for Love
  • When Love Has Your Number
  • The Right Time for Love
  • Love Steers the Stars
  • When Love Comes Calling
  • When Love Calls

And finally, in frustration:

  • If Love Calls, Answer the Damn Phone

My critique group hated all of these and said I needed to steer clear of the phone thing, so we brainstormed more titles. Some of these are thoughts or impressions rather than titles per se:

  • Kismet and Kisses
  • Matches
  • Magic
  • Crossed lines
  • Missed connections
  • Miss Connections
  • Ordinary Magic
  • On Any Other Day
  • Sticky Situations
  • If Only It Was You
  • The glue that binds
  • Under Her nose
  • Love Unawares
  • Love Unexpected
  • Could It Be You?

Of these, I liked If Only It Was You, Love Unexpected, and Could It Be You? although I don’t like punctuation in titles and I felt uncertain about whether to use the subjunctive in If Only It Was You. One thing I’ve learned about titling books is to check to see how many others have been published with the title you’ve chosen. When I checked on Amazon, Love Unexpected has nine exact matches and many more close matches, such as A Love Unexpected and An Unexpected Love. So, no.

I did a search on Could It Be You? and found two nonfiction titles and a couple of music albums without the question mark. So, maybe.

And then I wrote some variations on Could It Be You? and searched for those titles, and this is what I found:

  • Could It Be You? (2 titles, nonfiction)
  • It Shouldn’t Be You (1 title)
  • It Couldn’t Be You (0 titles)
  • If Only It Was You (0 titles) (all that notebook crap)

If Only It Was You had no matching fiction titles, but the search on Amazon turns up many listings for a diary-type notebook with a quote on the cover, which comes in lots of colors. Each color is loaded separately, so there are about twenty entries for If Only It Was You, even though the notebook is not called that. So, in the event my book would load after all these notebook covers, I won’t choose this title.

Right now I’m leaning toward It Couldn’t Be You, partly because Maggie thinks exactly that when she goes out on her bad dates with the wrong guys. The other reason is that I wrote two more books using the setup of Venus/Mars coming to offer romantic help to those who are lost or stuck in a rut. I think one of those books is probably not salvageable, but the other might be. If I decide yes, then it would be nice to have a similar title for it, and then I could go with It Shouldn’t Be You.

That said, I’m not really having warm fuzzies about these titles, either. Maybe that’s just creative exhaustion. What do you think? Do you like any of them? And if not, do you have any suggestions? Any and all ideas gratefully received.

12 thoughts on “Kay: What’s in a Name

  1. Well, my suggestion isn’t really an answer, but it might get you to the title. Think of a verb that represents this story. Either something about the story itself, or something about the protag. In my case, the verb is “protect.” So the title is His Lady to Protect, and that’s pretty much Nate’s goal throughout the book.

    So is her verb “hear?” “Listen?” “Parse” (as in parse through all the garbage to get to the good stuff)? Even if you’re not completely sure of the word, pick one that’s close and hit Roget’s. Maybe that will help you come to a title you love.

    Good luck!

    • Oh, that’s a good idea. I’ll try that. At least the brainstorming will give me a lot more possibilities, and maybe I’ll hit on something. (Right now, I’m thinking about “finding” and “discovering,” but “hearing” and “listening” are also on my radar.) Thanks!

    • Thank you! I like this book, but it has benefited from years of experience, three strong edit passes, and the loss of 20K words. 🙂 One of my critique partners says that I’ve created a new genre with this one—a book category that has no conflict and no antagonist. I don’t know if it’s a new category, but she’s right about the no conflict. Still, I think it’s a fun read if you like meringue, which is what I seem to be writing mostly these days.

      In the brainstorming session, we had kicked around the numerical approach, too, and we weren’t sure about the Janet Evanovich connection. It sounds like it wouldn’t be a problem. 🙂

      • Bet Me doesn’t have an antagonist and it works just fine. 🙂

        In a way, it’s a bit like Finding Nemo, encountering multiple antagonists on her quest to find Mr. Right.

        As far as the title, I was thinking about a riff on Venus and Mars, like Love is from Venus, Midlife is from Mars, but it’s too long and doesn’t set up future titles.

        • That’s right! Remember when Jenny told us that Fate was the antagonist in Bet Me? I’d still be trying to figure that one out if she hadn’t told us. And you know—thinking of this book of mine as a quest story is a good idea. That might trigger a few things. Thanks!

  2. I love the sound of this book 😊.

    A pragmatic approach would be to decide where you want to shelve it on Amazon, and then look at the titles of other books there. For example, a while ago we discussed the new and extremely popular subgenre ‘Midlife romance’ or ‘Midlife women’s fiction.’ They have older protagonists, often with children, often with magical elements and always with a HEA. Your book sounds like a great fit, and those books often have titles with ‘Midlife Something.’ So, Midlife Matchmaking?

    I’m not sure about any of the … You? titles, because in addition to the books you identified above, there’s a Jenny Crusie called Anyone But You, and one of SEP’s most popular titles is It Had To Be You (I think I’ve seen at least one other with that title). Lots of scope for potential readers discovering other authors’ books!

    Based on your post, it sounds as though the most fun elements of the story are matchmaking, divine interference, and maybe second chance romance and small town romance. SEP has a book called Match Me If You can. What about A Match Made in Heaven? I think that’s been used in the UK for a book of short stories, but I can’t see any others.

    Hmmm. 🤔 Cogitating!

    • I like A Match Made in Heaven! All those “You” titles—right, one of the things we discussed in the brainstorming session was how many titles sound alike and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Would I be discovered if someone was searching for Susan Elizabeth Phillips?

      So I just did a search for A Match Made in Heaven, and dang it! On Amazon.com, there are 16 books or videos just on the first page of entries with titles or series titles of “A Match Made in Heaven,” and, surprisingly, to me at least, several of them are sports stories, and of course, there’s the “inspirational” titles, as well. And…I don’t want anyone to think this is a Christian romance, because far from it.

      I’m going to research the midlife romance category and see what turns up there. Thanks for the ideas!

      • I’m hopeless with titles but something like “Miss Matched”, a play on mismatched is what first came to mind for me.

        Good luck finding a title that speaks to you and your story.

        • Thanks, Elizabeth! I’m going to search on Miss Matched, which I like. And if there’s a million books with that title, it still might trigger something.

  3. Posting before I read the comments and forget what I was going to suggest: Cell Towering just came to mind. (Towering as in tarot cards and fate.)

    I liked Crossed Lines. Although that’s more analog phones than cell ones.

    Static of the Gods.

    If Venus Calls

    I was always bad at titles; there was an SRA box in 2nd grade where they often made you choose a title from four options, and I was always getting it wrong. I found the tangentials more interesting than the main action.

    Although, I think you’ve got some great main action here!

    OK, one last one before I go see what everyone else says:
    Olympus Love Connection

  4. Olympus Calliog

    Venus on the Line

    Venus Tries Again

    Ooh, I quite like that one — got the trying again of Maggie after her first marriage, and also Venus’s mistakes in making the love connection.

    Are these calls, or texts?

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