Perhaps the biggest mistake I made early in my writing career involved titles. I’d never gone to a writing conference or had any classes on publishing. I was living overseas in the Orient, studying martial arts. This was pre-Internet– yes there was a time when we didn’t have access to the Internet. My sole publishing resource was an out of date Writers Marketplace from a library in the nearest military post, Camp Page (which no longer exists!).
No one, not my first agent, my first editor, my guardian angel, told me that title was critical. Years later I listened to Mary Higgins Clark talk about title and how it must gather attention and “invite readers into the book”. If only she’s been overseas studying martial arts nearby.
So I picked really stupid titles. I mean REALLY stupid.
A title must grab attention and/or let the reader know what the book is about. I decided to do neither. My first published book ended up being EYES OF THE HAMMER. (PS, it’s free on all eBook platforms) Even Cool Gus is rolling his eyes and it takes a lot for Cool Gus to use his muscles. It’s about Special Forces attacking drug labs in Colombia. Shortly after that book came out a guy named Tom Clancy released a book with a similar plot, but his was titled CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. Hmm.
I’m now writing precursors to my bestselling Green Beret series. They occur before EYES OF THE HAMMER. And DRAGON SIM-13. And my invented term SYNBAT. And my most genius title Z. Yep, just the letter. My wife says I’m a little slow at times.
But I do learn. So the first book introducing my new character, Will Kane, is titled NEW YORK MINUTE. Which turns out to be quite brilliant as I’d actually chosen it before writing the book and then the term becomes a critical part of the book. You have to read it, but in the second scene and in the climactic scene, New York Minute plays a BIG role.
The second Will Kane book, now in editing, is LAWYERS, GUNS AND MONEY. Besides the fact I love Warren Zevon, the book actually revolves around lawyers, guns and money.
The third is WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. Yep, from Lou Reed’s second solo album in 1972, which is good timing since the first three books are set in 1977, New York City.
To be honest, I decided to use song titles because I’ve watched Bella Andre, Yo! Bella, have great success using some as titles with her Sullivan books. They resonate with people. Years ago, jokingly, I asked Bella how many Sullivan books there would be and she said some outrageous number and I thought she was joking, but hey, they’re still coming out and hitting the bestseller list, so check them out. She’s got Sullivans from Maine, from California, from Area 51, you name it. Those guys are everywhere.
I digress. Besides title, cover is key. Thumbnail has to pop in this day of ebooks. Here are two proposed ones for WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. As we say in da’ Bronx, whaddaya think? Preferences?
Nothing but good times ahead!