Titles are difficult, almost as difficult as book covers, and just like book covers, they’re really about marketing. Below are the history of the Crusie titles with some links to blog posts about title difficulties (any title without annotation was a title that never changed), and a short essay on the hell we went through trying to find a title for
Always Kiss Me Goodnight Maybe This Time.
Manhunting (originally Keeping Kate, but HQ changed it. I hate this title.)
Getting Rid of Bradley
What the Lady Wants (originally Whatever Maebelle Wants, but HQ changed it; I don’t like this title, either.)
Charlie All Night
Anyone But You
The Cinderella Deal
Trust Me On This (orignally Double, Double, but Bantam asked me to change it, and they were right)
Tell Me Lies (originally Frog Point Wallow, but SMP asked me to change it and they were right)
Crazy For You
Welcome to Temptation (originally Hot, Fleshy Thighs, but SMP asked me to change it and they were right)
Don’t Look Down (accidental title; I referred to the first draft we were doing as the Don’t-Look-Down draft, and my writing partner thought it was the title and liked it)
The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes (we went through three million titles before deciding on this; now I can’t think of any other title that would be more perfect)
Agnes and the Hitman (this was the working title for this book–usually I call them “Agnes’s Book” until I have a title–but everybody liked it so much we kept it)
Dogs and Goddesses (Lani Diane Rich came up with this title while we were brainstorming the idea and it was so perfect we kept it)
Wild Ride (Bob wanted to call this one Who’s On Top?; I think he’s still bitter that he got shouted down)
Maybe This Time (Oh, dear god, see the essay below)
Lavender’s Blue (originally Lavender’s Blue, Killer, Killer; and then Lavender’s Dead. This is better.)
But the worst by far was the struggle over Maybe This Time:
“Maybe This Time I’ll Kiss You Goodnight”
Have you seen those plaques that say, “Always Kiss Me Goodnight?” They’re everywhere and they ick me out. (If you have one over your bed, I apologize in advance for what I’m about to say.) They’re like the Police song, “Every Breath You Take.” Sting said that someone told him she’d had it played at her wedding, and he’d said, “Well, good luck.” It’s about a stalker, people. I feel the same way about the “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” stuff. Maybe I’m not in the mood to kiss you goodnight. Maybe you’ve been eating sardines. Maybe I’m mad at you. Maybe the idea of always doing anything revolts me, let alone an expression of affection or passion that should be voluntary. “Always Kiss Me Goodnight.” Controlling. Creepy. Bleah.
So of course when I sat down to write a book about obsessive love, love that wouldn’t die, people holding on for second chances even after death, I called it Always Kiss Me Goodnight. “Isn’t it a great title?” I said to my editor. “Creepy, right?”
“I don’t get it,” she said.
“It’s obsessive and controlling,” I told her. “It’s unsettling. It’s just wrong.”
“I don’t see it,” she said.
So I took a poll and a surprising number of people also did not see it. I could explain it to them, of course, but standing next to the book in every store and online outlet in the world and saying, “See, it’s obsessive and creepy because it’s like that Police song” really wasn’t an option. People liked the saying. People had it on plaques over their beds and embroidered on pillowcases. (I know this because once people found out I was writing a book called Always Kiss Me Goodnight, I started to get the stuff as gifts. At last count, I had three signs, two pillowcases, and a nightlight. Yes, irony lives.) All of which meant only one thing.
I had to change the title.
Titles are crucial. They have to capture the spirit of the book, ideally in two or three words, they have to grab attention, and they have to be new and different and memorable. I wrote a book once called Crazy for You, which was perfect for the story since it was about a bunch of people losing their minds from love. Unfortunately, people went into bookstores and asked for Crazy On You, Crazy in Love, Crazy Love, and several other variations because the title was too generic. On the other hand, I wrote a book called Welcome to Temptation and nobody ever screwed that title up. So that’s what we were looking for, a title like Welcome to Temptation, only about second chances at love, and ghosts, and little kids, and butterflies. It had to be spooky and funny and sexy, not necessarily in that order. It had to make people want to pick up the book. It had to be just right.
I will spare you the details of the nightmare of trying to find that title, although you can revisit it by looking at different Argh posts in which I announced that the new title was You Again, and the one in which I said it was going to be One More Time (the boos were deafening) or maybe Breathe Again, or Remember Me, and then asked for suggestions (231 comments) or the post after that in which I said, “Still no title and we’re running out of time” (226 comments).
Yes, we know it’s more Crazy for You than Welcome to Temptation. But like Crazy for You, it really does nail the central conflicts and struggles, the ghost who wants another life because maybe this time she’ll get it right, the little girl who is afraid to believe that maybe this time the adults in her world won’t leave her, the long-divorced heroine and hero who begin to believe that maybe this time they can make it work. It’s a great title thematically. But . . .
Please don’t go into the store and ask for Maybe Next Time or This Time Around, or Second Time Around.
It’s Maybe This Time. It’s about ghosts and kids and lost-and-found love and banana bread. Ignore the scene where the heroine sees a plaque that says “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” and thinks, “Ick.”
It’s Maybe This Time. We’re hoping maybe this time people will remember it.
That’s Maybe This Time.
And then there was the Argh Ink post just on the importance of titles in general: “The Romance Writer’s Fabulous Title.”
Writing is hard, people. Titles are harder.