Titles

Titles are the hardest part of writing a book for me, and yet one of the most important tools for letting the reader know just what she’s getting when she decides to pick up a Renee Ryan release. I’ve published eleven books so far, and I’ve been able to keep one of my original titles. That’s right, one. One! Just so you can see how bad I am at this, here are my original titles, with the final titles beside them.

UNSHAKABLE LOVE became THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE (the hero is a U.S. Marshal)

A LOVE THAT LASTS became HANNAH’S BEAU (the hero’s name is Beau, heroine is Hannah)

A MOST UNSUITABLE LOVE became LOVING BELLA (the heroine’s name is Bella)

DAWN OF DARKNESS became DANGEROUS ALLIES (hero and heroine are both spies in 1939 Germany)

UNDER THE HIS PROTECTION became THE LAWMAN CLAIMS HIS BRIDE (hero is a U.S. Marshal)

INTIMATE ENEMIES became COURTING THE ENEMY (hero is a WWII spy, heroine’s father a Nazi sympathizer)

HAILEY’S HERO became HOMECOMING HERO (contemporary book with a returning Iraq War veteran)

CHARITY HOUSE REDEPMTION became THE OUTLAW’S REDEMPTION (former gunslinger hero released from prison)

Apparently, I have a long way to go when it comes to titling my work. So, what makes a good title? Here are a few of this week’s popular country song titles to give us a clue. Hope on the Rocks, Stay With Me Tonight, Only God Could Love You More, Sure Felt Like Goodbye, and Maybe You Remember Me Now. I don’t know about you, but I get a good idea what these songs are about without having to hear the lyrics.

And isn’t that what makes a good title, just a few words that encompass the entire story?

For fun, I want you to help me title my current work-in-progress, a historical western set in 1880s Denver, Colorado. For now, I’ve titled the book WINNING MOLLY’S HEART. Here’s the blurb for you to get an idea what the story is about…

She was the original runaway bride

Molly Taylor Scott loved being engaged almost as much as she loved the Lord. Brought up to believe in the sanctity of marriage, thankfully, the impressionable miss always realized the error of her ways before walking down the aisle. Her family hopes that Molly’s new position as a personal secretary to a wealthy widow will be a stabilizing force in her life.

Garrett Mitchell fell for Molly’s charms once. But that was long ago, when he was a boy of seventeen. He’s a prominent attorney now and a whole lot wiser. His focus is on a big land merger he’s orchestrated for his firm, not on a certain raven-haired, blue-eyed imp whose saucy smile haunted his dreams for too many years. Besides, after encouraging Garrett’s sister to break her own engagement—to Garrett’s boss—Molly is on his black list…again.

Garrett’s vow to keep his distance from the troublesome Molly becomes increasingly difficult when his firm’s most important client, the wealthy widow decides Garrett and her personal secretary would be a perfect match.

Will the third time be the charm for Molly? Will Garrett be the man who finally wins Molly’s heart?

Okay, you’re turn. What title would you give this book? If you leave a comment you’ll be put in a drawing for one of my past releases (your choice).

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Award-winning, multi-published author Renee Ryan sold her first book by winning the 2001 inaugural Dorchester/Romantic Times New Historical Voice Contest. She sold her second book to Harlequin Love Inspired Historical and has since sold nine more manuscripts to Love Inspired and Love Inspired Historical.

28 thoughts on “Titles”

  1. Renee, I struggle with titles, too. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what makes a good title. Who would ever think that a title Shades of Gray would sell millions?

    I recently turned in a book with the title Afternoon Tea. My publsher didn’t think it sounded western enough and they are probably right, but it fit the book. After much back and forth we settled on the final title: Gunpowder Tea.

    At least it’s different.

  2. Margaret, yes, shaking my head over Shades of Gray. And, wow, Gunpowder Tea definitely screams western. I’m instantly hooked. 😉

    Oooo, Laurie, Engaged Heart is a good one. Adding it to my list.

  3. Hi Renee! I like your working title, “Winning Molly’s Heart.” Maybe you’ll get to keep it! What about “The Reluctant Bride”? Or something with Wedding or Matrimony?

  4. Renee, I always struggle with titles. However, I have been able to keep two of them, which I guess is pretty good. I love the titles of your books, no matter who chose them. I think WINNING MOLLY’S HEART is excellent and portrays the story well. I hope you get to keep it.

    Wishing you tons of success, my new Filly sister!

  5. Catching the Runaway Bride
    (Is this a western?)
    Lassoing the Runaway Bride

    One thing I’ve learned is to not get attached to titles. That way I don’t get my heart broken if I don’t get the title I want.

    Third Chance Groom
    Reluctant Bride ……is great
    The Bridal Escape Clause<<< kinda like that
    Escape Clause Bride (refers to the lawyer, right?)
    Runaway Bride (I know, it's been used, still…)

  6. Huh. Wow. One out of eleven.

    I am on board with Reluctant Bride.

    Please do not try to make it a title that sounds like Shades of Grey like so many publishers are doing now, in hopes of selling more books. LOL.

    Peace, Julie

  7. Hi Renee, well, I could suggest Marrying Molly but I’ve got that one in mind for book three in a series…and I hear ya. Most times I don’t get to keep the title I’ve come up with. The final two novellas in my Hearts Crossing Ranch series….(as yet no release date) got sent in Rachel’s Story and Chelsea’s Story because, wah, I never get my way LOL. Fun post, gorgeous covers, and happy Wednesday! xo

  8. Linda, I really like Winning Molly’s Heart, too. But I know better than to get too attached.

    Mary, excellent choices. And, yes, this is a western. Yeehaw! I really like The Bridal Escape Clause, too, especially since Garrett’s a lawyer. Very nice!

    Julie, I’ve noticed the retitling as well. Not only that, but a lot of books similar to Shades of Gray are getting new covers as well, to mimick the “Shades” look. Wonder how it’s working?

    CateS, Kathleen O and Colleen…all excellent suggestions. I’m putting them on the list.

    Waving to you, Tanya. I’ve contemplated putting “This Space for Rent” in all of my headers, just so I don’t have to agonize over a title. Not sure the contracts department would like that too much, though. 😉

  9. My batting average with titles is not great either, but here are some thoughts:
    Corralling Molly
    It had to be You
    The Bride’s Choice
    No other Groom
    Blacklisted Bride

    As I said – I’m no good at this

  10. Apparently I have no talent for titles either, because I prefer your titles over the publisher’s choices every time. I like a title to show some imagination. I don’t look for the titles to tell me what a book is about. I look to the cover art to give me a clue about that. My suggestion for this one would be “The Rules of Engagement”.

  11. Wow, this is difficult and there are so many good suggestions already.

    How about: Forever Engaged or Undecided Heart

  12. Hi Renee,
    Since I can’t even give my own books good titles, I do like your original title.
    Loved the book you sent out. Don’t care what the title is, I’ll read it. Most of my book reading isn’t by title–it’s by author!!! And sometimes the picture on the cover.
    I’m just weird.
    Mary J

  13. To be perfectly honest, I liked your titles better. I have heard other authors give their original titles and then the one they got and I usually like the author’s title better. Publishers usually use certain words that are known to sell but I like variety and after a while too many titles start sounding the same. And it’s very confusing when the same title is used for more than one book.

  14. Hi Renee – I like your titles! But I do know what you mean. After 30 plus books, I have learned not to marry myself to my titles. I kept the first title, Chance in a Million and from then on, mostly changes. I am NOT good with titles, but our own Cheryl St. John is the best. She has helped me title a few of my HH books. Good luck with your new book! (won’t even try to title..you have some great suggestions)

  15. Mary J, I’m with you. I rarely, if ever, buy a book for the title. So, no, you aren’t weird at all. Or maybe, we’re both weird. 😉

    Catslady, like minds and all that. I think titling is the hardest part of writing. I mean, it takes me 75,000+ words to tell my story. How am I supposed to sum it up in a single phrase???

    Joye, great ideas.

    Yes, Charlene, Cheryl is the BEST at titling. She definitely gets the award!

  16. I like your title. 🙂 I agree – coming up with a title is difficult! 🙂 I tried but the results were lame :(. Along the lawyer line of thinking here were some of them:

    Requisition of the Runaway’s Heart
    Securing the Secretary’s Heart
    Summoning the Secretary’s Heart
    The Secretary’s Heart Subpoenaed
    Molly’s Summons

    I’m groaning at my attempts! 🙂

    I would definitely stick with Winning Molly’s Heart 🙂

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