Author Topic: Genre Title Conventions  (Read 366 times)  

Offline Dolphin

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1925
  • Gender: Male
  • Under the Sea
  • Skree'ee--eee, eeek!
    • View Profile
Genre Title Conventions
« on: May 19, 2017, 04:29:12 AM »
A new thread got me thinking about this topic and I didn't want to hijack his request for advice, so here goes.

It's a truism that we're supposed to calculate everything to appeal to our genre's audience. Your cover's gotta fit genre expectations, your blurb's gotta promise all the right tropes, your writing and keywords and categories have to be on point, and--not least--your title has to conform. But...how's that work? I know nobody's trying to say I should stuff my title with keywords, right? Like Vaal said, many moons ago:

That plan does not work in Fantasy because everyone is already using the least creative titles possible.

The Wizard of Dragon Castle: Legend of the Sword Wolf (Book 17 of the Exesarecool Cycle)

Moon Blade: Chronicles of the Silver Knight Kings (The Eighty-fifth Book of the Mispl'ce'd Ap'str'phe Saga)

Magic Elf of the Crystal Princess Mountain (A NounWorld Tale)

Age of Cursed Night Blood (A completely unmarked third installment of the Horsesmith series)

Yeah, that kinda sucks. It's true, but it kinda sucks and I bet it's not quite what all the podcast guests mean when they say, offhandedly, that you gotta make sure your title fits your genre. How? What're we looking for, exactly? Are we trying to grab something unique and distinctive, or something that'll put us in good company? How do we research our genre and decide how its titles work?

Part of the reason I ask is that I already know, with over 110% certainty, what the main title is for a book that I probably have no business writing till I clear about a million words out of my queue. Have you guys given up on titles that you loved, but that didn't sell books? Did it work?

Eager to hear any thoughts or experiences on the topic.

Offline Mylius Fox

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 223
  • Cognitive syntactical wizard.
    • View Profile
Re: Genre Title Conventions
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2017, 04:56:17 AM »
I think it has more to do with the words invoking a particular vibe.

To get granular, spy thriller author Alex Berenson recently polled his FB followers on potential titles for his next novel, and two of the options were The Liars and The Deceivers. Ultimately they both mean the same thing, but The Deceivers has an emotional quality to it that says spy thriller much more than The Liars does (which would probably work more as a political thriller :P).

In the same vein, "Fatal Kiss" is going to say NA Romance much more than it will say sweet romance, and The Quasar Wars would probably fit a space marines novel more than something like "Quark Redux" would. :D

Offline SCapsuto

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 100
    • View Profile
    • Between Wanderings
Re: Genre Title Conventions
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2017, 06:32:07 AM »
To get granular, spy thriller author Alex Berenson recently polled his FB followers on potential titles for his next novel, and two of the options were The Liars and The Deceivers. Ultimately they both mean the same thing, but The Deceivers has an emotional quality to it that says spy thriller much more than The Liars does (which would probably work more as a political thriller :P).


That makes sense. In titles, words derived from Latin often come off as more evocative than their blunt Anglo-Germanic equivalents (unless you're writing something like hard-boiled detective fiction, in which case bluntness is perfect).
I'm a full-time professional translator. My blog, "Between Wanderings," explores Jewish life and culture from the 1850s to 1920s, through the words of people who lived then. In between jobs for clients, I translate and publish books from that era on the same topic. I'm also the author of "Alternate Channels," about the portrayal of lesbian and gay characters on 20th-century American television. "Alternate Channels" was a semifinalist for an American Library Association book award.
Translator, Author and Lecturer
Steven Capsuto | Between Wanderings: Jewish Life, 1850s-1920s | Steven Capsuto, Translator | Steven Capsuto, Media Studies Author and Lecturer

Offline she-la-ti-da

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5668
  • in the bunker
    • View Profile
Re: Genre Title Conventions
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2017, 08:20:04 AM »
I think it has more to do with the words invoking a particular vibe.

To get granular, spy thriller author Alex Berenson recently polled his FB followers on potential titles for his next novel, and two of the options were The Liars and The Deceivers. Ultimately they both mean the same thing, but The Deceivers has an emotional quality to it that says spy thriller much more than The Liars does (which would probably work more as a political thriller :P).

In the same vein, "Fatal Kiss" is going to say NA Romance much more than it will say sweet romance, and The Quasar Wars would probably fit a space marines novel more than something like "Quark Redux" would. :D

Well, yeah. This.
Queen of Procrasti Nation

Genres: speculative fiction under main pen name.




Offline Dolphin

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1925
  • Gender: Male
  • Under the Sea
  • Skree'ee--eee, eeek!
    • View Profile
Re: Genre Title Conventions
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2017, 06:03:15 PM »
I think it has more to do with the words invoking a particular vibe.

It makes sense. It's just a little...mushy. I guess I'm kind of unsatisfied that people talk about it as though genre-appropriate titles are measurable, when our thinking is much more subjective.

One case study that I've wondered about is Destroyer by Chris Fox. Hits the right note, no question, but it's an extremely popular word (and by no means limited to Mil SF titles). You can get sidetracked into other books even if you go to Amazon with the intent of searching for Chris specifically. Would we rather mill around with the right crowd, or try and stand out?

Online LilyBLily

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1389
    • View Profile
Re: Genre Title Conventions
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2017, 10:17:14 PM »
The title and the cover must match. Destroyer wouldn't signify what Chris wanted it to without the correct cover. I could do a typical arrogant sexy billionaire romance cover with a guy half out of a tux and title it Destroyer also, and I think people would get the idea--but it would be a different idea. Obviously, military fiction or nonfiction could use the same Destroyer as a title with, again, a genre-appropriate cover, and hit its target, too.

So I don't think titles are as vague as you think, and I don't think we must be doctrinaire about them, but they sure should relate to whatever the book is, and the cover should cement that relationship.