People sometimes ask me how I pick my book titles. (They never ask how I pick short story titles, but those are just as hard.) The answer, for the books, is that sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. For the short stories, I’m guilty in all cases. All those titles are mine.
For instance, EINE KLEINE MURDER started out life as SONG OF DEATH. After it was picked up by Barking Rain Press, the title was changed to suit the publishing house. If you look at their mystery/crime publications, you’ll see that there are no titles that contain the word “death.” Several do contain “murder,” so that was more acceptable to them. REQUIEM IN RED started out as REQUIEM FOR RED. I wanted the reader to have to guess which redhead would get murdered as they started into the book, but the publisher didn’t think it worked, so it was changed. I have picked out the third title, SWAN SONG, so we’ll see if that flied—after I finish the book.
My Imogene Duckworthy series has one word titles, CHOKE, SMOKE, and BROKE. I chose these titles myself and was working under the theory that long works should have short titles and short works should have long titles. This is also the reason I named my Agatha-nominated short story HANDBASKETS, DRAWERS, AND A KILLER COLD. I wish I could remember where I read that, about long and short titles, but I remember I liked the idea and try to use it, although I don’t always succeed. (Fourth one will be STROKE.)
My People of the Wind Neanderthal titles are also mine and were liked by Untreed Reads, the publisher: DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE and DEATH ON THE TREK. (Third one will be DEATH IN THE NEW LAND.)
The Fat Cat books were titled by the publisher. I suggested many titles for the first one, all of which were rejected in favor of FAT CAT AT LARGE. I had a title I loved for the second one, but they had to have a shorter one because of the fat, puffy font they’d gone with. For book two, I liked FAT CAT GETS HIS LICKS, but it is now FAT CAT SPREADS OUT. The title of the third book FAT CAT TAKES THE CAKE (changed from FAT CAT IN A PINCH), gave me pause. The cover was given to me and there was cake on it! However, there was no cake in the novel. I asked them if that was a problem and they didn’t think so. I did, though, so I stuck in some cake and (spoiler alert) managed to make it part of a vital clue.
One thing that I try very hard to do for a series is to have titles that go together, ones that reader can tell are part of the series. One series has titles that rhyme (--OKE). In another, they all begin with the word DEATH; another, they all start out FAT CAT; the classical music series titles all invoke music. None of mine are as clever and Sue Grafton’s alphabet books or Janet Evanovitch’s number titles. But they’re mine and I like them all!