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What to do when your title is played out?

October 5th, 2013 · No Comments · Branded, Nine Bucks a Pound, Writing

What’s in a name? As I learned earlier this evening while reading to my son, quite a bit, at least as far as Tucker Mouse was concerned. In Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse, George Selden’s prequel to A Cricket in Times Square, Tucker has to choose a name for himself. He wants to choose something unique and masculine. Who can blame him?

Naming a book may be tougher than naming a baby. Even a mouse baby. Sure you can mess up your kid’s life with a bad name, but a poor title can doom a book to the proverbial discount rack, as dubious readers skip over it to another offering. I settled on a name for my upcoming release several years back, so long ago I had a cover plotted out in my head before I had all the characters settled. Branded. There would be a closeup of the biceps of my protagonist, Del Tanner, with the title literally branded into his arm. Only one problem. That title is so played out it’s literally a cliche now.

Howdy, ma'am

How can I compete with this?

I knew it wasn’t unique. There was a TV show, even referenced prominently in The Big Lebowski, and it lends itself to a Western theme. But when I researched it recently on Amazon I was stunned by the number of books titled either Branded or Branded Something. And most of them seemed to be romance/erotica. I could wind up appearing on the third page of results, behind the smut, even if someone literally searched on my title. So I stepped back from that one and set my mind aracing. Nothing gives me worse writer’s block than focusing all my energy on something. I was drawing blanks, big time. Then slowly, possibilities that didn’t all completely suck started floating into my head.

And at last, in a rare moment when I was only partially thinking about my book, the new title slipped into my consciousness. Nine Bucks a Pound. It’s a reference to how much money Del spends for his first cycle of steroids and how much muscle weight he gains over the winter while working out. For $180 he adds twenty pounds of mass that buys him enough time to impress the organization’s decision makers. By the end of the following year he’s in the big leagues. Good investment, by all accounts. At least until … oh, wait for the book.

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