by Donna MacMeans
Have you noticed all the whispering going around lately?
I think it started with the book The Horse Whisperer. I've since heard of the dog whisperer, the ghost whisperer, and the baby whisperer. Heck, I even saw a Cosmopolitan cover recently advertising an article called "The O Whisperer."
But with all the whispering going on - what I really need is a title whisperer. That's right. Someone with the ability to calmly and rationally look at a manuscript and suggest a dynamic marketable title that actually works for the story. It's not easy, I tell ya. It's an art.
Last month I asked about favorite first lines. As I read the ones you submitted, I noticed that the first lines from suspense books had something in common. Did you notice? The books that in all probability would have a corpse somewhere in the story contained the words murder, death or kill in the very first sentence - even if it didn't have anything to do with an actual person's death.
This got me wondering if titles had the same redundancy. Were there certain words that were used in the titles of various genre novels with a certain regularity? Could the use of certain money words ensure a title good enough to meet an editor's approval? Being the mad analytical accountant that I am, I decided to find out for myself.
Here's what I did. There's a list of 1001 romance keepers compiled by posters to a Romantic Times bulletin board. The list was compiled back in January and basically is a snapshot of various readers keeper shelves. I learned of it because The Education of Mrs. Brimley (#255) is on it, as is Jeanne Adams's Dark and Dangerous (#999). So I basically had a ready list of 1001 romance titles to draw from. As the list indicated whether the book was historical, suspense, contemporary, etc. I could break down my analysis along those same lines.
I compiled a list of money words used in the titles, sorted, and then looked to see if certain words popped up more frequently than others. Now I didn't do this for all 1001 titles - I'm not that anal (smile). But I did waste quite a few hours on this most probably meaningless project.
Here's what I found - Suspense titles are short - just a few words, while historical titles tend to be longer with more of the money works. Colors are popular in titles, but by far the most popular color in historical titles is ...Black. Surprised? I was. The popular color mentioned in contemporaries is Gold and Golden. In suspense, things are just Dark.
Lords and Ladies populate historical covers, followed by an abundance of Devils, Mistresses, Angels and Dragons. Lovers were more likely to appear on paranormal covers. Brides were found on both historical and contemporary covers, but only Grooms appeared on the contemporary covers. Apparently no one was mentioned on the suspense covers - but wait - that might be because they were all either Dead or about to Die.
Of course there's action on these covers. Those historical characters are lost in Dreams and Desires. In suspense, they are involved in Danger and Dangerous Falls, Kisses or Tells - except when they were Silent. I couldn't find a frequently repeated word for contemporaries. The characters were doing a variety of things - but whatever they were doing, it was generally around Christmas.
Flowers are important on historical covers. Any flower will do though Roses seem to be a favorite. Wind blew in frequently. Apparently to stir the Windflowers. Flowers weren't as important in suspense covers. Maybe because they were always in the Shadows. Gemstones were mentioned frequently though, especially Diamonds. If anything was Sweet, it was most likely historical or contemporary but never suspense.
The Moon showed up on historical and paranormal covers, not so much on suspense - though there was frequent mention of Night (and conversely, Dawn).
Historicals had repeated mention of Savage, Rainbows, Seasons, and Winter (even Winterwood).
So now you have all the tools to create selling romance titles.
I thought we could have some fun and be title whisperers. Just make up a title using the above list. Or tell me if any of your TBR books share the above common words. (And if any of the titles are really, really good - you may find me emailing you for help sometime in the future!) So let's whisper.