How important is the title of a book?

Lessons learned from getting it wrong.

William Shakespeare wrote,  ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ 

Really? May be so, but if a rose was called a snotwort or a stink-daisy, would we been so keen to take a sniff?

How does this relate to book titles, you may well ask. 

Bear with me on this…. 

On October 1st ‘Death by Indulgence’ is being published: but it was first released eight months ago as ‘Fat Chance’. IT’S A RE-LAUNCH

‘Death by Indulgence’ is the same great story as ‘Fat Chance’, but with a new title and a new cover. Available to pre-order on Amazon https://geni.us/sYeRow8

But Why?

Because the title was hindering sales. The title ‘Fat Chance’ was a snotwort or a stink-daisy, and it wasn’t coming up roses.

The title of a book is the first thing we read, enhanced by the cover design then boosted by the blurb, so after writing five novels how could I get it so wrong?

Here’s the story of what happened:

The original working title for the book was ‘The Enormity of Table Number 88’. This, I felt, captured the essence of the story, it was a catchy title and I was happy with it.

But then during a book signing event I was told in good faith by a librarian that the number 88 should be avoided in a book title because of the Neo-Nazi connotations attached to it. 

Sure enough, I researched this improbable fact only to find that it’s true. Among a few other numbers, 88 is code, used by Neo-Nazi groups, to show their far right allegiances, replacing the swastika. H is the eight letter of the alphabet. HH is short for ‘Heil Hitler’ apparently. Who knew? Not me, obviously. I was using 88 in terms of bingo calls ‘Two fat ladies, eighty-eight.’

So it was back to the drawing board, and this is where I made mistakes. 

  1. Rushing, I didn’t take time to consider enough alternative titles.
  2. I didn’t test options with readers, no straw poll, and no gathering of views from trusted fellow writers.
  3. Checking there weren’t any other crime novels with the same title is something I normally do, But I failed to check elsewhere thoroughly enough.
  4. I didn’t listen to my own niggling self-doubt about the title.
  5. Using the word ‘fat’ was ill advised. Did this title appeal to the target market? No.

In crime novels emotive words such as death, killing, murder, slaughter, slash, burn and scream can all be used without fear of misleading the readership, but ‘fat’? No. Bad idea.

Fat Chance. Chance, meaning risk or the likelihood of something happening, was a reasonable word to choose but I teamed it with fat, and the only other books with that title were about diets or dieting. 

Big Booboo

After a conflab with my publishers, we agreed that sales were below what they should have been especially as the endorsements from reviewers were shining

‘What I really love is that with each book she publishes Alison Morgan’s writing goes from strength to strength and she has once again delivered a first class read.’ Susan Corcoran.

‘An unusual story with a delicious dark side, very different to the norm, in a brilliant way. I would love second helpings of this!’ Susan Hampson.

‘If you like a book that stands out from the crowd, then this brilliant piece of psychological suspense could be for you.’ Mark Tilbury.

‘I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys complex and compelling crime stories’.L J Cassidy.

Time for a radical decision; Start again. 

Re-launch. New title.

So to all of you who read and enjoyed ‘Fat Chance’, and to those of you who will read ‘Death by Indulgence’, I thank you for understanding.

‘Death by Indulgence’ is officially born on 1stOctober.

With huge thanks to Sarah Hardy at www.bytheletterbookreviews.com the blog tour starts on the same day via Twitter and Facebook 

Available to order now for Kindle on Amazon via this link https://geni.us/sYeRow8

For those who missed the original incarnation, here’s little taster of ‘Death by Indulgence’: 

In this excerpt Ella Fitzwilliam has landed her first proper assignment as a private investigator, despite having little aptitude for the job. Her new boss, an old acquaintance, is expecting an update.

Chapter 9. 

Wednesday 6thDecember

Val was waiting for Ella in the café around the corner from Lensham Station. Lack of creative inventiveness had resulted in it being known simply as The Old Station Café. She repeatedly picked up her mobile phone, checking for messages, each time replacing it on the table next to her coffee cup. The endless Christmas carols, blaring out from a radio in the kitchen, increased in volume every time a member of staff launched themselves through the swing door carrying a tray. A brief smile changed the general direction of the wrinkles on Val’s face as Ella bounced through the café entrance sending a brass bell jingling above the closing door.

‘You could have called to put me out of my misery. Well? What happened? Are we on?’

Unwrapping her coat and shuffling herself free, Ella was beaming. ‘We are on. I got the senior hostess job, live in, plus a wage. I can take Gordon the goldfish with me and I recommended Ada for the job as a waitress. If she gets it, I’ll have her there to keep an eye on me. Oh, and there’s an extremely useful three-month probationary period. I’m hoping that will be long enough.’

‘I hear a ‘but’ coming.’

‘But… I need to pay rent on my bedsit if I take the live-in job, and it’s too far for me to travel if I don’t.’

‘I’ll cover that cost as your payment. Will that do you?’ 

With relief Ella sat back. ‘Yes. That’s great. I’ve told them I can start next week, but they suggested I might like to bring a friend for dinner this evening to get the feel of the place. Fancy a slap-up meal? You look like you could use it and it could be handy, being a Wednesday. There’s a fair probability our targets will show up.’

Val hesitated. ‘I’m not sure if that’s a wise move for either of us. You are already buzzing, which is a bad sign, and I don’t want to be seen by either of those conniving bastards. On the other hand… Give me the insider’s gen on the place. What are we dealing with?’ 

She waved to the waitress who took their order without cracking her make-up or achieving any degree of eye contact. 

Ella found the scene amusing. ‘Enjoy your job, do you?’ she asked, dipping her head in an effort to force the waitress to meet her gaze.

The girl of indeterminate age, dark-rooted straggly platinum-coloured hair tied back in a loose bun, shrugged as she cleared away Val’s empties. ‘It’s aw’right. Want anyfing t’w’eat?’

‘No, thank you. We’re eating out later at Buxham’s. Do you know it?’

Finally, the waitress crossed the line from ignorance to vaguely sociable. She raised one heavily sculpted eyebrow and reluctantly looked at the faces of the two ladies sitting at the corner table. ‘I know of it. Private place for posh twats who can afford it.’ She scoured Val with her panda-black eyeliner eyes and gave a derisory snarl. ‘They won’t let you in looking like that.’

Ella swallowed hard and waited for the riposte from Val that arrived right on cue. ‘Is that right Miss Queen of the Undead? And since when did you become the judge and jury on dress etiquette for private clubs?’ 

The girl was unfazed. ‘I’m just sayin’ you should neaten up a bit, even diesel dykes should ’ave standards.’ 

As Val’s lower jaw headed for the table, the girl sauntered off in the direction of the service area where she slapped the paper order on the counter.

Ella, with eyes wide and an impish grin, held back, stifling the belly laugh that threatened to escape. She bit her lips together.

Val blinked, leant forward and whispered, ‘That cheeky fuckin’ little madam thinks I’m scruffy.’

‘Well she does have a point, Val. A dear friend you may be, but if we’re heading out for dinner with the well-to-do, you’ll have to snazz up. Emo-waitress got the diesel dyke bit bang on.’

‘I don’t know what you’re laughing at; diesel dykes are usually fat so that counts me out these days. She obviously assumed we are a couple, just like they all do. Such a soddin’ shame you never fancied me.’ 

Ella reached across the table and patted her friend’s hand. ‘You’re my boss, a friend and that is all. Anything else would completely ruin our working relationship. Let’s have this and go shopping for a frilly frock… just kidding. Trouser suit?’

Despite how well Ella described the luxurious interior of Buxham’s restaurant and encouraged her friend to join her there for dinner, Val would not even consider a change of style. It would take more than that to ever persuade her from being seen in her usual black jeans, Doc Marten boots, roll-neck sweater and leather jacket. 

‘Gender or sexuality are pretty much irrelevant from what I’ve gathered, but smart dress isrequired.’ Ella tapped her fingers on a large manila envelope placed carefully on the table. She frowned. ‘I really should have done my bloody homework before agreeing to this. The general manager, Carla Lewis, was a funny sort, attractive but not. One of those people that, no matter how hard they try, they never look sexy. Do you ever watch re-runs of the Carry On films?’

Val nodded. ‘Yeah, ’course I do. Doesn’t everyone?’

‘Well Carla Lewis reminded me of Hattie Jacques. Welcoming, courteous and highly informative: the polar opposite to Emo-girl over there. She was easy enough to cope with, but the clientele have very particular requirements and I’m not confident I can manage to pull off what you’re asking me to do. Do you recall the sign outside the front of the club? “For the larger life…”, well that is what the club specialises in. Some parts of the country boast a local naturist club, some clubs are men only, and some are for liberated sexual beings. This one is for individuals who love big food and big flesh, if you get my drift. Carla used words like – gastronomic glorification, foodies, Rubenesque beauties, lovers of curves—’ Ella stopped. 

Guilt waved hello to her from Val’s every pore. 

‘You knew! That’s why you sent me. You used my big fat arse to—’

The volume and extent of Ella’s accusations were tempered by the return of the waitress who materialised carrying their drinks on a tray. On this occasion there was an exchange of glances between Emo-girl and Val who produced one of her infrequent grins. This blossomed into a wide stained-teeth leer when the waitress winked at her. 

Ella was dumbfounded. Folding her arms, she sat silently back in her seat until the girl moved away to deal with a stroppy man at a table nearby who was demanding a refill of coffee.

‘Oh, for fuck’s sake. I’ve been so stupid. You’ve used me to get what you want, and now you’re hitting on Emo-girl. What do you want her for?’ Ella asked, then without pausing answered her own question. ‘Have you just pulled? No, no, no… you’ve been coming here for quite a while now, so it’s been planned. Working your way into her knickers. What an unscrupulous cow you are, Valerie Royal! Isn’t she too young for you?’ 

‘Take a closer look. She’s older than you think.’ The hunger on her companion’s face was not for want of food and Ella surrendered to the inevitable truth. Val was not going to be swayed from the chase, although when she did finally drag her eyes away from the wretched joyless waitress she answered Ella’s query. ‘And no I didn’t know exactly what or who Buxham’s caters for, but I did have a pretty good idea. It doesn’t take a genius.’ She paused, craning to catch a glimpse of Emo-girl’s backside. ‘I think I’ll give dinner a miss.’

‘Great. Who am I supposed to go to Buxham’s with if you don’t come with me? Ada’s already covering my old art class so that I can help you instead. That’s another forty quid you owe me, by the way.’ 

Val picked up her phone and, after a short delay, snapped her orders. ‘Mal. Get your glad rags on and use one of those flashy cars of yours, you’re taking Ella out to dinner. I’ll text you the details. Yes, tonight. Naturally it’s work, you moron. I’d hardly ask you to do this if it wasn’t. No, you’re not a babysitter; she needs your experience and advice. You can pretend to be Ella’s brother. Adopted brother. You’ll think of something.’

Ella was thankful. Having Malik with her would be so much more comforting than coping with Val. He would fit in, be well dressed enough to be unobtrusive, be observant and with his cocky attitude, invaluable. 

‘Is he picking me up from home? Tell him seven o’clock. I don’t want to miss too much. Evidently, they hold a gourmet pudding club on a Wednesday once a month. It could be that our two men are regular attenders. I didn’t have a chance to see the table bookings for tonight.’

Val coughed, crackling catarrh making an abrasive sound. ‘Don’t be too nosy too soon. Enjoy the evening; absorb what you can. Let Mal seek out the CCTV and security issues. You behave like a nervous new staff member.’ 

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