Filed under: Marcus Sakey
…might not sell as well.
Despite the lesson we’re taught in childhood, people do judge books by their covers–and their titles. And why not? First impressions matter. And where a cover design assumes the reader is holding the book, and can flip it over for blurbs and a summary, a title has to stand on its own. It has to be memorable and suggestive, with the right balance of poetry and punch (Barry Eisler wrote a great article on the need for resonance in titles, if you’re interested). And given that the title is a crucial factor in the decision-making process of bookstore buyers, the right one can mean a sales difference in the tens of thousands.
So what, you ask? Well, my second book is complete. My editor and publisher are excited about it. Folks say they like it better than the first one, which pleases me no end. But the one thing everyone agrees they don’t like?
You guessed it.
I trust their instinct. These people are pros, and this is an important decision. So I’m hoping you’ll help me make it.
Briefly, the book is a thriller about a guy named Jason Palmer, a discharged soldier who returns from Iraq to find a similar war raging in his South Side neighborhood. Jason is in a downward spiral, thrown out of the only place he ever found a home, and wants to spend the summer drinking too much and chasing girls. But when his brother is murdered and his bar burned, presumably by the gangbangers he spoke out against, Jason is forced to dig into increasingly dangerous secrets, all while protecting his eight-year-old nephew from the men hunting him.
The central issues are corruption, brotherhood, responsibility and redemption. It’s got gang warfare and arson and a love story and a car chase and Roman history. And Tom Waits quotes. Oh, and a scene where an arms dealer sings “Angel of the Morning” while shooting up a gang house.
Originally it was titled ACCELERANT. Then ONLY THE DEAD. Then THE END OF WAR. Then STREETS OF FIRE.
Now, we don’t know what it’s called. So I’m running a contest. It’s a two-part gig:
1) Any ideas? Don’t let the fact that you haven’t read the book slow you down. After over 100 suggestions, I’m getting burned out. So please, throw anything–anything–my way.
2) There are three titles that seem to be in favor right now, and I want your vote. They are: THE VIOLENCE OF FIRE, CITY OF ASHES, and AT THE CITY’S EDGE
Obviously, Part 1 is the meat of the contest. My favorite suggestion will receive a signed copy of THE BLADE ITSELF. In fact, just for fun, it will be a signed U.K. edition, unavailable on U.S. shores.
Better still, if we actually go with your title (or a variation of it), I’ll thank you in the acknowledgments. Plus, I’ll name a character in my third book after you. Not bad for a few minutes of brainstorming.
By the way, if you don’t have any title ideas, I’d still love to get your vote on Part 2.
So let’s hear it, folks. What the heck should this rose be named?
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