• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:

    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!



What’s in a Name?

Francois Rabelais in the 16th Century cautioned against reading too much into a title. (A book’s) ‘title is usually received with mocking laughter and jokes. But it’s wrong to be so superficial when you’re weighing men’s work in the balance.’ Good advice, but now day titles sell books. It pays to consider them carefully.

The purpose of the title is to attract, intrigue and compel. It’s the headline, the very first sentence and its job is to hook the reader. It wants to sound good—to roll off the tongue—but not be overly predictable or clichéd. A good title can have double meanings, though it’s best to be careful there. For example, Mouse Work’s 1995 title, ‘Cooking with Pooh’ is questionable. Catchy can work, like Big Boom’s ‘If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs’ but that’s not quite the style speculative fiction readers are after.

Who wouldn't want to cook with ... er ... Pooh?

Who wouldn't want to cook with ... er ... Pooh?

Titles have to fit on the book cover. I’m not sure how Crown got ‘Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam‘ squeezed together with the author, Pope Brock, and a billygoat (I’m serious) but they did. Short titles can be preferable. George Orwell first called his masterpiece The Last Man in Europe until changing it to 1984. Good move.

Apparently there are rules to follow for selecting titles. Some writers ignore them, to their great success: Rule one—don’t use a proper name in the title. (Harry Potter?) Rule two—don’t use words like Bane, Barbarian, Bard, Battle, Book, Chaos, Crown, Crystal. ( Jennifer Fallon’s bestselling The Chaos Crystal?) Rule three—don’t use adjective-noun titles. (Sara Douglass’ bestselling Twisted Citadel?) Rule four—don’t use needless complexity. (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (The bestselling SF by Philip K. Dick!)

Rules aside, there is a website where you can put your title to the test. This program generates the odds a title has of becoming a bestseller. If it’s accurate, my book #4 is going to sell a zillion copies! However The Da Vinci Code shows only a l4.6% chance, so maybe take it with a grain of salt. I didn’t use it in any case, only because I didn’t know about it!

My first two books were named organically, like pets. Book #1, The Spell of Rosette was just ‘Rosette’ for years. She got ‘The Spell’ as the story matured. Book #2, Arrows of Time was named for the narrative structure. It’s based on the theoretical notion that time is fully symmetrical—arrows going both ways and around in circles! I named Strange Attractors before I wrote a word of it. I had to write something in the proposal and the quantum theory concept of ‘strange attractors’—a pattern that appeared chaotic until seen from the right perspective—intrigued me. I didn’t know then how literal it would become!

Has anyone a good ‘title story’ to tell? Is there one that particularly compelled or repulsed? I’d love to hear about it. Comments welcome!

arrows of timeKim Falconer is the author of The Spell of Rosette, Quantum Enchantment Book 1. She lives in Byron Bay in Australia with two black cats. As well as writing, she runs Falcon Astrology, The second book in the Quantum Enchantment series, Arrows in Time, is out now.

9 Responses

  1. Hey, my book title ideas are predicted to sell better than The Bible. I can relax now.

  2. A friend and I played with that title scoring thing a few years aback. The best result we could come up with was for titles with the format Verbing Nouns, regardless of the actual words used.

    So “Rolling Rolls” and “Boring Readers” both have a 79.6% chance of being a best selling title. I’m happy to share both titles with anyone in return for a % of profits!

  3. Oh that must be why it liked Avogadro’s Stray! (my #4 w/t)Or is that more a proper name/noun?

    It’s hard to see ‘Boring Readers’ hitting NY Times Bestsellers list, isn’t it!

    Another, more ‘occult’ way of approaching the name of a title would be through numerology. If the ‘number’ of the title was an 8, for example, it would have the vibration of ‘financial acumen and public recognition.’ A number 3 is a natural for communication and creativity. And a number 22 is a master number of vision and creative change.

    Boring Reader is a # 8 (if I got the maths correct), so it’s looking like a bestseller on all counts!

    I’m now officially tempted to write a book called ‘Boring Reader’. Monissa, I’ll put your finder’s percentage in the contract! Can you imagine the film???


  4. I’ve always loved that story ‘To Serve Man’ – which in the story is a title of a book – which has a very different purpose from originally thought. It plays on the different meanings of ‘serve’.
    Douglas Adams had some wonderful titles for his books! So long and thanks for all the fish, The restaurant at the end of the world … The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – they were all immensely fun but actually very relevant to his text.
    I also like Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Hexwood’ – which entirely sums up the world in which the story plays – an enchanted wood of sorts – but a hex is also thought of as a magical curse … very interesting. And her book with the most unlikely title – but which I love immensely, is Archer’s Goon. Such a strange title – especially if you don’t know what a goon is – or who Archer is … 🙂
    I suspect it wouldn’t rate highly in the sales-o-metre thingy!

  5. Hi Nat,

    I read To Serve Man by Damon Knight Knight in an anthology (I think) years ago. It won a Hugo Award for best short SF story. I love that double meaning!

    Adams does have some great titles! I like some of Ursula Le Guin’s titles too–The Left Hand of Darkness, and Atwood’s Blind Assassin.

    Oh and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and, (on number themes), A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I like the exotic feel.

    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt! In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan. I could go on and on . . .


  6. I’m not great at coming up with titles. Thank goodness we’ve got editors to help out!

    My three were once, in order:

    “The Dark Griffin”
    “The Man Without a Heart”
    “The Shadow That Walks”

    In the end, we only kept the first one. Numbers two and three are now “The Griffin’s Flight” and “The Griffin’s War”.

    Much better. After all, readers should instantly know that these books have got griffins. ’cause griffins rule. 😀

    • I think those are really interesting titles, Katie. I can see why they were changed for consistency in the series but I like the haunting feel, especially The Shadow that Walks. It conjures images!

      I have a copy of the Dark Griffin and am looking forward to diving in!

      🙂 Kim

      • Aw man, all my titles have a 10.2% chance of being bestsellers! I’m doooomed!


        I hope you like my book, anyway!

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