What’s in a Name? How and Why a Book Title Changes

And a Chance to Win a $10 Barnes & Noble eGift Card…

What's My Name???

Often, a lot of meaning gets packed into one tiny word or the string of only a few. Can you imagine Scarlett O’Hara as the originally imagined Pansy? How about  PRETTY WOMAN as “3000“? That’s what that movie was originally called (the amount of money Richard Gere’s character had to pay to spend one night with her). [It would be doubly funny now because everyone would confuse it with “300” the way everyone confuses 28 DAYS and 28 DAYS LATER.] And how about RETURN OF THE JEDI? Remember that was originally titled REVENGE OF THE JEDI? But Lucas rethought and decided that the Jedi weren’t (or shouldn’t be) vengeful?

Character names change. Title names change.

The title of my first novel is changing from DEMON’S ADVOCATE to DARK LIGHT OF DAY. I’m not only fine with it, I love the new title. (In fact, it was one of many I submitted to my editor for consideration when I heard they were thinking of renaming the book). Turns out, both my editor and I were rethinking the title, but for a variety of different reasons, some shared, some not. The one thing we both agreed on, however, was that the former title Demon’s Advocate didn’t suit the mood of the book.

I picked the original title to immediately convey what the book was about. When asked “What’s your story about?” I’d always answered, “a law student being trained to represent demons.” So I thought demon + advocate summed up the two biggest elements in the book: demons and the law. But the book is not a supernatural LAW AND ORDER (GRIMM’s kinda that though, isn’t it? And it’s awesome!) and it is not a rehashing of 1997’s DEVIL’S ADVOCATE either.

In hindsight, even I have to admit that Demon’s Advocate sounds pretty cold for such a fiery story. My old title’s tone and feel did not reflect some of the other major elements of the book: romance, fantasy, and my character’s inner conflict. Noon Onyx is a young woman who struggles. Her magic is dark and blazing. She has the power to kill, but wants the power to heal. She dreams of changing herself even as events force her to consider accepting herself as is. I love that the new title captures all the dualities of this character: her name, her magic, and her struggle. Plus its tone is much more forbidding and elemental, which suits the story better in the same way that Scarlett suited Scarlett better and Pansy did not!

So here’s to Noon and her new title, DARK LIGHT OF DAY!! 😀

(If you enjoyed this post and want to read four other authors’ stories about how their book titles changed, click here).

Writers, how about you? Have you ever had to change your title? Why? Was it difficult? How do you go about selecting a title for your work? Readers, what are some of your favorite titles? Funniest? Most evocative? Have you ever bought a book based on the title alone? How much of your decision to read a book is based on its title?

To celebrate Noon’s new title, I’m giving away a $10 Barnes & Noble eGift Card.  To enter this contest, post a comment below or submit your e-mail to me on my CONTEST page. (Note to anyone who entered my previous “Noblest Fruit” contest, but didn’t win: you’ll be automatically entered in this contest). Contest winner will be announced on my CONTEST page on February 5, 2012.

Published by

Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

21 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? How and Why a Book Title Changes

  1. You know, I did have an interesting experience. My second book which is women’s fiction with romantic elements, was titled Love’ Triangle. I never liked it because it was too romance-y to me. I changed it to Moon Over Alcatraz and it was picked up fairly quickly.

  2. It happens more often that we realize. My first novel in my Demons Unleashed series has gone through so many name changes, you’d think it was in the witness protection program.

    It’s about a hairstylist that discovers she’s half succubus, so I wanted some sort of hair theme.

    My original title was “Unleashing Your Inner Sex Demon”
    Too long.
    The title I submitted to my publisher was “Succubus Unleashed”
    Too Dark
    The title the publisher came up with was “Beauty School Demon”
    Not sexy enough.
    Finally the publisher and I agreed that “Demons Prefer Blondes” was perfect.

    Of course, the 2nd book had to be named too, so I made a contest of it to let the readers have a say, so the title matched the 2nd.

    The second one originally titled “Icing on the Demon” was changed to “Demons Like It Hot.”

    It might seem frustrating to some authors, but the publishers know what they’re doing. 🙂


    1. Hi Sidney, I love it. I think it’s interesting to see how authors come up with their titles. That’s neat that you let readers have a say on the second book’s title. Fun! And it seems to have worked out great for you. Thanks for sharing. ~ Jill

  3. Sometimes a new name (title) helps. I’ve heard many agents/authors discuss this issue, too.

    When I originally wrote my first story, “Vampires Suck” I had so many different reviews on it when I entered it into contests. Some judges thought it funny, others found it sickening. I changed it to “Immortal Heat” just as I found out Hollywood was making a movie called “Vampires Suck” a tongue-cheek copy of “Twilight”. Some of my friends thought I had finally sold the book as a screenplay though.

    1. Loni and Shamus, I remember seeing the trailer for Vampires Suck but didn’t see it. It’s probably best to try to find a title that’s fresh. Glad you think Dark Light of Day is cool! 🙂 Thanks for the comments, Jill

  4. Jill,
    As you may remember, before I began sending my manuscript out to agents I had an absolutely perfect title in mind. However, a quick online search revealed over a dozen books already sporting that title. So I brainstormed for a while and eventually settled on a “new” title. Though it is unique, I admit that it’s one I’m not entirely happy with (the original was perfect, after all, but for the fact that it was taken many times over). I fully expect that, should the manuscript ever be picked up by a publisher, yet another new title will be assigned to the story. All that aside, I think Dark Light of Day has a very high cool factor. Good job!

  5. Hi Jill, Thanks for sharing your story. I’m terrible with titles. The original title for The Taker was “The Fallen”, to reflect that the story is about people who have given up their humanity. (And that was only the latest in a string of titles over the ten years it took to write the book.) Right after we sold it to Simon & Schuster, Lauren Kate’s book Fallen came out. Needless to say, we had to find a new title. My agent came up with The Taker. The titles of the next two books, The Reckoning and The Descent, I came up with, working titles that I expected would be changed by savvy marketing departments. But that didn’t happen. The ups and downs of titles!

    1. Hi Alma– It doesn’t sound like you’re terrible with titles to me! I really like The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. I checked out your website. The Taker looks mighty intriguing. Thanks for stopping by. ~ Jill

  6. I had to change a title a few months back. The publisher felt the original title was not sexy enough. (occupational hazard of writing erotic romance). The title went from ‘A Month of Marriage” to “His Desirable Debutante.”

    I like your new title, though I warn you now, you’ll have a few twitter hating moments trying to fit the new title in 140 characters with promo. All my titles are long, and my new goal is one word titles for promo purposes!

  7. Hi, Jill. I love the new title of the book and your protag’s name is great. How did you come up with it?

    I’ve only had one book that had a late title change. The second book in my Heirs of Kilronan series was originally titled Lady Of Shadows. Then the art dept decided to put a man on the cover and Lady obviously didn’t work, so the title became LORD OF SHADOWS.

    Fine, except that the preview at the end of the first book in the series still had the old title. To this day, I have people ask me if they’ve missed a book somewhere.

    1. Hi Alix, that’s great that you like Noon’s name (and the new title). Thanks! A minor character in my first practice novel was named “Noon Onyx” and I liked the name so much I decided to use it again. How I came up with it that first time was kind of fun. One morning I had zero inspiration so I forced myself to write a list of twenty or so total nonsense character names. The first name of the next character on the list had to start with the letter of the previous character’s last name. Noon was sandwiched between “Kevee Nance” and “Oyo Pekette.” Ha! The things we do to jump start our muses! 😀

      Loved the story about people still asking you whether they missed LADY OF SHADOWS!

    2. Same thing happened with me Alix. The excerpt in the back of Demons Prefer Blondes still had the old “Icing on the Demon” title. What I did was on my website, the page for the book has a subtitle:
      “Previously Known as “Icing on the Demon.”

      I also did the same for Demons Prefer Blondes (Beauty School Demon), since the title was changed after the cover had already been done and the listing was on Amazon and B&N.

      I can still do searches for Beauty School Demon and find old links. Weird.

  8. The new title just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? I’m pre-published but recently changed my manuscript title when I decided to enter it in RWA’s Golden Heart. My local RWA group joked that they could guess the finalists in the contest just by the sound of the title. I don’t believe it, but wasn’t going to take a chance. My title changed from “My Immortal” to “Of Magic and the Sea.”

    How did I come up with the new title? I emailed my chapter mates on the way to happy hour on a Friday night and told them I had a glorious $5 Starbucks card for the person who came up with a title I loved and chose to use. I gave them my three line pitch and they took it from there.


  9. Jill – I love how the new title incorporates your heroine’s journey. Who she is, who she hopes to become. Very cool. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!!!

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