Fun With Book Titles

So I’m writing a novel about a stand-up comedian. As of right now, it’s called Flop Sweat. That may not be the final title, or even the title by this evening, but for now, I kinda like it.

Just for fun (my fun, maybe not yours) here are the origins of my book titles:

How to Rescue a Dead Princess was originally Pointless Quest. Then I got an agent who said, “If it’s pointless, why should anybody read it?” I said that people who felt that way probably weren’t the target audience for this particular novel, but he insisted that we change it to The Quest. I thought that was an awful title and sent a long list of alternates. He said, no, no, it’s gotta be The Quest. I said I could accept Quest! (with an exclamation point in the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker style) but I preferred my alternate title of How Do You Rescue a Dead Princess? It ended up being marketed with the awkward double title of Quest! or How To Rescue a Dead Princess. It never sold, and when I had the opportunity to pick the title myself, I went with How to Rescue a Dead Princess.

Out of Whack was originally Off Balance. An editor sent me a very kind rejection, saying that he absolutely loved the book but couldn’t publish it, and suggested calling it Out of Whack instead. Well, duh. I changed it immediately.

Elrod McBugle on the Loose was originally just called Elrod McBugle. But I wanted something that sounded more comedic, and something that sounded like it was part of a series. If there’d been a second book, it would’ve been called Elrod McBugle In Your Face.

Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) always had that title. For the second book, I was reluctant to continue the “macabre personal ads” format because I figured that if I was cranking out one or two Andrew Mayhem books a year I’d quickly run out of ideas. Then I changed my mind. At one point, Single White Psychopath Seeks Same was going to be reprinted by a publisher whose cover designer was so uninterested in anything but a paycheck that not only did the cover look like it had been put together with Colorforms, but it bore the title Wanted: Single White Sociopath. If there’s a fifth Andrew Mayhem novel, it may or may not be called Increase Your Chainsaw Size.

Mandibles was set to be published as Infested in October 2001. But right after 9/11 I didn’t think it was appropriate to have a tongue-in-cheek book about people trapped in a burning building, even if most of their problems were ant-related, and I asked the publisher to push it back a few months. The publisher agreed, and then ended up going out of business before the new publication date. Then I heard that a killer fly movie called Infested was coming out, so I changed the title to Mandibles.

Pressure was always kind of just meant to be the working title, and to be honest, I didn’t truly warm to it until I read Michael Prescott’s foreword to the book, which described how it was the perfect title.

I originally wanted the title of Dweller to be the name of the monster, and after some time spent going through lists of first names, I came up with Owen. But, just to be sure, I spent more quality time with the thesaurus, and came up with Dweller, which I decided was the better choice.

The Sinister Mr. Corpse came from a screenplay that I abandoned after maybe three pages, called The Horrifying Tale of Mr. Corpse. I kind of wanted the book to be called The Amazing Mr. Corpse, but decided that The Sinister Mr. Corpse had a nicer ring to it.

Benjamin’s Parasite had the very early working title The Piranha Effect. I can’t remember how I came up with Benjamin’s Parasite, but I was thrilled when I did.

Wolf Hunt was pitched to the publisher as Dogcatchers, with the disclaimer of “I know you’re not going to publish it as Dogcatchers.” I suggested Werewolf Hunt and Where the Wolfbane Blooms (the latter of which I was briefly convinced was the PERFECT title, even though it’s clearly not). The publisher said they were calling it Wolf Hunt. I still wish it was Werewolf Hunt, although I guess I like Wolf Hunt 2 better than Werewolf Hunt 2.

Fangboy was written as Fangboy, and then at the last moment I decided that The Adventures of Fangboy was a better fit for the tone of the novel. The publisher said, no, it’s going to just be Fangboy. When I sold the German rights, I forgot to change the title from The Adventures of Fangboy on the manuscript, and the title translates to Fangboy’s Adventure. 

Stalking You Now is the perfect title for that novella, with an ever-fluctuating meaning (Stalking YOU Now; Stalking You NOW)…and yet it came very late in the writing process. Writing something called Untitled Stalker Novella for so long was driving me insane.

I KNOW I had another title for Gleefully Macabre Tales, something longer, but I can’t remember it.

Dead Clown Barbecue was originally 31 Dead Clowns. The problem was that we needed a final title before we had a final manuscript, and I was still tweaking the table of contents, so I wasn’t sure if it would have 29, 30, or 31 stories. I didn’t want to get locked into a story count just because of the title, and came up with Dead Clown Barbecue, which is way, way better.

I wanted to use Another Damn Vampire Book, but Joe Konrath wanted to call it Suckers. His title was better. However, my tagline of “From The Guys Who Wish They’d Written Twilight” was better than his “Finally A Vampire Book That Doesn’t Suck,” so it evened out.

Joe Konrath and I co-wrote a story called “Cub Scout Gore Fest” where a little kid refers to a vampire as a “dracula.” Joe decided that a novel called Draculas needed to be written. And it was.

The Haunted Forest Tour came from a concept I called The Fantasy Tour, wherein tourists got to ride a tram through the setting of a fantasy novel. Then I changed it to a science fiction landscape. When Jim Moore and I were asked to co-author a novel with a Halloween theme, I switched it again, this time to a haunted, monster-filled forest.

Kutter is the name of my mom’s dog. That it’s the perfect name of a dog owned by a serial killer is coincidence.

Faint of Heart was, in the very early stages, called Being Fearful. I changed it because I liked Faint of Heart better, though I should have changed it simply because Being Fearful is a lousy title.

A Bad Day For Voodoo came from an abandoned non-YA book called A Bad Night For Voodoo. Most of the book actually does take place at night, but it starts with a really bad day.

I was really upset to find out that Bad With Faces had already been used, and at a time when I was actively promoting a young adult novel, I wasn’t sure if I should really call my book Facial. But, obviously, I did. The title has multiple meanings in the book, including the one that made me question using that title.

I didn’t have a title for I Have a Bad Feeling About This, but the publisher came up with Camp Doom, which I really liked and is the title on the contract. Then they changed Camp Doom to I Have a Bad Feeling About This, which I did not like, and I countered with This Can’t End Well. Sometimes you lose. (The book went right into a second printing, so I’m forced to concede that the marketing department might have known what they were doing.)

Kumquat came from me eating a kumquat for the first time and saying “Ha ha, Kumquat would be a funny title for a book!” When I started writing it, I wasn’t actually planning to use that title, but by the time I was finished, I still liked it. I’d swiped plot elements from two previous works-in-progress, Cosmic Joke and Spoiler Warning, and all three of those were potential titles. I did a quick Facebook poll, which had support divided amongst all three titles, so I went with Kumquat. Some people love it and some people hate it. I’ve seen it described as the best book title ever, and also described as “unfortunate.”

“You’re not really going to call it Wolf Hunt 2, are you?” a friend asked. I’d considered trying to come up with a completely different werewolf-themed title, but ultimately I decided, hey, it’s a direct sequel to Wolf Hunt, and the target audience is people who liked the first book. I was actually calling it Wolf Hunt II, but Lynne Hansen had a cover concept for the digital edition with a wolf face in the number 2, so I changed it to Wolf Hunt 2, though the signature sheets for the hardcover edition say Wolf Hunt II. It always kind of bugged me that the box art says Evil Dead 2 but the movie itself says Evil Dead II, but I got over that and I’ll get over this.

Will my next book actually be called Flop Sweat? Tune in to this website to find out…


2 Responses to “Fun With Book Titles”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Thank you for sharing! I’d loved reading these. =D


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