Nicola Marsh has a lovely post on the Pink Heart Society about titles and how she feels about titles.
Now, I will hold my hand up. I do buy books based on titles and covers. I know years ago as a teenager, I used to look for those Presents titles that had something to do with Greece and possibly forced marriage.
As I have grown older, I have come to understand the reasoning behind positioning and the need to appeal the floating core readership -- those readers who regularly read the series, but do not necessarily buy every title. And I do understand that certain key words make it more likely for the floating readers to pick up the books. Ultimately both the author and the publisher wants to sell as many books as possible and to those readers who will come back to that author and publisher. It is about growing core readership, not about getting the respect of some reviewer who does not like romance or necessarily understands the needs of a dedicated romance reader who has five seconds to decide what sort of book she is going to buy to read on her lunch break.
I also understand the need to have a title that enables the writer to write a book. These are not necessarily the same thing.
I have had two titles kept -- The Gladiator's Honour and A Question of Impropriety. Both titles came to me immediately, so it is interesting that the editors also liked them. The main thing I need with a title is to be able to write the book. At times, I have had to change the title as it no longer conveys my short hand for the story. And when I am writing the story, it is all about me, and how I can write it. After that, the book is written and it is up to marketing to decide what is going to best sell the content. It is no longer my responsibility. And quite frankly I am pleased as I think I am rubbish at titles.
There are a variety of reasons why a particular title may not be used. For example -- Her Viking Captor became Taken by the Viking because in part my title was far too close to one of the very recent Viking titles -- His Viking Captive and the editors did not want to confuse the readers. Viking, however, is a key word as it does make a connection with the time period and conveys certain things.
Sometimes, the title does not fit precisely the mood that the editors want to convey so they come up with a better one. For example Sold and Seduced is a lot more sensuous than The Pirate's Bargained Bride. And gosh, I wish I had thought of that title as it beautifully conveys the book. Alliterative titles can be fantastic.
Sometimes key words that have done well in other books are repeated. For example Conquered by the Viking became Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife after it was noticed in sales trends that books with Warrior in them did well. But also it does convey tone and plot.
The editors and marketing work very hard at getting the titles and covers right. Sometimes, they do this better than others. But it should be remembered which segment of readers they are trying to appeal to. The titles which are most often derided tend to belong to the consistently most popular series. In other words, they work for the vast majority of that subset of readers. And if a title seems to belong to another line, they may walk passed it.
Because titles are a marketing function, they do have to speak to the core group of readers who will most likely buy the book. That is the bottom line. I certainly do not want readers of Historical romance to pass my books by.