It’s all in a name.

‘You need a snappier title,’ she said.  ‘Something to capture the public’s attention.
My novel was called “Rocio”, after the heroine.
‘Nobody in England will understand that Rocio is a girl.  You need something to grab people; something like “A pile of stuff at the bottom of the stairs”,’ she added, quoting the title of a popular novel.  ‘That sold very well.’
I looked at her; it was an intriguing title, but it hadn’t intrigued me enough to buy the book.  But I took her point: a Spanish girl’s name that meant nothing to an English reader was not going to work.
‘Or “The curious incident of the dog in the Night-time”, that was a best seller,’ she continued.
‘But Rocio lives in a two-roomed house with no stairs,’ I said.  ‘And there’s no dog in the story.’
Mind you, how hard would it be to write in a part for a dog?  I could at least consider it.
‘OK, what about “Summer Sisters”?’ she suggested.
I smiled politely and shook my head.  That sounded like a yukky teens story, not the social drama I was hoping to portray.
So I set to work trying to find an alternative title.  Despite the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, that is exactly what people do.  If the cover appeals then they pick it up to explore further.  I knew the importance of that moment when the book seems to leap off the shelf and demand that you buy it.  It could be the art-work or a clever title; something will grab your attention and make all the difference.
It had taken me six months to write the novel and I despaired that it would take me another six months to find the right title.  I played word games with appropriate nouns for hours, but snappy, appealing, meaningful and up-to-date they refused to be.  Then if I came across anything that sounded halfway decent, I checked it on the internet and, sure enough, someone had thought of it before.  I know that there’s no copyright on titles but it smacks of a lack of originality when six books with the same name leap onto the screen at once.
Perseverance was the name of the game, closely followed by a definite drop in expectations.  In the end, after filling page after page with ridiculous and inappropriate titles and boring both family and friends rigid, I settled on a title that had, if not sex-appeal, at least relevance and “The House on the Beach” was ready to publish.

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Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.

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