Sunday, July 24, 2016

Are Long Titles A Good Idea?

...not the actual cover, the actual cover is much cooler but I'm not allowed to use
it yet cos they havent quite got the colours and the car sorted...
No. They're not. My new Duffy novel has a nine word title. This is most unfortunate. Everybody hates long titles: book buyers, publishers, editors, marketers, amazon, audible, book reviewers. . .you name it. If your book has a long title, especially in genre fiction it is a sign of amateurism. I was at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival last week and when I told a prominent English reviewer the title of my next Duffy book she visibly winced. My editor was with me and she gave me a knowing look after the wince. My editor and pretty much everyone at my publishers have been trying to talk me out of the new Duffy title for months now in the nicest possible way. They are all wonderful smart, intelligent people and they all, of course, are quite right about the title. Crime fiction is not literary fiction where you can get away with long titles. (Unless that is you're doing a long title as a mode of Spencerian signalling telling customers that your book is so bloody good that you can even throw away the title.) Some of my favourite books with long titles are Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept; I’ve Been To Sorrow’s Kitchen And Licked Out All The Pots; Another Bullshit Night In Suck City, but all these books are literary fiction. Crime fiction mostly has two or three word titles often with the words “blood” “death” or “girl” in the title. Long titles are off putting. But  then everything about my fiction is off putting. I set my books in Northern Ireland rather than in reader friendly Scandanavia, England or Scotland. I usually have long titles. I almost always begin my books slowly with description and with weather rather than action (in strict contradiction of the rules for writers laid down by Elmore Leonard and Stephen King). What all this self sabotaging does is winnow my audience to a core fanbase. No one casually grabs an Adrian McKinty novel at the airport. And you know what? that’s fine with me. If you get me you get me and if you don’t you don’t. If you're a crime author from Scandinavia you can write any old shite and the punters will buy it. Where's the challenge there, Sven? I’m sorry about the long title, I really am, but that’s the book that was inside me and that’s the book that wanted to come out. And to potential readers out there....if the long title or the Troubles setting or the boring beginning prevents you from becoming one of my readers that’s entirely ok with me – we weren’t destined to become simpatico and there are plenty of other books on the shelf at WH Smith called The Girl From....that you'll prefer. Please read one of those instead. We'll both be much happier.