What's in a Name?
Great titles all.
So what was wrong with mine? Shortly after signing my first book contract, word from my publisher was that most people in the office didn't like the title of the manuscript: Alice Wynter. I'd named my book after my main character.
Before you start listing all the reasons that they were right, let me tell you why I liked that name so much. First, being a lifelong Stephen King fan, I'd always liked the idea of naming a book after a character. He'd done it a few times: Christine, Delores Claiborne, Rose Madder, and, of course, Carrie. Second, in my novel, Alice Wynter holds the key to the entire book. Finding out what happened to her unravels the whole mystery. So, I figured that her name as a title made sense. Finally, I personally like books with character names as titles. It's just a thing I have. In book stores, I'm immediately drawn to these books and usually buy them.
Here's something I learned early on: titles really matter. In my research, I found that some people won't even read a book if they don't like the title. And it makes sense. The title is in some way the first exposure to the contents of the book. The first hook. If a potential reader doesn't like that, all bets are off. No one's going to buy a book named Slow Going or One Big Slog.
So, after my publisher said they didn't like the title, I set out to find another title. I went to Amazon and searched all the mystery/thriller titles I could find that related to winter, ice, and snow to come up with ideas. I made long lists. In the end, I had at least a hundred potential titles. Some of the contenders were: Winter Kill, All the Secret Things, The Second Secret, Winter Valley, and Blood Lake. Not bad, right? But none of them grabbed us.
Book titles are not subject to copyright, thankfully. Otherwise, every new book would have to have a unique title, and that would be a mess. The thing is, suppose a top-shelf author like Joe Finder or Michael Palmer comes out with a book with the same title as a debut. Then, every time someone searched, they find a billion links, and the debut would be 1,000 search pages in. Not a good thing. A few times in this process, we thought we had a good title, only to find that someone had used it recently or a similarly named book by a bigger author was coming out a few months earlier.
Late in the process, I came up with Dead of Wynter. I'll be honest. It wasn't my favorite. I was a little wary of the play on words, but I asked around and plenty of people liked it for that reason. It ain't perfect. "Dead of Winter" is a cliche, and that's always a problem, because you can bet that someone has used it before you. And plenty of people had. But, we figured that the play on words would set it apart, and I was happy because I'd managed to retain 50% of my original title.
Dead of Wynter as a title is dramatic and a little creepy. In the end, I decided I liked it.
Spencer Seidel lives and works in suburban New Jersey but has also called Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine home. He is an honors graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University and attended the Berklee College of Music to study guitar, which he has been playing for over 25 years. His love of reading and books began as a child after discovering Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Later, he was drawn to darker work by authors such as Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Jack Ketchum, who continue to influence his dark novels and short stories.
His debut novel, Dead of Wynter, is due to be published in May 2011.
Alice resigns herself to return, helping her mother and the local police with the mystery surrounding the crime. But there are some family secrets her mother would sooner take to the grave than reveal.
Reacquainting with her past brings fresh pain and new friendships as she struggles with who to trust with the details of her father’s murder and brother’s disappearance. As the authorities come closer to solving the mystery of the men in her family, she begins to realize her past life as Alice Wynter is the missing part of the puzzle. But who is searching out the former Alice? The sinister mysteries of the Wynter family will capture the reader’s attention well past when the fire has gone out.
One lucky USA reader will win their own copy of Dead of Wynter
Leave a comment
Follow Spencer on Facebook
USA Only. Contest ends on May 21st. Winner selected via randomizer.org. Winner has 48 hours to respond to winning email or a new winner will be selected. Prize shipped direct from sponsor.