Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Right Name

After one of my books is approved for publication I become almost maniacal checking Amazon to see when they make it available for sale. Nothing was different with my latest YA novel, Barberry Hill. I searched for the title and, what you see above is what I got: 'Showing results for Burberry Hill.' Wait what? No!


I knew going in that it was an odd name, but for me the name felt as natural as the ocean breeze and for most of the process I never considered that the book might be called anything else. I visited a botanical garden in 2013, came across the Japanese Barberry bush, and fell in love. Don't ask me why it appealed to me so, but, when I conjured up a story set on a hill in St. Kitts and decided I wanted the specific location to be fictitious so I would not be bound by existing physical constraints, I chose to call the hill Barberry Hill. I've always struggled to name places and characters in my book, and perhaps it is because the name came to me so organically that I never questioned it, never typed it into a search box, it just felt right.

There was one time, before we were ready for publication, when I considered changing the title. The book involves what we in the Caribbean call 'barrel children.' These are children whose parents live abroad usually to make a better living, and send home barrels of goodies for the children they have left behind. The book also involves guns. And so I thought of renaming it 'Through the Barrel.' The idea was nixed by editors and critical readers alike-the book focuses on the social stratification of the society as reflected on the slopes of Barberry Hill and so the title stayed.

What's your process for naming a book? I hope you are smarter than I am and you enter it into a search engine in advance to make sure your potential readers won't be directed to a completely different product.

P.S.
A few days ago it occurred to me the perfect name might be 'Barberry Hill Boys' since the story revolves around a number of boys who live on the hill. That idea excited me for a while until I realised that the first print run had already been ordered. There was no turning back.

8 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Quite often titles occur to me right off the bat when I'm thinking about ideas for a story. once in a while they change but not too often.

Liane Spicer said...

Like Charles, titles tend to come while I'm formulating the story in my head. At other times I brainstorm and choose the one I like best. Weirdly enough, I don't think I've run titles through search engines, but I have indeed checked my various pen names before using them.

Linda Thorne said...

I like the title on the book cover the best. It's short and says enough. Leave the rest to our imagination. You did well. Adding the word "boys" would have been too much. Through The Barrel doesn't have the strong ring of Barbary Hill. Let the back cover book blurb handle the details. You've got the best title.

G.B. Miller said...

I am absolutely horrible when it comes to coming up with titles for books (or even short stories for that matter). I have no process and usually one sort of comes up months later when I'm doing something completely unrelated. I do have a few stories that I have completed and semi-polished that years later still do not have a title connected to them.

Carol Mitchell said...

It's good to know that I'm not the only one who struggles. Thanks for the encouragement Linda.

Amy Reade said...

Titles are absolutely the hardest part of the book for me. Still trying to come up with one for my WIP and I've been working on it for three months.

Carol Mitchell said...

I feel your pain, Amy.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I've posted time and again about my agony in choosing titles for my books. So I feel your pain. Barberry Hill, I find, sounds way better than Barberry Hill boys.