Sunday, January 5, 2014

Evolution of a Title

by Sara Rosett

When I wrote the synopsis for the eighth Ellie Avery mystery, I knew my publisher would want to keep to the same format that we’d been using for a while: M________, M_________, and Murder. The first two words in the pattern have been related to the setting (the South) and to mystery.

The title pattern is part of the branding of the books and hopefully makes the books memorable.

The problem was that I had gone through a lot of “m” words:

·     Magnolias, Mint Juleps, Mimosas, and Mistletoe (didn’t fit the Southern pattern, but it was a Christmas book, so it was okay)

Moonlight, Mischief, Mayhem, and Merriment (again, Merriment got the exception because it was the Christmas book)

Sooo…after several days of thinking, I was drawing a blank on more Southern and/or mysterious “m” words for the title.

I finally gave up and settled on Spanish Moss, Malice, and Murder. I didn’t think it was an amazing title, but it would do. I figured it might change.

It did. I got an email after a few months that the working title was now Milkshakes, Mud Pies, and Murder. I’d already turned in the manuscript, but I could work in some milkshakes and a few mud pies when I got the copy edits back. The story took place on a beach, after all.

But then I got another email that the title had changed again. Now it was called Milkshakes, Mermaids, and Murder. My editor suggested that Livvy (the main character’s daughter) might be interested in mermaids, which I thought was a great way to work them into the story—especially since I don’t write anything close to magical/fantasy/science fiction.

So that’s how the title evolved. Readers are often surprised that the title choice is more of a committee decision, but I have had books that were published with title I originally gave them. That happened with my first book, Moving is Murder. I think it must have been the multiple “m” words that made that title a keeper!

What are your favorite titles? Have you ever read a book because of the title alone?


A native Texan, Sara is the author of the Ellie Avery mystery series and the On The Run suspense series. As a military spouse, Sara has moved around the country (frequently!) and traveled internationally, which inspired her latest suspense novels. Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books, "satisfying," "well-executed," and "sparkling." 

Sara loves all things bookish, considers dark chocolate a daily requirement, and is on a quest for the best bruschetta. Connect with Sara at You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads.


  1. Title may capture the attention of the reader. But for me to be honest I don't usually remember the title of the books that I read only the story of it. Congratulations with your new novel.

    Military spouse benefits

    1. Thanks! I like clever titles, but I don't think I've bought a book only because of title.

  2. I love this story!! Fascinating how your titles morphed- and how the story changed with it. I'd love to read a post on how you worked those mermaids in!!

  3. It is fascinating, isn't it? My mother is STILL upset that I lost the original title for my debut novel, but it's strange how you reach that point where you can't imagine anything but the current title. And I agree with Brenda. How DID you work in those mermaids?!

    1. Having kids in the book certainly helped with the "mermaid" factor!