Number of Page Views This Month

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

My new book, The Boy With Hawk-like Eyes
by Sheridan Winn

I am writing my first-ever blog and pinging it off into the blogosphere. The words ‘web log’ have merged to become the portmanteau word, ‘blog’ – noun and verb. I, the writer, am the blogger. So what does that make you, the reader, the recipient of this blog? The blog-ee, perhaps.

Do you need a name? What’s in a name, after all?
A name is a title by any other name. It is a mark of respect. Well, greetings, Blog-ees!

I love thinking up titles. As a journalist, the title comes first for me - I cannot begin the feature until I have it. The title holds the promise of something to come.
It defines the shape, the colour and the texture of the piece. The title needs to entice, but it also needs to
hit you between the eyes.

The title is the hook. I wonder if the e-book author needs an even stronger title with which to draw in the reader? The e-book buyer cannot pick up and handle
the product, cannot feel the paper and is less likely to linger over the jacket design in the way they might with a physical book. In my experience, buying
an e-book is different. It is a quick decision. From the author’s point of view, the title needs to be
spot on.

E-books were a speck in the distance when the idea for the Sprite Sisters books popped out at 1.30am on 21st January 2007. I was writing my diary in bed and noted one sentence, ‘Four girls with magic powers – east, south, west, north.’ The next morning I woke and looked at it. East, south, west, north – so, fire, water, earth and air. Four girls with magical powers related to each of the elements. I played around with the title and remembered the word ‘sprite’.

As soon as I had that, I thought of ‘sister’. The Sprite Sisters: I liked the alliteration. Then, ping, everything fell into place. Within a minute I had my concept. As the eldest of four sisters, I am familiar with sororial rivalries and life in a big family. I would write the books based, in part, upon my own childhood. I would set the stories in a big, rambling house and grounds, similar to the one where we grew up in Norfolk. The house would be called Sprite Towers.

I had my series title, The Sprite Sisters. I had my girls’ names: Flame, Marina, Ash and Ariel. I had the world in which my characters inhabit and a rough idea of what their adventures might be. That day, I mailed Brenda Gardner at Piccadilly Press and told her about my, now, three-sentence idea.

I knew Brenda, had worked with her many years before. She liked the idea of the Sprite Sisters and asked to hear more about them. I managed to eke out a couple of paragraphs, which Brenda took to her sales meeting. Within a few weeks, Piccadilly decided they would like to publish the book. In May 2007 I signed the contract, agreeing to deliver the manuscript by the end of July.

Oh heck, I thought, now what? I’d never written a book! As a journalist, I’d written 2,000-word features, but 50,000 words was something else. However, I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as coincidence; everything is connected. If Life had brought to me the idea and the publisher, it must mean I had the ability to write the story.

The publishers assumed my book would be called The Sprite Sisters. And so it was – for the series title. The book title came to me about two-thirds of the way through writing the story. I was searching for the way the Sprite Sisters could use their magic power to defeat the evil Glenda Glass. I imagined them standing in a circle, each girl in her own direction, summoning her power. As they did this,
a magical blue light formed around them, protecting them against other magic. Their power was balanced and strong and the sisters were able to see off Glenda Glass. I called this magic the Circle
of Power.


If I hadn’t thought of it, would I have found a title for my first book? Yes, but it might not have been such a strong title. And so it has been for each of the Sprite books. Unlike the titles of my magazine features, my book titles evolve as I find the story. The latest – and my first English-language e-book - The Boy With Hawk-like Eyes, began life as Ariel’s Experiment With Flight, but my editor thought I could do better.

In Germany, where my five titles have sold over 200,000 copies, the stories are known as Vier Zauberhafte Schwestern – four spellbinding sisters. There is no suitable word equivalent to ‘sprite’ in German, so the girls became the Cantrip sisters and their house, Cantrip Towers. Ariel became Sky, as the original name signifies only a detergent in Germany. Ash is not the name of a tree in German, so she became Flora. As I learned, you can choose your title but it will depend on who’s doing the reading. With so many copies sold, I’m more than happy to be advised by the publisher, Fischer Verlag

3 comments:

CallyPhillips said...

Welcome and great first post. Ebooks are potentially an 'impulse' buy, especially when priced cheap or FREE... and I do think a good title is the key to a lot of doors... however, I also think that as we become more 'mature' in our ebook buying habits we will make use of the sampling (LOOK INSIDE) facility which I find very useful and IS like browsing in a shop (but without feeling compelled to buy because you've fingered the item or stood reading it for 10 mins) This is certainly one of the criteria we use for selection of ebooks for review site http://indieebookreview.wordpress.com as a sample is usually enough to tell you whether you're interested enough to read the book, review the book, buy the book, whatever. Certainly with a sample AND a review I think potential ebook buyers are well positioned to make informed choices. But the title and cover are of course the first things you see and if they aren't to your taste... there's plenty more ebooks in the virtual sea.

Lynne Garner said...

Great post - I find either the title comes first then from there the story forms. Or I have an idea that will be the theme or just one scene. But I find as I write the title will grow often before I've finished the book.

madwippitt said...

Aren't titles the hardest things to get right?
It's like producing a synopsis: a fraction of the length of the intended book, but such hard labour!
I'm impressed by your three month deadline though - that's a lot of work in a short time.