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Alternate Titles

My publisher suggested the title for my book “What Faith Awakes” sounded too much like romance and requested some alternate titles. It’s been my going title since day one. Yet as soon as the folks at Realms mentioned it, I had to laugh. Yup. That could sure sound like romance. Which is the last thing I want.

Seems the consensus among professionals is to hold your titles loosely. Fighting for a specific title is not a hill worth dying on, especially for a first-time author. Fact is, I’ve never been enamored by “What Faith Awakes” and am rather eager to see it go. Especially after those shrewd cats in the marketing department pointed out its romantic facsimile.

Anyway, conventional wisdom dictates an author compile a number of working titles. In fact, I’ve heard statistics along the line that 90% of the time, the title an author brings with their book gets swapped. So along the way, I’ve managed to accumulate several alternate titles for my first novel. Here’s the five I suggested to my publisher:

  • THE UNNAMED
  • THE POWERS THAT BE
  • THE PANTHEONS
  • GODSEND
  • THE WANDERING SOUL

Now, those aren’t too romantic sounding, are they? (Although, I could envision Godsend as a shirtless hunk surrounded by semi-nude devotees.) The book is a supernatural thriller / horror about a miracle that occurs in a quiet coastal town, the ensuing controversy it stirs, and the insidious powers it awakens. So I’m interested — Which one of these titles do you like?

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Nicole June 1, 2010, 7:45 AM

    I like The Powers That Be and Godsend although you kinda spoiled that one with your hunk reference. 😉

  • Jeff Chapman June 1, 2010, 7:50 AM

    I vote for the The Unnamed and The Wandering Soul.

  • Heather June 1, 2010, 7:57 AM

    Definitely The Powers that Be or The Unnamed– both of those SOUND like supernatural thriller / horror — the other’s sound like fantasy. And your fake cover made my husband and I laugh out loud. 🙂

  • xdpaul June 1, 2010, 8:34 AM

    I hate to be a jerk – no, wait, I really like to be a jerk, but try to avoid its pleasures because of the social blowback – but I’m gonna be one: none of them catch my attention.

    I like best the idea behind “what faith awakes” – especially if I imagine it in a creepy Orson Welles announcer voice. The foreboding – i.e. you might not like what is awakened by faith…and it might not like you — is cool, Lovecraftian almost.

    My problem with The Unnamed is that the name “unnamed” is a name, and therefore makes for an off-key paradox. “The Powers That Be” sounds like a legal thriller, and conjures a very non-supernatural vibe (I often think of employers or government officials with this phrase.) I don’t like Pantheons as a plural, as the idea of “pantheon” is “across all the gods” and so pluralizing it is, to me akin to “peoples” or “childrens” – a very specific, but still somewhat clunky use. If the novel doesn’t have parallel universes, I’m not sure it works. Godsend is a good horror title – it was used for a forgettable Robert DeNiro movie (The Godsend) and has overtones of The Omen. But I’m not sure if it is evocative enough. Finally, The Wandering Soul sounds like a devotional.

    What about “Bad Miracle?” – I always think of the blind guy who was healed after Jesus spit a whole bunch into the dust, turned it into mud, rubbed it in his face and then told him to wander the streets of Jerusalem til he staggered across the Pool of Siloam. The guy eventually was healed after going through all that humiliation, but it wasn’t exactly a “hem of the garment” moment. From what I understand about the first book, there are folks who will definitely see the miracle as a decidedly “bad” one – one that ruins everything.

    Look, I’m buying the book no matter what – the story is going to be good. Titles are a pain in Balaam’s ass, and, in my mind serve as a keyword or tag for the book – it doesn’t need to be perfect, just not a disaster. If limited to the ones you’ve sweated over and recommended, I could absolutely get behind Godsend – the right cover will put it squarely in the weird camp.

    • Mike Duran June 1, 2010, 8:46 AM

      Hey, I appreciate your dissent, XD. “What Faith Awakes” does have a double meaning as in WHAT KIND of faith awakes (i.e., sinister or benevolent) and WHAT KIND OF THING did faith awake (i.e., something came alive as a result of someone believing something). Whew. One problem I had with that title was regularly having to unpack it for people. But your points are well-taken.

  • Greg Mitchell June 1, 2010, 8:40 AM

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I love “The Unnamed”–it sounds kewl and mysterious and reminds me of that not-too-shabby Lovecraft film adaptation “The Unnameable”. Anything that reminds me of Lovecraft equals win in my book :p

  • guy stewart June 1, 2010, 10:24 AM

    Of those you offered, I would pick GODSEND, but none of them evoke anything for me — especially not in a supernatural/horror vein. (No pun intended).

    How about something like EVIL FAITH or THE FAITHFUL DEAD or THE MONSTER SENT BY AN EVIL GOD WHEN PEOPLE HAD FAITH IN IT AND BROUGHT IT TO LIFE (that might be a bit long, but in trade paper, they should be able to fit it). Or how about THE HORRIBLE THING RELEASED WHEN PEOPLE HAD FAITH IN ANOTHER HORRIBLE THING AND THEN EVERYTHING AWFUL HAPPENED. (Same problem as the other…) In case you were wondering, I’m playing with evocative language…

    AWFUL FAITH…hmmm…that evokes for me.

    I’ll be praying

  • A. J. Walker June 1, 2010, 10:52 AM

    Hey Mike, if it’s only limited to those choices, boy, do you have a job on your hand. Not that there is anything wrong with any of them per se, they just aren’t particularly strong. And it makes it really hard not having read the manuscript.

    I’m one of those readers who will absolutely, positively, without fail pick up a book to see what it’s about if it has an evocative title. I work really hard to make sure my WIP have, at least to me, evocative titles that get to the essence of what my story is about. But that could just be me?

    THE UNNAMED – Makes me think of movie “The Village” and doesn’t get at the heart of what I understand your novel to be about.
    THE POWERS THAT BE – Eh, it could work but I’m pretty sure you’ve got more going on in that book than just that.
    THE PANTHEONS – Nope, this isn’t Roman or Greek mythology.
    GODSEND – Er, I’m drawing a complete blank on this one. It doesn’t even bring romance ideas just, er, really bland.
    THE WANDERING SOUL – Sounds way too soft and “touchy-feely” for what it sounds like your book is about.

    How about something like “Boy (or girl) By The Sea”, “Along The Shores of Faith” “The Boy (or is it a girl?) Who Could See Forever” ? Was there already a book simply titled “Awakenings” published recently (yes, I know about the movie)? Maybe that one. Here’s a really esoteric one: “From Before.” or “From Before, By the Sea”?

    All of these titles for me are evocative AND get at the essence of what I know about the novel.

    And if it’s only limited to the choices you posted, I guess I’d vote for “The Powers That Be.”

    (Since I tend to write YA/MG, I probably have assumed your MC is a boy or girl, change whatever gender reference to Man/Woman if it is the case.)

  • Kat Heckenbach June 1, 2010, 11:43 AM

    I have to say I don’t think any of them seem to match the description. Not that the titles don’t sound cool–they do!–but they don’t seem to have anything to do with the synopsis you gave.

    I happen to love titles with layers of meaning, so What Faith Awakens hits that mark, but I agree, it could be taken as a title of a romance. Mainly because Faith can be a girl’s name, and “awakening” has too positive a connotation when paired with that.

    But if you maybe changed awakened to something a little stronger, with a negative connotation…someone used the word “evoked” in their comments, which made me think of “invoked” which is really what is happening, according to your description–their faith invoked the wrong power. Can’t say “What Faith Invoked” is right either, but you see where I’m going.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller June 1, 2010, 5:49 PM

    Mike, I’m going to throw my vote to None of these also.

    I can’t seem to nail down my own titles, and I don’t think much about them because I mostly read books that someone recommends, but I’ve had to study this some. I think you need at least one word that evokes curiosity, danger, fear, or darkness to capture a reader’s attention. Something like Awaken the Dark or Demon Faith (I don’t know if these fit your story, but you get where I’m going).

    Becky

  • Jillian Kent June 1, 2010, 6:33 PM

    Hi Mike!
    Let me introduce myself. I’m Jill Nutter aka Jillian Kent and writing historical romance for Realms. 🙂 I don’t like any of those titles. Also, one of my friends just published this: Unnamed: Unsuspecting Heroes Singled Out by God by Chris Travis.
    I love coming up with titles. I don’t know enough about your book, but off the top of my head with coastal town I’m thinking: Dark Waters, Bad Moon Rising:), Dark Miracle (probably not), A Whisper on the Water, Shadow Soul, Night Walker (oops, I think that used to be a series, but so what)? Dark Powers, Dangerous Waters, and last but not least what do you think of Descent into Darkness?

    Just keep brainstorming. You’ll come up with something you love. Don’t forget to go to Amazon just to see if any of those titles are already out there.

  • Jay June 1, 2010, 7:23 PM

    I’m gonna have to admit I forget what your book is going to be about. I’ll fix that after this comment, but out of those titles (besides your original one), I’m going with The Pantheon. I use a lot of mythology references so I’m naturally inclined towards them. I’d also ditch The Powers That Be…I’m not a huge fan of cliched phrases as titles — but maybe there are some exceptions.

    Heck, just roll the bones if you can’t decide, like what they did with St. Mathias.

  • Jessica Thomas June 2, 2010, 6:21 AM

    Interesting you are talking about titles because I just had a title epiphany this week. I was writing some dialogue, my character said something, and I thought, “ah ha, God that’s it!” May seem silly, well maybe not to you folks, but I’ve been waiting for something to sound right and figured He’d unveil it eventually…it only took a decade or so. And if it gets changed later, s’okay, I’m just happy to finally have one I’m satisfied with.

    As for your list of titles, none struck me immediately, but when I read your short synopsis, ‘The Powers That Be’ jumped out. I can see the cover art. Reminds me of those spooky John Saul novels I used to read.

  • Mark H. June 2, 2010, 7:14 AM

    Wow. Thanks for the laugh with the fake cover–that’s hysterical!

    Reading through the comments, it’s becoming clear why the title is such a frustrating choice. You’ll never please everyone all the time.

    I think either The Unnamed or The Wandering Soul suggest supernatural horror/darkness the most to me. You could probably call it The Dark Supernatural Horror Thriller With No Cheesy Romance Whatsoever, but that might be hard to fit on the cover.

  • xdpaul June 2, 2010, 7:53 AM

    And now we have a conversation about What Doubt Awakes. Aintcha glad ya asked for this? 😉

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