Tuesday, April 23, 2013

8 The Importance of Titles by Janet Gurtler

Confession. When I first started writing HOW I LOST YOU, I titled it, Buds Before Studs. That’s probably about as bad as a book title can be. I am ashamed. I hang my head. But, in my defense and from experience, I knew that the good folks at Sourcebooks Fire would come up with a better title for me. And. They did. Thanks goodness.

I’ve written about how much I SUCK at titles before. In fact, I suck really badly. Every single book I’ve had published hasn’t been published under the title I picked. So I guess I’ve kind of accepted this about myself. And sometimes it’s good to accept our flaws and let other people do the things that we’re not so great at. Right? Right! So when I titled the book Buds Before Studs, it was with the knowledge that it would get a good title, a real title, from the book pro’s.

The term “Buds Before Studs” came from me trying to think up an equivalent to the (kind of offensive) term for boys putting each other before their same sex friends, “Bro’s Before Ho’s.” It wasn’t until I had lunch with some writer friends and I brought up my new “Buds Before Studs” idea, that I learned there was already a term in place. Sisters Before Misters. So I used that in the book too, but I liked mine as well. BBS. Feel free to use it. Wink wink.

So, the essence of the book is in both titles. The good one, aka, the one on the cover HOW I LOST YOU, and the other one, well, mine. How I Lost You is a story about two girls who are best best friends. They put each other first. Before Boys. At least they’re supposed to. Until it starts to become destructive. And then both girls have to decide what to do.

This is a book for everyone who’s ever had a best friend. The good times. The rough times. And for anyone who’s ever had to take a stand and realize that sometimes we have to learn to put ourselves first. It’s for everyone who’s ever had to think about letting go. It’s not an easy thing to think about. Losing a best friend. It’s not easy to realize that sometimes best friends aren’t forever.

And I think that is what HOW I LOST YOU conveys really well. The essence of the book. I’m learning that book titles are meant to convey a message to potential readers. And that maybe I need to rethink how I describe the essence of the book. Of course, I am also super lucky that I have an experience group of book professionals in my corner. I’ve learned to embrace that there are some things I am not the best at, and that’s okay.

Sometimes it’s easier to accept that you (and by that I mean me) might not be good at something (like coming up with book titles) and that letting others with more experience guide you is okay.

For those of you who are writers, who don’t have the luxury of a publisher in their corner, I guess the best idea is to think about the message of the book. Why your readers want to pick it up. For those of you, who are readers, think about what it is about book titles that intrigues you. Oh, and please feel free to send me suggestions for my next book currently titled, Book # 6 *Grin*

About the Author

Like all of us, Janet is different things to different people. Mom. Sister. Auntie. Wife. Daughter. Cousin. Friend. And she loves all of her roles especially Mom, but at the end of the day, when she is all alone with herself drifting off to sleep, she is Writer.

Her road to author was a little windy. While in college, she worked as a DJ in a night club. She likes to tell people that because it makes her sound cooler than she is. After college she worked as an advertising copywriter for radio and then TV and eventually was lured over to sales and marketing. She missed writing though and years later (always a late bloomer was she) after having her son, she started my first book. She's been writing books ever since and once she started writing YA, felt like she'd found her way home.

She can block out almost anything when she's deep inside a story. Writing one or reading one. Books continue to be something she turns to when she's happy or sad or tired or wide awake. You get the picture right :-)

Janet's Website
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About the Book

There are a few things Grace Anderson knows for sure. One is that nothing will ever come between her and her best friend, Kya Kessler. They have a pact. Buds Before Studs. Sisters Before Misters. But in the summer before senior year, life throws out challenges they never expected. And suddenly the person who's always been there starts to need the favor returned. Grace and Kya are forced to question how much a best friend can forgive. And the answer is not what they expected.

Buy How I Lost You on Amazon
Find How I Lost You on Goodreads


  1. Thanks for sharing about your title change. I think it's fairly common that publishers change the titles.

  2. I can't think of good titles to save my life, either. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Eck! Titles are no fun. And I hate starting to write a story without a solid title in place. I think out of all the books I've written, I've only ever come up with one title I actually liked. But hey, there's always the next story, right?

  4. Titles are hard. And yes, I too like to have a title before I write too. I change it a lot. But I do like to have one in place, so I get that!

  5. Titles are definitely tough. I remember reading that Steinbeck didn't come up with most of his titles -- his wife did. So you are in good company. I know I sure have trouble with them.

  6. Well, for the record, just as a phrase I think "buds before studs" sounds better than "sisters before misters," probably because it's fewer syllables and easier to say. (I also don't think it's _that_ bad of a title, but it would make me think of more of a full-on comedy than the way the book actually sounds from your description.) :)

  7. Thanks all. I think coming up with the book's essence is something that I have trouble with, but I do have to have working title while I'm writing! I just never get too attached!

  8. Great title, Janet. Unimaginative, generic cover photo. One out of two ain't bad!


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