Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Title Finder: A Tool For Crime Writers

There are myriad websites where one can search for names for expected offspring.  You can even search by ethnicity.  Hispanic baby names, Kikuyu baby names, even Finnish, I suppose, but then try to pronounce them.

Naming books can be every bit as difficult, and publishers have opinions that sometimes differ greatly from what the author wants to call the “baby.”  My first book—City of Silver—had three names before it came out—the one I gave it, the one my agent thought it should have, and the one the publisher chose from a list of alternatives that my editor asked me to supply.  Fortunately, I really like the one it ended up.

With Invisible Country, it took only two tries.  With Blood Tango, I just submitted a list of possibilities with the finished manuscript.  I am glad they chose the one I liked best.   Coming up with the list, however, was not so easy.  I wanted something that said “Argentina,” without using the word.  “Buenos Aires” seemed too many syllables and has no music when pronounced with an American accent.  “Tango” was a no-brainer, sexy with an edge of darkness.

What I did next was to make a list of words that might go with “tango” and say “murder mystery.”  Sometimes with intervening prepositions—Tango of Death.  Sometimes just as adjective and noun—Dark Tango.  Sometimes with an added article—A Fatal Tango.

“Blood” seemed the most apt adjective, since my murderer wields a switchblade, a criminal’s weapon of choice in 1945 in Buenos Aires.

In the end, I wound up with enough words on my list to make it, perhaps, useful for naming future books.  Today I have turned them into a chart for other writers.  One could, by using it, take a word from column A and one from Column B and play with them.  There are certainly books that already exist whose titles would pop up if you tried.

Since the publication of Blood Tango,  I have noticed that there seem to be a lot of books this past year that have the word “blood” in their titles.  Maybe some of the words on the list will become fads in naming books, but that--as everything else in publishing--would be impossible to predict. 

Annamaria Alfieir


  1. I'm thinking, "Blood Sausage." Or, "Blood Pudding." Well, maybe not.

    1. Blood Test, Blood Relative, Blood Transfusion! Yes, there are a lot of combinations that don't work! But with your screamingly funny prose, you could make Blood Sausage into something I would want to read. Tango of Death was one I started to write down and crossed out as soon as I got to the "Death." What a clunker!

  2. Annamaria, I love the cover of Blood Tango and the opening line is tremendous: " Trouble was closing in on Buenos Aires - like a huge jaguar charging toward the coast from the vast interior plain of the Pampas, with blood in its eyes and mayhem in its heart." Thelma Jacqueline Straw

  3. The old SPY magazine used to have a feature where you could put various plot elements and such together and come up with a kind of instant novel. I tried looking it up but all I got were links spy fiction. I'm not sure if they did titles or not.