Allison here: I was lucky enough to read DELIVERING DEATH early! I love Julie’s series, and I love her, too. I bought her first book at Thrillerfest for my mom, who gave it a big 10, and so I had to read it, too. I bought her first book not just because it was a debut, but because Julie was a very nice, very genuine person. I love supporting debut authors–especially when they are good people.
“DELIVERING DEATH delivers Kramer’s trademark suspense, wit, and pitch perfect pacing.” – NYT bestselling author Allison Brennan
by Julie Kramer
So what’s in a title? Many readers don’t realize that the final decision on what to call a book rests with the publisher, not the author. Same with cover design. Those are marketing, not content decisions.
Today’s the release day for DELIVERING DEATH – sixth in my suspense series featuring TV reporter Riley Spartz.
My previous titles fit a pattern: STALKING SUSAN, MISSING MARK, SILENCING SAM, KILLING KATE, and SHUNNING SARAH.
Faithful fans (some of whom had apparently been hoping their moniker would one day get top billing on one of my book covers) wanted to know what happened to the name.
Those titles had three things going at once: alliteration, verb and name. That’s a lot of action packed in two words. STALKING SUSAN was the working title for my debut novel about a killer targeting women named Susan. My editor loved it and didn’t want to hear any other titles.
The next book opened with a wedding dress want ad: For Sale/Never Worn. We know there’s always a good story behind those ads. My working title was NEVER WORN. I thought it mysterious and poignant, but my editor pronounced it dull.
In a smart aleck moment, I responded, “So what do you want to call it? MISSING MARK?”
And she said, “Yeahhh,” and didn’t want to hear any other titles. So the formula was set and dutifully followed for books three, four, and five. We’d settle on a verb and I’d make a character name match. There were some physical restrictions, fortunately, which ruled out long verbs that wouldn’t fit on a book cover, like annihilating or decapitating.
Then book six kicked off a complicated discussion. My heroine receives a package of teeth in the mail and is soon embroiled in a homicide investigation. My editor liked the idea of making the book cover look like a package, and suggested the verb DELIVERING. I objected, because no matter what name we paired with that verb, it a sounded like a maternity mystery. My working title had been JAILING JACK, which I considered quite clever (although you had to read the book to truly apreciate the title) but my editor thought it didn’t have board enough appeal.
There was another issue at play that involved storytelling and pacing. Besides the logistics in juggling a trio of title criteria…from an author’s standpoint, highlighting a name in the title signals to readers which character is central before they even open the book. And sometimes writers like to keep that under wraps for a few chapters. To me, the name was the least important part of the title. I suggested dropping it for more flexibility in the future, and proposed DELIVERING DEATH and MAILING MURDER.
The question then became, does that confuse readers about the series? My editor said that what held the series together was my protagonist and the TV news backdrop. And that the title tweak wasn’t a big enough departure to sweat. After all, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum started with One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly, then varied the titles with High Five, To the Nines, Eleven on Top and the latest, Takedown Twenty. As long as she had a number, she was good, and still counting.
As a reader, what makes you stick with a series? How important is it to tie titles together?
Julie Kramer’s series has won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mainstream Mystery/Suspense, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best First Mystery as well as the Minnesota Book Award. Her work has also been nominated for the Anthony, Barry, Shamus, Mary Higgins Clark, and RT Best Best Amateur Sleuth Awards. She formerly ran the I TEAM for WCCO-TV in Minneaoplis before becoming a freelance network news producer for NBC and CBS. You can learn more at www.juliekramerbooks.com