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Untitled Doherty or The Trouble with Titles

‘Fall in love in Central Park’ – the Italian title of If I Could Turn Back Time

So, recently I wrote about naming characters. I’ve always found this (touch wood) pretty easy.

Book titles, on the other hand, have had me curled up and weeping in a ball on the floor. For ages I thought both of my books were going to be published as UNTITLED DOHERTY as that’s what they were called on my publishers’ system for so long. The original working title of The Out of Office Girl, while I was writing it, was Alice and the Movie Star. But that sounds like a kids’/tween book which is a problem apparently. So I called it Hot Mess when submitting to my agent, and The Leading Man when submitting to my publishers. We then spent months brainstorming a billion terrible titles, including

Campari Nights
Campari Crazy
Ciao Alice
La Dolce Disaster
Escape to the Island of Hot Fantasy Men*

… Until finally the brilliant Imogen at Headline came up with The Out of Office Girl. Yay and whew.

If I Could Turn Back Time, on the other hand, was always If I Could Turn Back Time – to me, at least. My agent came out with it when I first told her the idea and I knew it was perfect. (Then she forgot that she thought of it, and when I sent her a synopsis said, ‘Great title by the way’). But my publishers weren’t keen and thought it sounded too weird/possibly like sci fi.

Because the story opens at Christmas the initial idea was to give it a Christmassy title like The Christmas Wish. And because the denoument takes place in New York another idea was to give it a New York-y title (just as the Italian publishers have done). I was worried that this would be misleading, as most of the book is set in London in summer. I could just see the Amazon reviews, ‘I bought this hoping for a Christmassy read and it’s set in summer!’
Oh how I dreaded those non-existent reviews (which I wouldn’t have read anyway, as I don’t read reviews).

Luckily there was a change of thinking, and people came around to If I Could Turn Back Time. And that’s what it’s called and I’m thrilled. My next series/project was even easier to name, but that’s a whole other story …

* A genuine suggestion, made by me in a moment of title-induced madness.


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