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Margaret Mizushima on “Book Titles: A Rose by Any Other Name”

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. You can find out more about her on her website. www.margaretmizushima.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Lately I’ve been consumed with finishing my ninth Timber Creek K-9 Mystery. My deadline was October 1 and now my publishing team at Crooked Lane Books and I are well into the editing rounds. Along with this phase comes the need to finalize the title for the book, which can sometimes be a challenge.

When the first book in the series was published back in 2015, the team and I decided it would be good to use a gerundive phrase as the title. Thus, my debut was named Killing Trail. We also decided that for branding purposes, each subsequent book in the series would follow this naming convention. It seemed like a great idea at the time, although sometimes in the past years I’ve had to wonder.

We’ve published a new book together almost every year. In order, the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries are titled: Killing Trail, Stalking Ground, Hunting Hour, Burning Ridge, Tracking Game, Hanging Falls, Striking Range, and Standing Dead.

Standing Dead came out last March, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s set in a beetle-killed forest in Colorado where the trees are dead but still standing. And of course a standing dead man tied to a tree appears early in the episode.

Sometimes naming a book has been easy. Sometimes I even come up with the title before writing the book. But sometimes the working title of my book is weak or doesn’t fit the final storyline, and I end up struggling to find just the right name for the new book. When this happens, I typically submit ten to twenty titles and the team at Crooked Lane, my agent, and I discuss them by email, going back and forth about the pros and cons of the ones we like. And that’s been our process the past six weeks.

Timber Creek is a fictional town in the high country of Colorado, where all the books have been set so far. But the ninth book has a different setting. In book nine, my protagonist Deputy Mattie Wray and her K9 partner Robo are called to Washington’s Olympic peninsula to search for a celebrity’s missing child. (For those of you who’ve followed the blog, you might recall that this neck of the woods has become my new home, having moved from Colorado last year.)  

Last few days at Cosmopolis

I like to use setting and weather to challenge my characters, and book nine is no different. It’s all about the mist and rain. So I felt it was important to include Mist in the title. We tried out many, many gerunds to go with this title, but we finally settled on one.

I’m very pleased to announce that book nine’s title is Gathering Mist. I feel that it captures the chilling, swirling, layering, drifting, rolling, rising mist portrayed in many of the scenes. (And yes, we did consider these other gerunds, several of which I still like.)

So hooray! The title is finally set and soon we’ll have a cover. I’ll be very excited to share that with you when it’s ready. But now I’m curious. What are your thoughts about choosing book titles? How does a book title affect you?

Margaret Mizushima

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, police procedurals featuring a deputy, her K-9 partner, and a veterinarian who live in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more about her on her website, www.margaretmizushima.com, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 33 Comments

  1. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    Titles are tough. I mostly have one in mind before I start writing, although I have been known to change one or two. In fact, the Quickline story that I’m blogging right now (Silence in the Tortured Soul) was originally Silent as a Tomb, but I never really liked that title and I’m glad I changed it.
    Love, love Gathering Mists. Can’t wait to read it.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Good title, Anne! I like writing when I know the title!

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    saralynrichard

    Congrats on your ninth book! I also struggle with titles. Gathering Mist is a great title! Can’t wait.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thank you, Saralyn! Fall of 2024 seems a long way away!

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    Pamela Ruth Meyer

    I LOVE the new title! And thanks for this fun discussion of the path to coming up with it. Best of luck with GATHERING MIST.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thank you, Pamela! I appreciate your comment. Sometimes it feels like it takes a lot to reach the right name.

  4. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Congrat’s on that new book and title. I love the title. I have the Fudge Shop Mystery Series and the only request my editor at Penguin Random House wanted was “fudge” in every title. You’d think it’d be easy to find the right title but for each book I’ve probably considered at least 10 titles. Good luck with GATHERING MIST. You have been gathering words well!

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Thank you, Christine! Love your play on words!

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    Gay Yellen

    All your titles are good ones, including the new one. Best of luck with it!

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much, Gay! I really appreciate you leaving a comment! Thanks for stopping by our blog today!

  7. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Gathering Mist—I LOVE IT!

    The Sean McPherson crime thrillers I write all have four-syllable “I” word titles. The first three are Indelible, Iconoclast, and Impervious. Iniquity hits the shelves in April.

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Great titles for great books, Laurie! Looking forward to Iniquity being out there in the world! Congratulations!

  9. tracey64p
    tracey64p

    Gathering Mist sounds ominous, Margaret. Thanks for the peek inside the kitchen where you “cooks” do the real work. After a trial and error with my Romantic suspense series, titles have been easy. I use C-words that fit the theme and it’s working so far. I struggled to make the title my publisher picked for my first book. I hope to have more agency in the next round. You’re right, fall of 24 is a long time away! I can’t wait to read it.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks for sharing your work with titles, Tracey! I’m sure you’ve seen the mist and rain during your visits to WA, especially in the southern part of the state. Thank you for your comment!

  10. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    Publishers do like two-word titles. I like the use of the gerunds and the way they work both as adjectives and verbs. It’s nice you can use the outdoors where you live now for the one you’re working on. Thanks for sharing your writing process.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks for your comment, Carl. The title that worked both ways (adjective and a verb) was Tracking Game. It was all about wildlife trafficking, so it was kind of fun to be able to look at the title two different ways!

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    Sharon Michalove

    Some titles come to me almost immediately. Some are more difficult. There is both art and science to the process, much like having the right cover. My first book, At First Sight, had just the right title and it came to me immediately. But then I decided that every book in the series should have a title that started with At and that’s been more complicated. The gerunds are are great way to come up with interesting and distinctive titles.

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Thank you for your comment, Sharon! I think that when we set a rule about titles it might make it more complicated than it would be if we could freewheel it. Or at least that’s what seems to have happened for me. 🙂

  13. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    Looking forward to reading your new one, and I fully understand. Ironically, I was just thinking about writing a post on this very subject. As my books all have a handwriting pun, it’s getting more difficult to name them–I always start with the title. It sounds like you have a great team to work with, and that you can come up with 10-20 possible titles, I envy you!

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      Margaret Mizushima

      I can’t always come up with 20 titles. A lot of times, it’s hard to come up with 10. And when I came up with Standing Dead, I did have to say that it was the perfect title for that book and I couldn’t come up with anything different. Thank goodness the team agreed! Thanks for your comment, Sheila.

  14. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    I love your titles, and the new book is excellent!

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    Avanti Centrae

    I love GATHERING MIST as a title. Quite evocative.

    I obsess over titles. It’s tricky to find a word or two that draws readers in. I always want longer titles, but they don’t fit well on those itsy-bitsy covers.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      I’ve always thought your titles were evocative. And I’m glad to know I’m not alone when it comes to searching for that perfect title for a new book. Thank you for your comment!

  16. Joy Ann Ribar
    Joy Ann Ribar

    I love the new title! What a process. Even though people say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” readers (myself included) do it all the time when considering which book we want to buy or read next. I strive to make the title catchy and memorable. I’ve read many books deciding where the title fits into the story, and wonder if those authors didn’t have the freedom to choose the title or plotted the book long after the title was picked.

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      Margaret Mizushima

      Yes, I know what you mean. I’ve read books and found the title embedded in the narrative somewhere. That’s cool. I’ve always thought cozy mystery titles were the ultimate in clever! Thank you for your comment, Joy Ann!

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    Laurie’s Story

    Gathering mists sounds intriguing, which, I suppose, is a title doing what it’s supposed to do. Brava!

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Yay! Thank you, Laurie. I’m glad you think so. Thanks so much for your comment!

  19. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Standing Dead is chilling on so many levels – it’ll be hard to beat. But Gathering Mist evokes so many secrets that it’s a contender! I can’t wait to read it!

  20. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    I love Gathering Mist. It evokes murder or something equally treacherous on the brink! I set my next title before I finish the previous book since I use it as a coming attraction at that book’s end. All my main titles include the word “Street” and a botanical first word to show the Botanic Hill detectives’ location when they receive or stumble upon a mystery, e.g., Nutmeg Street. My rule is to then have a subtitle, also two words, where one or both words are mysterious, scary, or evocative of such, e.g., Secret, Curse, Phantom, Danger, Gravestone. With Book 6, which will deal with electricity, I struggled. I listed many possibilities and finally, the words “Shocking Specter” appealed to me. I hope it “electrifies” my sales! Congratulations on Book 9. I look forward to reading GATHERING MIST!

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    Margaret Mizushima

    Oh! And Shocking Specter uses a gerund! Very cool! Thanks so much for your comment, Sherrill!

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