Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A novel by any other name

I was visiting today with my psychic dentist (another story for another time) and she asked me how my novel was coming along. I told about the frustrating process of querying agents. She said that my book is fine, and it will surely get published one day. The problem is the title. Now, I've never told her the title, and she didn't want to know it. She just said she had a feeling it would not appeal to a wide audience. It was hard to ask for clarification with an electric tooth-polisher in my mouth, but she did get me thinking.

Is my title, Double-blind, appealing to readers? Do I even like that title? Did I just keep it because I'd already registered the website? After all, I thought it up before I'd even written the book. But it does apply quite well to book's general themes. "Double-blind" refers to the type of clinical trial that's featured in the book. And the main character is, in a sense, "doubly-blind" in that he fails to see two very critical things going on in his life. So it fits. But is it catchy when taken out any context? Does it appeal to the layperson with no knowledge of medical research?

When you're trying to get someone to read an unsolicited manuscript, the title is critical. It is one of the first thing an agent sees: "I hope you will consider representing my medical thriller, "DOUBLE-BLIND."

If I was going to change the title, I'd like to make it relate to lupus, the autoimmune disease featured in the book. The name "lupus" comes from the Latin word for "wolf," because early doctors thought that the butterfly-shaped rash, which often signifies the onset of the disease, resembled the facial markings of a wolf. So maybe the title could have something to do with wolves or butterflies:

The Wolf and the Butterfly
In the Shadow of the Wolf
In the Shadow of the Butterfly
Red Butterfly Rising
Red Wolf Rising
Mariposa (butterfly in Spanish; most of the book takes place in Mexico)
La Mariposa Roja
The Mark of the Wolf
The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo

LB Readers: what do you think.... at first glance and without having read the book, do you like the title "Double-blind," or would you suggest something else?


  1. Well, I can see how some people might think Double Blind would be about really, really blind people. I like the Mariposa best of the options, I think. But remember, agents and editors change titles all the time depending on what they think will sell. Don't marry yourself to anything permanently.

  2. Double-Blind is a great title; I've always thought so. I think most people have heard the term, so it suggests the medical nature of the book, and I think it also hints at the thriller aspect. The others sound too related to wildlife, and I think lupus isn't a disease that people are familiar enough with to make the wolf connection.

  3. I like it as is. "Double-Blind" just has the natural ring of a thriller book title in the same way that some candidates just naturally "look presidential".

  4. If you changed the title, the book's feelings would be hurt.

  5. I think Double Blind is ok, but personally, I would be much more interested in a book titled Red Wolf Rising. Then again, I don't generally read medical thrillers, so maybe that just goes back to your 20/80 rule...

  6. I really like the current name. I would keep it.

  7. What about "Third Eye Blind"

  8. Thanks for the feedback. Think I'll stick with Double-blind. But what about my psychic dentist? She's never wrong. She's... never... wroooooong!

  9. How can you ignore the advice of a psychic dentist? It'll be such a good story for your book tour. How about combining some of your ideas.
    "The Wolf is Double Blind"

    And if you promise not to hold it against me, I'll admit I didn't know what Double Blind meant and honestly thought it was a poker term. But then again, I'm the girl who wrote on a cop show for four months before learning what Internal Affairs was.

  10. That's all right... I remember when "Under the Tuscan Sun" came out, I spent two years wondering what was the big deal about some city in Arizona.

  11. Double Blind is great. I love it. Don't change the title.

  12. I think you MUST include your psychic dentist story into book introduction when it is published.

    I think title is good, I would get rid of hyphenation. How many famous books do you know with hyphenated title? :-)