Using Titles to Brand a Series

Dilution or synergy?

Translating Your Self-Published Book

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I've just read my first crime novel by the Swedish writing team of Roslund & Hellström. Sadly, it's the last story they'll write together, as Börge Hellström died earlier this year. I enjoyed their tale of treachery in the Colombian drug trade, 3 Minutes, and will be seeking out their previous work. They've always used numbers in their titles: Pen 33, Box 21, Cell 8, Three Seconds and Two Soldiers.

Authors do this sort of thing to establish a brand. One of the best-known is Sue Grafton's Alphabet Series of detective stories about her protagonist Kinsey Millhone which started in 1982 with A is for Alibi and she's just published Y is for Yesterday.

Other crime novel series that show uniformity in the titling, include Marion Chesney's Agatha Raisin whose name appears in 27 titles, Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who mystery stories extended to 30 titles, and Charles Salzberg has written four detective novels that feature his protagonist Henry Swann's name in the title.

So far, I've written four novels in my Cornish Detective series, and though I intend to say that on the cover, as in A Cornish Detective Story or Cornish Detective 4, I'm wondering if I should also retitle them for harmony. After all, readers often remember the name of the protagonist—Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Jack Reacher and Sherlock Holmes—rather than the name of the author or the exact title of each story.

My Cornish Detective novels are currently called, Who Kills A Nudist?, The Perfect Murderer, An Elegant Murder and Sin Killers. I carefully chose these titles, to catch the eye and intrigue a potential reader, and also to reflect a key element in the plot, almost as a clue to the culprit's identity. Perhaps I should rename the sequels after the opening story's title, making them Who Kills an Innocent?, Who Kills a Mad Woman? and Who Kills a Sinner? It might encourage familiarity and help marketing, even though it would be inaccurate and possibly tedious while making me feel trapped on a production line! :eek:

Robinne recently settled on place names ending in 'Wich' for her series of witchy tales.

Have any of you shown consistency, by featuring your protagonist's name, a location or a key element in the titles of your series?
I think if the novels connect or follow on from one another in a direct fashion, then having a running theme for the title can work. I am certainly planning to use that in my YA series. If the novels are entirely stand alone...well, I guess that is dealer's choice. Christie and Doyle didn't have titles that linked or followed on from one another, but then, they wrote in a very different time. Branding is much more important these days, so there is maybe an argument for it, as long as the titles do not suffer as a result. I think the only danger is that your books may be perceived as being aimed a younger audience if they are named in a very similar fashion, as that is something you see more of in that market.
I've done that with most of my series. My Racy Nights series (as Tara Rose) all have "Racy" in the title. Passion Peak, Colorado (also as Tara Rose) each have the heroine's name in the title. The Alpha Legend (also Tara) has the name of the cat species (it's a shifter series) in the title, and the titles of The Doms of Sybaris Cove (Tara again) are song names. Portraits of Submission (Tara) have the heroine's name in the titles, plus their names are in alphabetical order (four books - names begin with A, B, C, and D), and Sin Hospital (Tara) has the word "sin" in the titles.

As Ravenna, I've moved away from that a bit so I could get creative with titles, but Blood Moon Lynx (another shifter series) has "alpha" in the titles, per my publisher's recommendations. Demons on Wheels MC, as well as the Outlaw Dogs MC (the planned spin-off series) will all have the hero's name in the titles, again per my publisher's recommendations. :)
I've gone for a visual identifier in my Dragon Slayer series, in addition to title similarity. This dragon will appear on all the covers and hopefully help the branding of that series.
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Dilution or synergy?

Translating Your Self-Published Book