A book title is arguably just as, if not more, important than its cover. This opinion of mine has been more contentious than I expected among other indie author communities I’ve been lucky enough to find myself a part of over the last year or so. The title, being the identity of a book, sets the tone for everything. From the cover art, marketing plan, formatting design, to the expectations readers will have when they crack it open for the first time.
For my debut YA Fantasy novel, Songs Of Autumn, the title went through several phases before I finally discovered the book’s (and subsequently the series as a whole) identity. I think this is a normal process for author’s as the themes of a particular book don’t usually become apparent until well into the editing phase of development. At least, for me personally.
When I first started writing the first draft of Songs Of Autumn I had a vague inclination of the story. Mainly, just the inciting incident, the ending, and a few plot points in between. The rest of drafting was a process of discovery and pure creation. The working title at that time was The Gifted Princess. The only anchor I had to the story then was that I knew I wanted my main character, Liz, to be a Princess and that I wanted her to be incredibly intuitive as a character. I wanted her to be able to relate to other characters from different circumstances and to see them as equals. That was really important to me since Liz was coming from a position of privilege and power.
It was glaringly obvious after the first draft was finished that the title wasn’t working however, as the world and the main conflict grew to overwhelm Liz’s story. I knew at that point the title needed to be more centrally focused. After another couple of drafts and having a cleaner version of the book, I started to focus on the main conflict more and more. That Liz, despite being a princess, was slated to be a sacrifice in a ceremony meant to save the Kingdom. It was because of a prophecy that she was chosen. Thus, The Dragon’s Prophecy, became the working title for my book. This one lasted for a much longer time, almost too long, as it nearly stayed the title of the book.
In fact, it wasn’t until I started the cover art development with my immensely talented cover artist, Asha Hossain, that it was changed for the final time. While working with her on the cover art, Asha prompted me to ask questions of my story that I hadn’t even asked myself yet. About the theme, the importance of certain symbols and customs in the world I created. I realized the title was completely wrong when I looked beyond the surface of my story to the heart of it. In the context of the world I created, ‘Songs’ are how you mourn the dead. When anyone dies in Aegis their loved ones left behind sing them into the halls of the gods. Autumn, as a time of rebirth and transition in nature, is also symbolic.
The final title Songs Of Autumn is about the lives of the characters and the transitions they’re going through over the course of the first novel. While being a lyrical title, which mirrors the lyrical tone of the writing, it’s also haunting in its symbolism and captures perfectly the identity of the story I wrote. I can’t wait to share this book and the entire series with the world.