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Hilarious titles (or are they?)
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sandilib



Joined: 09 Jul 2008
Posts: 388
Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 2:28 pm    Post subject: Hilarious titles (or are they?) Reply with quote

A while back, I read with absolute delight the romance spoof titled "The Unbelievably Well Hung Sexy Greek Tycoon's Virgin Secretary Mistress" (at least that's the approximate title). The overblown title is of course part of the whole schtick. Well, imagine my shock when I discovered that it is not overblown, as illustrated by a mail I just received from Amazon (you know where they tell you "we noticed that...... so we thought you might like....").

At first I really believed it was a joke, but apparently no, these are truly REAL titles. I simply cannot get over these, and I had to share:

- Forbidden: The Billionaire's Virgin Princess (Harlequin Presents) by Lucy Monroe
- Hired: The Sheikh's Secretary Mistress Harlequin Presents) by Lucy Monroe
- The Billionaire Boss's Secretary Bride (Harlequin Presents) by Helen Brooks
- The Italian Billionaire's Pregnant Bride (Harlequin Presents) by Lynne Graham
- The Sheikh's Blackmailed Mistress (Harlequin Presents) by Penny Jordan

AND SO MANY MORE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ????????????????????????????? THAT GOT PUBLISHED RECENTLY !!!!!!!

Sorry, but I just can't believe it ! It boggles the mind, and I would cry if I did not find these titles so funny (probably not the result intended by the publisher...). I laughed my head off when I saw those, but in reality I think it's kind of sad that this style is still going around. I thought we were over the purple-prose-bodice-rippers-blackmailed-virgin-saint-of-a-secretary of the 80s ! Twisted Evil

And then we wonder why romance gets no respect... Rolling Eyes
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MarianneM



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 374
Location: Houston, Texas

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:46 pm    Post subject: Clueless Publishers Reply with quote

I know how you feel, sandilib. These are titles basically designed to appeal to a mythical book audience of grade-school drop-outs who sit in their trailers eating chocolates and sounding out each word as they go. Some publishers seem to think these mythical "readers" make up the bulk of the romance novel market.

We know better.

I keep hoping these scornful elitists will get a clue eventually and stop embarrassing themselves. But they're slow learners, poor things.

MarianneM
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KarenS



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 870
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe we should hold a contest. What's more embarrassing the title or the cover picture? I laugh at most of the tiles since they are just so silly. Do they come up with these outrageous titles because they need to differentiate the stories or to sell, sell, sell?
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Karen Templeton



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 298

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not that I don't think the titles are embarrassingly silly...but guess which line is, and has been, the topseller? By far.

And that's not despite the titles, I hate to say, but because those dang hook-fests grab category readers like nobody's business, even in the other lines.

Sigh.

Look, readers who love the guilty pleasure of reading about billionaire sheiks' pregnant mistresses don't want to guess that's what the book's about, they want to know immediately. Because they're not reading for nuance, they're reading for the obvious. Hooks save them the trouble of guessing. That's not to put down readers of those books in any way, because a lot of them also enjoy a wide range of reading material. If you ask me, the whole awful title thing's become a bit of an inside joke, because the books are such guilty pleasures. They're not meant to be taken seriously...except when it comes time to tabulate those very healthy sales figures.

What I can't figure out, however -- since repeated titles within a line aren't allowed -- is how on earth they've been able to come up with so many variations on basically the same ten words... Rolling Eyes

Karen T.
http://www.karentempleton.com
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Rosario



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 328
Location: Liverpool, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Karen Templeton wrote:
Look, readers who love the guilty pleasure of reading about billionaire sheiks' pregnant mistresses don't want to guess that's what the book's about, they want to know immediately.


But there is so often false advertising with these titles! The whole "billionaire sheiks' pregnant mistresses" thing (Very Happy ) doesn't appeal to me at all, but I've often overlooked one of these books' title because the story itself was recommended by a friend, and I've found too many examples of the titles not reflecting the story at all. I mean both the actual plot, and the sensibility of the book... completely different to what the title implies.

Take one of the books sandilib mentions, the Helen Brooks. The Billionaire Boss's Secretary Bride... but it turns out the "billionaire" is the son of the owner of a smallish company in the UK, who's returned from abroad to take over from his dad. He does have money and he's in a comfortable economic situation, but hardly a billionaire, with all that implies. As for the secretary thing, the heroine was his dad's secretary, and did help Harry (the hero) get caught up with stuff when he returned, but the book starts on her last day of work. She's quit and is going to London, and the story is about how Harry realises he has feelings for her and doesn't want to let her go. There's no uneven power dynamics, no creepy boss-secretary office romance.

Actually, an older Helen Brooks was an even worse offender. The title's Mistress by Agreement: In Love With Her Boss. Well, the heroine isn't the hero's mistress (there's even only a short, non-graphic love scene in the epilogue), there is no agreement and the hero is a client of the heroine's architectural firm... hardly her boss! In fact, she is a hard-working, successful career woman, so the undertones in that "In love with her boss" thing are completely misleading. Good book, btw.

Stuff like this just seems like a lose-lose situation to me... people who pick up the book wanting to read about a woman making an agreement with her boss to become his mistress are going to be disappointed, and people who'd actually enjoy the story as written are going to keep far, far away from the book because of the stupid title. I just don't get it.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+IHS+

I've done some work in Marketing Research and know that the people at Harlequin must have done some serious research that encouraged them to keep using the same words over and over.

Perhaps the findings showed that these key words are as necessary to identifying the genre as clinch covers or placement in the Romance aisle. I can't imagine why, though, as the Harlequin label should be enough of an identifier!

Another possibility: maybe the target readers are less likely to try a book which doesn't have one of those words in the title? (I wouldn't know myself. Confused I haven't read a Harlequin in years.)

Whatever the reason, the Harlequin executives are like any other businesspeople, so they must know what they're doing.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1476
Location: America

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I immediately had a conniption when I opened RT and saw all those horrible, over the top Harlequin Presents titles. I seriously had to blink several times to make sure I wasn't seeing things. I think I'm still reeling from disbelief today. And people wonder why romance isn't taken as a legitimate form of fiction. I know sff can have cheesy titles, but HP's take the cake for how many cliches can be used to create a compound title. I saw some HP's from the 80s and those titles were pretty normal--what happened?
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sandilib



Joined: 09 Jul 2008
Posts: 388
Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Karen Templeton wrote:
Quote:
Not that I don't think the titles are embarrassingly silly...but guess which line is, and has been, the topseller? By far.


Schola wrote:

Quote:
Whatever the reason, the Harlequin executives are like any other businesspeople, so they must know what they're doing.


As Schola and Karen point out, the Harlequin execs know what they are doing, these titles work since it is the topseller line. Although I have no embarrassment in "getting caught" reading romance, frankly these titles WOULD embarrass me.... Confused And they definitely do not give me the desire to even read the blurb on the back. Which is too bad since some of the stories are probably quite good, and some of those titles are actually misleading as Rosario explains. I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover..... but I can't help it. It is such a turn off for me....

Karen Templeton, as a published author, how are the titles of your series books chosen? Do you decide or do the Silhouette marketing people pick the title? And as a professional, do you get mad / frustrated / angry at some of the choices? Do you feel you are loosing market because some of those titles are sooooooo silly that some people (me.... Embarassed ) would not be caught dead with one of these books? (not that I noticed your books having really overblown titles, but you must have some experience in the matter).
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
Posts: 274
Location: Western Kentucky, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was a discussion on someone's blog, can't remember exactly who though, about this exact topic last year and one of the thing that was brought to light was the I (Heart) Presents blog. It's an eye-opener on just how much the readers apparently do embrace the titles and, well, the entire package if anyone wants to check it out.

Not sure if I'm remembering correctly from that discussion but the market for those books was not the USA and never has been, if that makes a difference.

I do know I gave up reading Presents and Harlequins more or less in general so long ago for Silhouettes because they didn't seem targeted for "me" so it makes sense. About the only Harlequins I've even touched in years are the Intrigues and them only by recommendations.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 10:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Karen Templeton wrote:
Not that I don't think the titles are embarrassingly silly...but guess which line is, and has been, the
Sigh.

Look, readers who love the guilty pleasure of reading about billionaire sheiks' pregnant mistresses don't want to guess that's what the book's about, they want to know immediately. Because they're not reading for nuance, they're reading for the obvious. Hooks save them the trouble of guessing. That's not to put down readers of those books in any way, because a lot of them also enjoy a wide range of reading material. If you ask me, the whole awful title thing's become a bit of an inside joke, because the books are such guilty pleasures. They're not meant to be taken seriously...except when it comes time to tabulate those very healthy sales figures.

http://www.karentempleton.com




Yes, I was thinking the same before Karen said it so well. I have always thought these books with titles like this are completely read as a guilty pleasure. Nobody is looking for serious reading, or even an outstanding romance novel when they pick these up. I've read a few and it's a book you can read in an hour. Personally, they don't do much for me, but I'm sure this line has many fans. And someone else pointed out that the titles don't seem to match the characters. I read one where the title was something about a Prince and his Virgin Secretary. Well, the hero wasn't really a prince...I guess the secretary was a virgin though...can't remember. I've always thought those titles were over-the-top but served some purpose to certain consumers.
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blossom



Joined: 15 Feb 2008
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Location: Yukon Territory, Canada

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It really is too bad about the OTT cheesy embarassing titles on a lot of the series romances. I often read reviews on series books that interest me until I see the title.

I spend a lot of money on books and would probably buy some of these for a cheap/quick fix, when I am intrigued by the storylines, but just can't force myself to dish out the money due to the titles. I really am offended by some of the titles as they seem to be an insult to the intelligence of the romance reader.
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Karen Templeton



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 298

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To answer Sandilib, since I come from a retailing background, I know how important it is to connect market with product. In publishing, that's all about "the package" -- title/cover image/blurb -- that tells a reader at one quick glance (or two, if she reads the back cover copy) what's inside the book. So I've always been acutely aware that hooks sell. Category readers are trained, if you will, to associate content with a few short words just as women's fic readers know they're safe with a pair of Adirondack chairs on the cover, and thriller readers with jagged black-and-red images that evoke blood and terror. :lol:

Only once in twenty-five+ books has my editor actually given me a title -- and that was for a book I just couldn't seem to title myself for love nor money (FATHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS). The other titles have all been of my own choosing, although not always my first choice, although a surprising number of them were -- WEDDING DAZE/BELLE/IMPOSSIBLE, ANYTHING FOR HER MARRIAGE, STAKING HIS CLAIM, LOOSE SCREWS, PLAIN-JANE PRINCESS, HONKY-TONK CINDERELLA. (There may be more but those are the ones I'm remembering off the top of my head.) For the others, I generally toss out a half-dozen or so ideas that I can live with that both incorporate the theme of the book AND a hook word or two, and she picks the one she likes best. Other writers' mileage may vary -- some simply don't want to think about titles and prefer to let the eds handle it.

After ten years' worth of royalty statements, however, I can't deny that my more obviously-packaged books have far outsold my more subtly presented titles. A pregnant heroine on the cover is a sure-fire way to make the Walden's list (if you're not writing for Presents, that is, since all eight of them make the list, every month, as do all six equally hookified Desires). Sheiks and billionaires are big-sellers in Special Edition, just as they are in Presents, even if the tones of the stories are vastly different. For a LOT of category readers, the question "What's the story about?" needs to be answered in a handful or words: A billionaire and a virgin. An cowboy and his secret child. A single dad doctor. A marriage in jeopardy. A pregnant heroine.

For Presents readers, many of whom read the whole line, every single month, my guess is the title doesn't really matter, as long as it reassures them they're getting the same type of story, with the rich alpha hero brought to his knees by the heroine. It's instantly recognizable shorthand, just as any packaging is, designed to snag those WalMart shoppers from ten feet away. To switch gears now to salve the sensibilities of those who probably wouldn't like the stories, anyway, no matter how they were titled, just seems hugely counterproductive to me. While, yes, the industry might be turning off some potential readers who might try a romance if the titles/covers weren't so cheesy, they're not about to risk losing the huge numbers for whom the cheesiness is, well, actually the whole point. Wink

Betcha never thought about it that way, huh? Laughing

Karen T.
http://www.karentempleton.com
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RichMissTallant



Joined: 06 Jun 2008
Posts: 148
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What I can't figure out, however -- since repeated titles within a line aren't allowed -- is how on earth they've been able to come up with so many variations on basically the same ten words... Rolling Eyes

LOL my thoughts exactly!

I will admit, even with non-series titles, sometimes I can't remember which books I've read by various authors because I honestly just can't keep similar-sounding titles straight!
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sandilib



Joined: 09 Jul 2008
Posts: 388
Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Karen Templeton wrote:


Betcha never thought about it that way, huh? Laughing

Karen T.
http://www.karentempleton.com


Uuuuhhh..... no.... Shocked

Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to explain. I understand the appeal of short, to the point series books and (I guess) their cheesy overwrought titles (or packaging as you call it), and I understand the marketing angle, but I never gave any thought to the actual depth of strategy that goes into it. Really enlightening.

I kind of feel bad now for criticizing it.... It is not to my taste, but it is not done gratuitously. Ah! Now I am torn... The more I think about it, the more I tell myself to respect the professionalism of all these publishing houses, but..... to quote Blossom

Quote:
I really am offended by some of the titles as they seem to be an insult to the intelligence of the romance reader.


I must say I still feel the same way she does Embarassed while also feeling bad for somewhat impugning the intelligence of successful professionals.... Confused

As you said Karen, it is so successful that it does not need to worry about the number of readers turned off by the packaging. Actually, "The Billionaire Next Door" by Jessica Byrd is one of my favorite books, and I would never have even looked at it if it was not for the review on this board. So I guess I was wrong in my initial shock and outrage....

Live and learn ! Razz
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Karen Templeton



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sandilib (and anyone else!), believe me, your criticism isn't unfounded! And the packaging is insulting...to those readers who don't need to be clobbered over the head with the most basic components of a story before they'll read it. And the vast majority of category writers learn real fast that certain concessions are the order of the day if they hope to make a career out of this.

Because we're writing commercial fiction -- and somewhat disposable commercial fiction, at that. Doesn't mean we don't put our hearts and souls into our stories, or that there isn't more substance to many of them than might appear on the surface. But the one thing to be considered is that romance readers really do run the gamut, from the multi-degreed professional to, well, those who aren't as well-educated.

The gals in their motorized carts who dump every Presents into their basket (according to the Andersen rep who keeps me apprised of who buys what) are more likely to fit into the "typical" romance reader stereotype than not. I get plenty of fan letters from women whose language skills are far below the average participant in this forum, whose book buying habits aren't in the least influenced by reviews or reader discussions online. However, neither are these readers likely to feel insulted, either by the dumbed-down packaging or the disparaging remarks about their reading choices, because their world and "that" world rarely, if ever, coincide.

The genre is so diverse, aimed at so many different kinds of readers, that most of us are going to find certain aspects of some segments of it off-putting. Or insulting. Or just plain horrifying. Rolling Eyes But what's off-putting to one reader often has exactly the opposite effect on another.

And it's marketing's job to sort that out. Sometimes they get it wrong, sure -- but when they get it right, they usually get it very right.

Karen T.
http://www.karentempleton.com
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