How a Novel Gets Its Title

One question I’m frequently asked is how my book ended up with its title(s), so I thought I’d shed a little light on the process. The book you know as DARLING ROSE GOLD or THE RECOVERY OF ROSE GOLD went through a number of title changes before ending up where it did.


April-December 2017

I began writing this novel in grad school, and this was my original title for it. I chose this title because, as people who have read the book will know, a) Rose Gold’s teeth play an important role, and b) both of the main characters, Patty and Rose Gold, do a lot of lying [through their teeth] throughout the story.

Why did I change it? My thesis advisor/writing mentor wasn’t crazy about it. She didn’t pick up on the allusion to “lying through her teeth” until I explained it. (She wasn’t the only one.) All of her other advice about improving this book was spot on, so I listened to her—and to this day I’m glad I did, even though I personally still have a soft spot for this one. Don’t get overly attached to your titles if you can help it.


January 2018-January 2019

Before I submitted the novel as my graduate thesis, I brainstormed new titles and settled on this one. I liked it because it implies a certain submissiveness on the child’s part, which described Rose Gold perfectly… until it didn’t. My thesis advisor loved the creepiness of this one, and it’s the title I used to submit to agents.


February 2019-present

Once I signed with my agent and we began working together, one of the first things she asked me was whether I’d be willing to change the book’s title. She thought MOTHER MAY I risked getting lost in a sea of thrillers, since titles with Girl/Wife/Mother/Daughter/Sister had become so popular. I never would’ve considered that—I was so focused on trying to sound like I had written a legit novel that I was mimicking what the success stories before me had done—so this was a revelation to me.

She asked me to come up with a list of titles, which I’ll share at the bottom of this post. My favorite themes were and still are ‘Healthy/Sick’ and ‘Teeth,’ but there was concern that if the title was too off-putting, people wouldn’t want to pick up the book, especially in international markets.

As my agent and her foreign rights team began sharing the manuscript, they received feedback that publishers and international scouts were loving the name Rose Gold. My team floated the idea of putting Rose Gold in the title. I was initially hesitant; to me this is as much Patty’s story as Rose Gold’s; in fact, Patty is the one who drew me to the story, not her daughter. I worried putting Rose Gold in the title was going to put the spotlight solely on her. On the other hand, I had zero expertise about the publishing industry and what markets wanted, whereas my agent is a fount of knowledge. I trusted her instinct and followed it.

It was actually a friend of my agency’s lead foreign rights agent who came up with “The Recovery of” part of the title—someone not affiliated with publishing at all! I was delighted when he came to my UK launch party and I got to thank him in person for his help. Everyone liked the sound of THE RECOVERY OF ROSE GOLD, so this became the new title, the one we used to submit to editors.


March 2019-present

My UK publisher decided to stick with THE RECOVERY OF ROSE GOLD, as have many foreign markets so far. (Most of the titles are a direct translation.) But my US publisher wasn’t quite happy with that one, so after I accepted their offer, I began brainstorming with my editor for new title possibilities. One option that received serious consideration was SUCH A GOOD MOTHER. (If you’re thinking, wait a minute, you just said the thing about GIRL/MOTHER/WIFE in titles—keep in mind that the publishing industry is not a monolith! Lots of different opinions about what will be a success.) You will notice in my list below that DARLING had crept its way into my brain back in January, and a few days later DARLING ROSE GOLD had too. When I shared all of this old brainstorming from two months prior, the US team glommed on to DRG. That’s how it came to be the US—and eventually, Canadian—title!

Why do publishers in different countries choose different titles?

I get this question a lot too. To be honest, I don’t have a solid answer for it. What I’ve gathered is that the decision is based both on gut instinct and an encyclopedic knowledge of what has sold well in their respective markets in the past. The US and UK might seem like similar countries culturally—and they do share a lot in common!—but there are definite differences in readerships. Each publisher wants to present the best package they can to their market to increase a book’s odds of selling well.

I confess to not loving that the titles differ. My pre-author career was in advertising, so I understand the importance of cohesive branding in a global market. For authors living in their home countries, this may be less of a nuisance; being an expat, I spend the same amount of time promoting the book for the UK as I do for the US. I got lucky in that the name ROSE GOLD is at least in both titles. With longer titles, people tend to refer to them in shorthand anyway, so the book is often referred to as ROSE GOLD rather than in its entirety. Still, I do get lots of questions from readers thinking that one is the sequel to the other. It’s not the end of the world if your titles don’t match, as it’s actually pretty common. But I’m happy to report that it looks like my second book will have the same title in both the US and UK. Little victories!

Title Brainstorm: My First Round (January 2019)

  • Sick to My Stomach

  • Perfectly Sick

  • Sick and Tired

  • Ill Until Proven Healthy

  • Sick Her

  • Sickling (one of my favorites)

  • Sickening

  • Ill Will (I like the double meaning of revenge/illness, but Dan Chaon has a literary thriller by the same name, so probably not an option.)

  • You Make Me Sick or You Made Me Sick

  • Ill

Rose Gold in Title
  • Rose Gold’s Turn

  • Rose Gold Wouldn’t

  • Rose Gold Is Perfectly Healthy

  • Rose Gold Was Never Sick

  • Tooth and Nail

  • Kick in the Teeth

  • Clenched Teeth or Through Clenched Teeth

  • Rotten Teeth or Rotting Teeth

Patty/RG Relationship
  • Don’t Tell My Mother or Don’t Tell Mother

  • Not Like Mother

  • Under My Roof

  • Pick Your Poison

  • She Got Out

  • Faking It

One-Word Titles
  • Undoing

  • Cured

  • Fragile

  • Dearest (or Darling or some other term of endearment)

Title Brainstorm: Agent Ideas (January 2019)

  • The Colour of Rose Gold

  • The Transformation of Rose Gold

  • The Second Life of Rose Gold

  • The Making of Rose Gold

  • The Tarnishing of Rose Gold

Title Brainstorm: My Second Round (January 2019)

  • The True Intentions of Rose Gold Watts (adjectives that could be substituted for “true”: vague, dubious, unknown, mysterious, obscure)

  • The Perfectly Healthy Rose Gold Watts

  • The Mental State of Rose Gold Watts

  • The Many Sides of Rose Gold Watts

  • The Mystery of Rose Gold Watts (or The Enigma? Charade?)

  • My Darling Rose Gold or Our Darling Rose Gold or no my/our, just Darling Rose Gold

  • Rattled

  • Make Believe

There you have it! I haven’t included every idea but you get the gist. In my experience, the secret sauce to coming up with a book title was lots of emails back and forth with a number of parties throwing suggestions into the mix. Next time I’ll explain how my novel got its cover.