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'07 Authors Insider Tips

by Louisa Burton
Formatting Your Manuscript
Scams / Choosing an Agent
Pitching Your Novel...
From The Call to Published...

Hard Business
From Greg Herren
Who Is Telling This Story?
It’s Work, Not A Hobby
Where Ideas Come From

Sexy on the Page
With Shanna Germain
Plotting Erotic Fiction
Seducing Your Muse
Creating Characters...
Description, Action & Dialogue
Fucking on Paper
Ten No-Nos of Erotic Fiction
Climactic Moments: First Draft
Critique Groups
Revising Your Erotic Story
Finding the Perfect Markets...
Just Submit Already
Rejections and Acceptances

Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Verb Tense Confusion
Coming Up with Story Ideas
Attend a Writers’ Conference
The Fundamentals of POV
Should I Sign That?
Etiquette for Authors
Erotica is Serious Work
No Body Writes for Free...
Shameless Self Promotions
The Myth of Writer's Block

The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
The Time is Write
The Beautiful People
A Book by Any Other...
Synopsis: the Necessary Evil
Erotica or Porn?
Feedback Whine

2007 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
What's it like being a writer?
An Apology to Salespeople

Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
About Secrets
The Perfect Fuck
About Choices
The Age of Consent
The Kingmaker
Kids and Sex
The Price of Beauty
The G.O.P.
All Worked Up About Hate
Real Men

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Good Sex: A Physics Lesson
Meet Frankenstein
Thoughts on the Orgasm Gap
The Very Bloody Marys
The Doomsday Erection
Online Threesome Porn

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister

A book by any other name would smell

We all know not to judge a book by its cover. But what about the title?

The first book I ever sold started life as The Pentagon Agency. I wrote the book, submitted it to Nexus and the (then) editor said, "I want this one: but I hate the title."

This taught me a very valuable lesson about the publishing industry that I would like to share here today. If someone wants to pay you money, and the only thing between you and an advance payment is the title of the book you’re trying to sell: CHANGE THE TITLE.

Not that I’m solely motivated by financial gain. I also like money too.

The title of that book was changed from The Pentagon Agency to The Black Room and went on to be reprinted as a Nexus Classic. I was fortunate that the editor read past the title to consider the work I had submitted. Editors receive so many manuscripts that sometimes they can make the decision to reject on something as simple as an uninspiring title.

Would my first book have been different with the original title? Yes: it would have been an unpublished book. Did the title have any other effect on the content? No. I can say that in all honesty because the book was written before it was submitted. The only thing that was changed after acceptance was the title.

The original title of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 was Catch 18. Peter Benchley wrote The Summer of the Shark, which got changed to The Terror of the Monster, which got changed to The Jaws of the Leviathan, before becoming Jaws. HG Wells’s original title for The Time Machine was The Chronic Argonauts. (Personally I think The Chronic Argonauts sounds like a euphemism for a bad case of haemorrhoids, but I’m not sure that would have discouraged me from buying the book).

Titles can be chosen in one of three ways. Sometimes a choice phrase, or the implication of two or three words together, can spark a whole story idea. In literary terms this is the workload equivalent of a major lottery win. Once a title like that is strapped on a work in progress half the author’s work is done.

Sometimes the title will occur to the author while the work is being written. A choice phrase – either ambiguous, suggestive or compelling – will leap from the page and make itself known as the title. Again, this is a milestone and means that one of the major stumbling blocks in writing a publishable novel has been overcome.

But there are other times when the title can be as much of a struggle as the thousands of words invested in the body of writing and rewriting the story. On these occasions it’s best to find a sympathetic friend or two, bribe them with alcohol, and brainstorm for potential ideas.

Are titles important?

Margaret Mitchell wrote Tomorrow Is Another Day. This same novel was also entitled Tote the Weary Load. And Milestones. And Jettison. And Ba! Ba! Black Sheep. And None So Blind. And Not In Our Stars. And Bugles Rang True. It was finally published, as you’ve probably guessed, under the title Gone with the Wind. It wouldn’t have been a different story with any of those former titles. It wouldn’t have been a different story if she’d elected to call it Scarlet Does The Confederacy (although, to the best of my knowledge, Margaret Mitchell never considered this last option).

But that doesn’t mean titles aren’t important.

Titles are the most basic shorthand for readers and potential readers. Titles indicate whether or not the book is worthy of their interest. Readers of pirate stories would be more eager to read a copy of Treasure Island rather than The Sea Cook (Stephenson’s original title). The former suggests chests of plundered jewels and high seas misadventures. The latter could be a recipe book for halibut.

It’s also vital to choose the correct title so that the literary legacy we leave behind is not littered with badly named works like Alice’s Adventures Underground (the original title for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) or First Impressions (the original title for Pride and Prejudice) or Something That Happened (the original title for Of Mice and Men).

Choosing titles is seldom easy. Choosing the correct title can often be a very hard process. But, in today’s competitive market, the correct title is essential if you want your book to capture the interest of an editor or a potential reader.

Ashley Lister
May/June 2007

"The Write Stuff" © 2007 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, Swingers: True Confessions from Today's Modern Swinging Scene (Virgin Books), a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his first title published under his own name.
Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica.  Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto.  He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.
Email: Ashley Lister

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'07 Book Reviews


A for Amour / B for Bondage
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '07
Review by Ashley Lister

The Butcher, The Baker...
Review by Ashley Lister

C is for Coeds
Review by Ashley Lister

Cream: The Best of ERWA
Review by Ashley Lister

Cream: The Best of ERWA
Perceptions by Cervo

Coming Together for the Cure
Review by Lisabet

Review by Ashley Lister

F is for Fetish
Review by Ashley Lister

Got a Minute?
Review by Ashley Lister

He's on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

Love on the Dark Side
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Lust: ...Fantasies for Women
Review by Ashley Lister

The Mammoth Book Vol 6
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Naughty Spanking Stories
Review by Ashley Lister

Quickies 1
Review by Angelika Devlyn

She's on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

Sixteen of the Best
Review by Ashley Lister


Amorous Woman
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Boss
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Burning Bright
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Call Me By Your Name
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Ashley Lister

Dark Designs
Review by Ashley Lister

Equal Opportunities
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gothic Blue
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Ashley Liste

The Lords of Satyr: Nicholas
Review by Helen E. H. Madden

Love Song of the Dominatrix
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Riding the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Silver Collar
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Ashley Lister

Suite Seventeen
Review by Ashley Lister

Sweet as Sin
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Tiffany Twisted
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Top of Her Game
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Whalebone Strict
Review by Ashley Lister

Wife Swap
Review by Gary Russell

Wings of Madness
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Historical Obsessions
Review by Erastes

Homosex: 60 Years of Gay...
Review by Erastes

Mammoth Book of New Gay...
Review by Erastes

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Iridescence:...Lesbian Erotica
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sex Guides

The Path of Service
Review by Ashley Lister

Secrets of Porn Star Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Touch Me There
Review by Ashley Lister


Concertina: An Erotic Memoir...
Review by Rob Hardy

Daddy's Girl
Review by Ashley Lister

Dirt for Art's Sake
Review by Rob Hardy

Entangled Lives
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Impotence: A Cultural History
Review by Rob Hardy

I, Goldstein: My Screwed...
Review by Rob Hardy

In Praise of the Whip
Review by Rob Hardy

Insatiable: ...Porn Star
Review by William S. Dean

Letters of a Portuguese Nun
Review by Rob Hardy

Mississippi Sissy
Review by Rob Hardy

Ron Jeremy
Review by Rob Hardy

Virgin: The Untouched...
Review by Rob Hardy

The Year of Yes
Review by Rob Hardy