Friday, August 21, 2020

Welcome Saralyn Richard with an Interesting Post on Titles and Covers



Today I've invited award-winning author, Saralyn Richard, to speak here at Make Mine Mystery. This will be her second visit.

Titles and Covers

by Saralyn Richard

    “Prime real estate” for a novel resides in first impressions. That’s why finding the right title and cover are super-important. In my experience, a book title either comes easy or hard. Sometimes the working title sticks, making the final editing and publishing process go down as smoothly as a chocolate martini. Most of the time, though, I can’t be sure of a title until I’ve completed the book. I want the title to make sense for the reader, both before and after experiencing the book. I want it to pop off the cover and grab the reader’s attention with its pithiness or cleverness or emotional pull. I hope it charms and intrigues—I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I have high expectations for titles, and that makes choosing a title one of the most difficult tasks of the entire writing process.

   My newest release, A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, started out as Brandywine Art Murder. Like it's prequel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, this book is set in the lush, elegant country of Brandwine Valley, Pennsylvania. The second book revolves around the art community there, made famous by the Wyeth family and other artists featured at the Brandywine River Fine Arts Museum. Detective Parrott investigates an art heist, which turns into a murder, a treasure hunt, and a palette-full of secrets.

    Enter the palette. I changed the title to A Palette for Murder. Nice, tidy title—not too many words to overpower the cover or become too hard to remember. I checked to see if there were other books with that title, and—uh, oh—there were three, one of them published fairly recently. I agonized over what to change the title to. I surveyed my email subscribers. I badgered my family and friends. I pondered over the book’s themes and characters and realized this book went beyondBarnes and Noble the boundaries of mystery and suspense. It was also a story about love in its complexity. I quickly searched for A Palette for Love and Murder, and, finding no other book by that title, voila! I had my title. 

    Next came the cover. Because this book is part of a series, I wanted the cover to resemble the Murder in the One Percent cover in some way, but not to replicate it. I wanted readers to be reminded of the first cover, but not to confuse it with the second. My talented cover artist, Rebecca Evans, knew how to achieve that. She used the same background as in the first cover, but this time she made the artist’s palette front and center. This was, however, no ordinary artist’s palette. First of all, the globs of paint are meant to be mysterious, even sinister. Some of the paint droplets resemble blood. And anyone who looks closely enough will see that she has embedded images from the story into the background of the palette. More edgy than beautiful, this cover fits a story where characters are haunted by their past experiences, where everyone has secrets to hide.

    What do you see in the title and cover of A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER? I’d love to hear your thoughts on choosing titles and covers, as well!

Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard strives to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Her books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have delighted children and adults, alike. Look for A Murder of Principal to be released in January, 2021. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. 

Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at

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Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Thank you for you post. I enjoyed learning about you and your books.

Saralyn said...

First of all, thank you, Linda, for featuring my post today. I've always been a grateful person, but living in a pandemic has multiplied my appreciation for all of the kind and good friends, family members, and readers in the world, and Linda, you are one of the best.

Thank you, Marilyn Meredith, for reading and commenting on this post. I'd love to learn about you and your books, too.

authorlindathorne said...

Saralyn, I enjoyed reading both of your books from the Detective Parrott Series. Your series is in the early stages. Marilyn has been doing this much longer and is closing in on having 50 published books (mostly mysteries). Hope you keep the series going.

Saralyn said...

Fifty! Wow, Marilyn. That is inspirational! Thanks, again, Linda. Parrott is whispering in my ear these days, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, I have a standalone coming out in January!

Daniella Bernett said...


Great article! I, too, agree that titles and covers should immediately catch a reader's eye. In the case of a mystery, they should hint at the intrigue awaiting between the pages. I always select the title before I start writing my books because I already have the story in my head. As for the cover, I like to have a clue as a central focus point.

Saralyn said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Daniella. I always enjoy your titles and covers! Looking forward to the next one.

Amy M. Reade said...

Saralyn and Linda, thank you for sharing a great post! I love titles. I love reading them, I love trying to figure out the genre by just knowing the title (in other words, without seeing a cover), and I love to see how the title ends up relating to the rest of the book. I think "A Palette for Love and Murder" is a great title, though I can't enlarge it enough to see the hidden things in the cover art. I have titles I've been pleased with and titles I've regretted (same with covers), but I agree that they're of utmost importance. For one recent release, my husband and I disagreed over what the title should be—I asked my editor to break the tie and she went with my husband. :) I'm glad. I've grown to love it.

Unknown said...

Saralynn, thank you for this wonderful excursion into how you select your title and develop a great cover. This is the first time I've heard of your books. I love mysteries, so I will check them out. Because I'm an editor, I hope you will forgive me for asking this, but it's a compulsion with editors...for your next book's title, do you mean Principal or Principle? I'm guessing that because you are obviously an experienced and successful writer that you've already checked this, but, as I mentioned, it's a compulsion with me.

authorlindathorne said...

Her next book's title, Matter of Principal, is written that way because a Principal is murdered. There's also a link miss-placed within a sentence instead of at the bottom of her post, and one tiny typo, which was my fault when I was moving her post around before publishing this. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I wish we knew your name, but still glad you stopped by.

Morgan Mandel said...

It's not easy picking a title. I thought I had a good one for my upcoming romance, which is near completion. Then I learned the title was already in use, so I had to change it. At times it can be disappointing when you really like a title, but it's worth changing it so people don't get confused and go to someone else's book.