Dear readers: Let’s pretend that you like cozy/traditional mystery novels.
What would you as a reader think of a title like “MURDER AND THE SINGLE PERVERT” for a cozy with an edge? Is it just too over-the-top? Or would that tempt you to flip through or download a sample to take a peek?
Right now, the book is titled NICE WORK (IF YOU CAN GET IT), but that isn’t the kind of title that works nowadays. It’s the first Jacquidon/Chantal Carroll mystery. (Unless the one I’m working on about them going to a contest in NYC turns out to sell first.) Several of you have read it already, but if spoilers bug you, there are a few coming up for the plot.
The story is actually about a woman (Our Intrepid Amateur Sleuth) who is accused of killing the boss who just laid her off. She goes searching for the real killer to clear herself, and finds a web of deceit and intrigue leading to various S&M sex clubs and interest groups where people may or may not be entirely consenting adults. (The scenes are funny and there’s nothing explicit at all–it’s played as “strangers in a strange bar.”)
The boss turns out to have been a sexual predator who took advantage of a trusting newbie to the–would you call it a “belief system” or a “hobby” or what–lifestyle. But most S&M practitioners are NOT predators and take pains to ensure that nothing happens that has not been consented to and/or asked for. I don’t want to offend people who are into mild S&M by implying that they’re “perverts.” Or do they have a sense of humor and could handle the teasing use of the term in the title? It’s tough to say, because everyone takes offense at everything today. (“But I am IN-no-cent, Sir!”) On the other hand, it would intrigue people enough to peek inside the book, perhaps.
It’s supposed to resonate with the title of _Sex and the Single Girl_, see . . . but if I have to explain it, that ruins it. Maybe it’s just a dumb title. Can’t be worse than the title I now have, which doesn’t give any hint at all about the nature of the crime and sleuthing. I had planned to name those books after old standards (THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE), but it isn’t going to work in today’s market.
I don’t want readers to feel cheated by the promise I make in the title. I mean, the book also has a recipe for diabetic-friendly (hi there!) pumpkin muffins, but it’s not a culinary mystery–it’s just that the heroine has just been diagnosed, and I thought that it was a great recipe to share with others in the same situation. So it’s not all whips, chains, and Oscar Wilde readings. It’s mostly not that at all, in fact.
I just don’t know whether it would be worse to imply that the murderer was a “pervert” or just call him “differently turned-on.” Maybe just “kinky” would be better. I don’t know. Titles are tough. The book is a traditional/cozy with humor, a sister-sleuths thing like the Anne George books, but not quite so cozy and domestic as those books; my protagonists are in their late twenties and are urban professionals in Dallas instead of being retired ladies with a retinue of older people. Still, I think it might appeal to the same audience. And that might mean “pervert” would turn off the potential readers who are most likely to enjoy the story.
If this were easy, everybody would be doing it. Wait–isn’t everyone?