Jennifer Gilby Roberts

Women's Fiction/Chick Lit Author

What’s in a Title?: How ‘After Wimbledon’ Got its Name

on December 7, 2013

This was written as a guest post for Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog.

Choosing a title for a novel is a difficult business.  For non-fiction, it’s mostly an exercise in how many key words you can cram in without it looking like that’s what you’ve done.  Plus you can include a ridiculously long sub-title.  For fiction, you’re supposed to encapsulate an entire book and hook the reader in 2-4 words.  And you thought writing the novel was the hard part.

When I first drafted After Wimbledon, which was in 2008 while travelling in Australia, I named it 30 Love.  My heroine, Lucy, was just approaching thirty and falling in love, and I thought it was tremendously clever to reference a tennis term as well (in tennis scores, ‘zero’ is spoken as ‘love’).  Then I searched on Amazon and discovered that great minds think alike (or it just wasn’t that clever), because there were several books with similar titles.  I very much dislike reusing someone else’s book title, so I needed something else.  Also I later revised her age downwards to fit in better with tennis careers, so 30 Love didn’t work anyway.

I came up with a whole range.  It might have been called any of: The Deciding Set, Playing the Decider, Today at Wimbledon, Love on Court and One Game Away.  Some classics such as Love Match, Perfect Match, Love Game and Break Point were eliminated as duplicates.  I did think of New Balls, Please and Change of Ends – referring to Lucy’s transfer from one boyfriend to another – but thought they sounded like erotic fiction.  So could Break Point actually, if it included a little bondage.

The title selection became a democratic event.  I asked my beta-readers for their opinions and ran a poll on my blog.  Unfortunately I’d only just started said blog, so I only got 16 votes.  I should have paid more attention to those gurus who insist that an author platform is vital.

In the end, one of my beta-readers came up with the title After Wimbledon.  It comes from a conversation my lead characters have at the end of one chapter.  The whole book is about Lucy struggling with whether to end her pro tennis career at the end of the Wimbledon Championships.  She also feels unable to end her current relationship during the tournament, as her boyfriend is also a player, which means that her flirtation with our hero, Sam, goes further than either of them meant it to.  I think this title actually does capture the whole novel in two words, which is quite a feat.

At the very least, I shouldn’t get lots of people telling me that they don’t understand the title (as with my first novel The Dr Pepper Prophecies).  This is what you get for naming a novel after an advert without checking it was shown outside the UK.  Plus it’s a bit of a tongue twister.  I’ve thought about changing it, but I dread to think how many hours it would take to change every reference to it on the internet.  Is there a gig on Fiverr for that?

Meanwhile, I’ve already come up with seven possible titles for my third novel and I’ve only written two thousand words of it.  At that rate it should have 280 possible titles by the time I finish it.  Hmm, may need more than one poll…

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7 responses to “What’s in a Title?: How ‘After Wimbledon’ Got its Name

  1. Because I often have several projects going on at the same time, I always name each story something pertinent. It’s how I differentiate the disperate projects from each other while I’m talking about them with my peeps. Sometimes, like with Body Rentals, the name sticks. Sometimes it doesn’t. Forlorn Hope (January 2014) was initially titled ‘Montana.’ Paradox was initially ‘Truth Be Told,’ as that was the first line I’d written for a flash fiction challenge. Escape (my summer/fall 2014 story) was called something that would’ve rendered the plot twist in the end moot. I frequently struggle with a title or a plot point or some other randy pants tidbit and one of my beta readers will solve all my woes. So, this post is fifty percent “hey I totally get you chica” and fifty percent “thanks for being an awesome beta reader.”

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  3. paulinewiles says:

    Just found this post: I struggle with titles too (took ages to decide on one for my first book) and the second is also currently known as “novel 2” on my computer. While I’m not going to throw out an ideal title if it’s been used in a different genre, I wouldn’t feel happy using something that already exists in women’s fiction. But with more and more books published, and the need to have something fairly short (for tweets and to fit on the infamous Amazon thumbnail), it is getting tricky.

    • I used to be really good at them, but the current WIP is still known as ‘Brittany book’. I really have to come up with a title soon. Titles from other genres are okay to pinch, I think. There’s a book called ‘Early Daze in Oil’, but I was pretty sure no one would confuse it with mine!

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