I am writing a novel about someone being chased by the Russian Mafia. A hitman is sent to save her and that's where the books takes off. I have way too many titles floating in my brain - three to be exact. They are "Slap-Dash", "Tooth and Nail", and "Hang Fire". What is the most marketable title? Why do you think so?

  • 1
    Reading this thread, it appears "hang fire" actually means something (in a firearms context). Be aware that most people have never heard it in any context, and will just think it's a nonsensical pairing of two random words.
    – MGOwen
    Sep 22 '11 at 7:44
  • 1
    @MGOwen: if I haven't heard a term before, I don't immediately think "nonsense", I may think "Sounds cool, no idea what it means, but..." Lots of SF titles are that way. Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash"... nonsense? Yes, before reading the book. Sounds cool? Sure. Sep 22 '11 at 11:45
  • How about "Nu, pogodi!"? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nu,_pogodi!) Sep 26 '11 at 12:19
  • @Jürgen A. Erhard Oh yeah, I agree, but since the OP didn't explain what "hang fire" meant, it's possible she didn't realise that it isn't a well-known term, so I thought I'd let her know (FWIW, I think it's the best of the 3).
    – MGOwen
    Jan 10 '12 at 1:15
  • "Hang Fire" by a mile. "Slap-Dash" makes it sound like your book is slap-dash -- that is, shoddily made. And "Tooth and Nail"... Ug. Cliche and generic.
    – Patches
    Mar 16 '12 at 5:47

I rather like "Hang Fire." Sounds mysterious and dangerous, it isn't quite grammatically correct as a phrase but it could be in the right context so it's got some tension pushing me towards exploring it, and it's visually evocative.

I also encourage you to find a phrase or proverb in Russian which makes sense when translated to English and see if that works.

  • 6
    A phrase or proverb in Russian? Hmmm. In Soviet Russia, Russian Mafia is chased by you! How's that? :P
    – Standback
    Sep 20 '11 at 2:55
  • Only if your hit man is later revealed to be Yakov Smirnoff. Or the Russia Mafia is run by Boris & Natasha. :) Sep 20 '11 at 12:19
  • 3
    In Soviet Russia, Joke Gets You! Sep 22 '11 at 4:53
  • Should have read the answers first. You're saying basically what I did in my comment above :D Sep 22 '11 at 11:47

NOT Slap-Dash! Can you imagine the reviews of someone who doesn't like the book?

I too like the notion of a phrase that feels like colloquial Russian, and captures the dualism of the hit man's role.

  • 1
    "NOT Slap-Dash!" My thoughts exactly. Sep 26 '11 at 12:17

Find a phrase or topic that is relevant to your story. If any of these three pertains to something that happens or is stated in the story, then go with that. If none of them do, then try to think of something else. I like Lauren's suggestion to go with a Russian phrase that can be easily translated.

Personally, the first two sound more like titles for a comedy or a romance novel. Neither really sparks thoughts of murder and intrigue. Since the term "Hang Fire" refers to a failure on the part of a weapon, I could see it being relevant, considering that a hit man is usually associated with killing someone, not saving them.


Hit Man

Just kidding. Maybe "Guardian Angel" since the hitman is not exactly a saint.

  • 1
    Guardian Devil, perhaps?
    – e.James
    Sep 20 '11 at 1:53
  • Or "Really Pissed-Off Angel Who's Only Protecting You Out of a Sense of Obligation"? Not as catchy, though. Sep 22 '11 at 18:32

I would definitely avoid Tooth and Nail - it's already heavily overused.

I confess, all three titles sounded very generic and indistinct to me. They tell me this is an action-packed thriller, but nothing more specific than that. I'd recommend you consider what you find to be the most interesting, important, and/or unusual elements of your book, and try to construct a title referring to one or two of those (even if the reference oblique, it's still individual!). Of the three, Hang Fire stands out most for me, but I would really consider it worthwhile to look for something a little less generic - a title that applies to your book, that wouldn't apply as easily to scads of others.

Without knowing more about your book - central themes, conflicts, characters, motivations, location - I'd have a tough time recommending anything suitably tailored to your particular work. Here's an article on title-choosing you might find helpful.


Often (not always) the publisher will suggest another title. They have a marketing group that does titles and covers etc. They may (or may not) give you a choice as to their suggestions. It is your synopsis and story that you have to sell. Agents understand this.


You are asking the wrong people. Ask a sample of people whom you have imagined would enjoy the book best. For eg. If you are targeting people who likes Tom Clancy type novels, find a few of them and ask them what grabs their attention the most.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.