Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to Write a Great Book Title

It's all in a name. Your book's title has more than one function. Besides identifying your story, the title of a book has to attract attention and create interest.

When it comes to book sales, having the right title can make all the difference in the world. However, titling your book can be a challenge. On those rare occasions that the title comes to you before the story, or may even be the basis for the story, naming is easy. But most of the time, finding the most marketable title takes some work.

Keep Titles Short and Sweet

A title that is easy to remember is very important. Less is almost always more when titling. Using only a few words works best because people are usually scanning and will get bored or lost in a long title. The DaVinci Code is a good example of a short title. Dan Brown could have called the book The Fibannoci Follies; Solving Puzzles and Murders and Unveling Religious Secrets. While intriguing, it definitely would have been off-putting to anyone without an understanding of advanced mathmatics. Everyone's heard of DaVinci. Brown's title is descriptive and definitely conveys content, but at the same time peaks interest.

Picture This: Make Titles Descriptive

Obviously a good title should be descriptive. Fiction titles are generally more “creative” (for example, The Raw Shark Texts, A Novel by Steven Hall) or adventurous than non-fiction. But there are exceptions, (as in Steven Colbert’s I am America, and So Can You!). Generally speaking though, non-fiction titles should convey the content (Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tysson). In fact, most of the "Dummies" books utilize the art of description as well as the short and sweet principal, a formula that works well.

Find intriguing aspects of your story that your readers can visualize and use those words in the title.

Interview Yourself

Even the greatest authors have struggled with what to call their work of art. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was originally called Trimalchio in West Egg. If you've tried and tried and still can't come up with a good descriptive title, ask yourself these questions:
  • What would someone type into a search engine to find a book similar to mine? Using the "keywords" that you would type, formulate a title to encompass the words. Open up your thesaurus and find more interesting words than commonly used (but not too unusual, you still want them to be recognizable).
  • Why would someone want to read my story? What makes it interesting. What are the key elements (without giving too much away). Answer your question with a title.
Remember, titles aren’t copyrighted. The title you select may very well be in use. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but to avoid confusion, you may want to rethink the wording. Global Books in Print is a comprehensive bibliographic tool with millions of titles in the database.

Be Prepared to Change Your Title

The title of your book may be very personal for you, but don’t be surprised if your editor or publisher has a different title in mind. This happens more often than not, and while it may upset an author, usually the experts know best when marketing and publishing is involved. Part of entering into a publishing agreement is allowing editorial changes and relying on the expertise of the company with which you form a business relationship. However, if keeping your title in tact is near and dear to your heart, make sure to discuss your requirements before signing any contracts or deals and request that your title remain as you have it as part of your negotiations.

Courtesy of Suite 101

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