Does Your Book Title Matter?

July 29, 2011 at 7:37 am | Posted in Writing | Leave a comment
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I was looking through the library shelves today for something to read. I came across a book with the unusual title “Poking at Seaweed with a Stick – and Running Away from the Smell”. My eyes passed it by … and then were drawn back to it. I pulled it from the shelf to have a look at the back cover blurb. And I brought it home with me – I’d been hooked.

Does your title matter? My oath, it does. When a shopper picks up your book from among a multitude of other books, it is because something has spoken to them. It may be the cover of the book, but often, it is the title that attracts them first. So, how do you get a title that draws a reader to your book?

I decided to do a little research, and I found that most articles on book titles refer to non-fiction books. They talk about making the title a positive one, reflecting the content and meaning of your book. That’s okay, but I write fiction and memoir, and I wanted to know what makes a good title for those. I found a few items that dealt with books other than “How to” do this or that. Most of them referred to self-published books, as a publisher will often decide on a book’s title unless the author has come up with a great one. Here is a summary of the suggestions the authors made.

  • The cover is the first thing the reader sees. It creates an impression. You want that impression to be a positive one. While the cover design may attract, the title is just as important;
  • Generally, a short title is best, so it can be read in a glance, eg Jaws or Bliss. However some long titles work if they make the reader wonder what the story is about, eg Eats, Shoots and Leaves, or the title mentioned above.
  • Use strong visual images. Alliteration, rhyme or repetition also work well;
  • The figurative and the abstract are more attractive than the literal, eg Catch-22;
  • Have the tone of the title match the content of the book;
  • Use a character name, or a phrase from within the book, eg, Oscar & Lucinda or To Kill a Mockingbird;
  • Include a hint of mystery or adventure, words that intrigue or arouse curiosity, eg Chicken Soup for the Soul or The Bone People;
  • Research book titles to see what sells, what you like or dislike – and why. You will find plenty of titles on Amazon;
  • Brainstorm, alone or with your critique group andrite down lots of words – verbs, nouns, adjectives – that relate to your book’s theme, content, setting, characters, action. Then put them together in different ways to see what you come up with;
  • You must be happy with the title yourself.

As you were writing it, you gave your book a working title. Sometimes, that can end up as the final title. However, be careful you don’t become too attached to it, because it will be harder for you to change it to something more appropriate and attractive to readers. I think that if I had done this bit of research before publishing my first novel, I may have ended up with quite a different title for it.

© Linda Visman July 2011   (563 words)

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