"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 11, 2009

What's in a Title?

We've all heard the adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover." This could also be said of a book title. Unfortunately, we do judge a book by both. Before we make a purchase, we are first attracted to either the cover or the title. If neither catches our interest, we won't even take the book off the shelf or rack.

As writers, we have practically no input into the covers the publishers decide to give our books, unless we negotiate for that privilege in our contracts. We do have a little more chance to have a say in the title, though, simply by putting a good one on the book when we submit it. If it's really, really good, they won't change it.

Here are a few simple things that might help you come up with the perfect title:

1. The title should give an indication of what the book is about. Think of it as a mini-synopsis of your story.

2. It should suggest the genre the book fits into.

3. Even though you can't copyright titles, don't use one that is famous, like Gone With the Wind. Google your title and see what's out there before you decide to use it.

4. Keep it short, usually less than six words. People won't remember a long title.

5. Ensure that it flows well when spoken aloud. Watch for word combinations that might look fine on paper but could leave the wrong image when spoken aloud.

6. Try for something intriguing or provocative that will pique curiosity or conjure a mood.

7. Use words that the average person can understand and that are easy to pronounce. Avoid foreign words and phrases.

8. And last but not least. Be ready with options to present to your editor in the event she doesn't like your original one.


B.J. Anderson said...

Great advice! I love picking a title. :D

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Good topic Linda, I've been curious about this. Have your publishers changed any of your titles?

Linda Sandifer said...

Yes, Deb, about half were changed. Of my ten romances, I got to keep only four: Heart of the Hunter, Midnight Hearts, Came A Stranger, and The Turquoise Sun. I was able to keep all of my mainstream titles, however. The editors' romance picks tended toward the genre's catch phrases and words like passion, ecstasy, and desire. I always tried for something more unique and consequently lost out. So you learn.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Thanks Linda. I can see the marketing logic in using the catch words and phrases.

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Linda Sandifer said...

Thanks, Norman. Will do!