May 28, 2012

Title Tips

by Linda P. Kozar

Kings and Queens have them. So do politicians. Men and women in the military salute those who have them. Your boss has one, and maybe you do too. Whether you sit on a throne or a tractor, titles are important. And the same is true of book titles. A good title should attract an editor’s eye the same way it would attract a reader’s.

A good title is like a good opening and should:
Attract the reader’s attention, be memorable, appropriate to the content, interesting or evocative, represent your work, be identifiable with your brand and most importantly, a title should be exciting!

A good title can:

Be a popular expression or a play on words, come from an existing work, be a person’s name, reflect your setting, be possessive, put forth an association of ideas, represent an event or activity, repeat a memorable line from a story, or have rhythm.

Suggestions to “Work” Your Title:

1.  What is the book’s genre?
2.  Keep the title short and sweet.
3.  Make it descriptive –The Great Gatsby was originally called “Trimalchio in West Egg”
4.  Ask yourself, “If someone is typing keywords in a search engine, what other things
     would come up next to your title?
5.  Be open to changing your title if the publisher wants you to.
6.  Describe the book.
7.  Reduce your story to the lowest common denominator and that could be your title.
8. Look into your heart—you’re the writer!
9. Ask advice from a close friend or critique partner who has read the manuscript.
10. Find a phrase that jumps out “Soylent Green is people!”
11. Is there one character that stands out? Try that character’s name.
12. Write down a long list and rearrange the words. Cross some off.

Take Care With Your Title

Most titles on the bestseller list are no more than three words long. But don’t rule out a long title, because sometimes they work.

Invent your trademark title: Example: Author Janet Evanovich’s series “One For the Money.”

Titles are not copyrighted. Submit several title ideas with your proposal.

A title can be:

  • a popular expression: What’s Up Doc?
  • a play on words: Pushing Up Daisies
  • a hidden meaning: Along Came a Spider
  • from an existing work: The Bible
  • a person’s name: Rebecca
  • your setting: Jurassic Park
  • possessive: Charlotte’s Web
  • an event or activity: Finding Nemo
  • a line or quote from the story: To Kill a Mockingbird
  • rhythmic: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • simple: Jaws, The Exorcist
If an editor likes your title, it is more likely they will look at your proposal with an open mind and an attitude of expectation. They will want to like your work. A good title also tells a publishing house a lot about your creativity. It’s up to you to keep their interest beyond that ├╝ber title, with a dazzling story to match it. 

Linda P. Kozar is the author of Babes With A Beatitude—Devotions For Smart, Savvy Women of Faith (Howard/Simon & Schuster, Hardcover/Ebook, 2009), Misfortune Cookies (Barbour Publishing, Print, 2008). Misfortune Cookies, the upcoming A Tisket, A Casket (June 3), and Dead as A Doornail (June 10) (Spyglass Lane Mysteries, Ebooks, 2012), and Strands of Fate (Annie’s Attic Mysteries, Hardcover, 2012).

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