Thursday, July 25, 2019

Titles: Short or Catchy?

By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

In May’s blogs posts I referenced the children’s writer Madeleine L’Engle. To my knowledge, she’s never written a book on writing, but in her adult nonfiction books, she wrote about writing when she stayed at Crosswicks—her family property where loved ones gathered in summers.

So keeping in the same vein, I’ll share her thoughts on book titles with you before sharing mine. “The title of a book is as important as one’s right and proper signature on a check. A book may have a Library of Congress number, as a check may have that cybernetic salad, but a book, like Emily Bronte, like you, like me, must have its own name. Some books get born with names: The Arm of the Starfish. The Young Unicorns. We had to search for the proper name for A Wrinkle in Time, and it was my mother who came up with it, during a night of insomnia. I went into her room with a cup of coffee in the morning, and she said, ‘I think I have a title for your book, and it’s right out of the text: A Wrinkle in Time.’” Madeleine goes on to say that many titles had been thrown out there. All vetoed before her mother mentioned A Wrinkle in Time.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had insomniac mothers who could come up with great book titles?

If you don’t have a creative mother who gets by on little sleep, here are a few tips on coming up with a good title, whether it be for an article or a book: Less words are best words for titles. Think Vanquished. Hamlet. Macbeth. Dracula. Night. Persuasion. Holes. Rebecca. Emma. Twilight. Heidi. Eclipse. Matilda. It. Ivanhoe. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3).

When a short title isn’t on the table, make the title catchy. I love Ally Carter’s titles from her young adult spy novels: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You. Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy. Only the Good Spy Young. Out of Sight, Out of Time.  

And it’s always a good idea to check out Amazon’s book list to see how many books have the same title as your potential bestseller. There can be several books with the same title—no one has a copyright on titles—but, if there are a slew of books with the same title already out there, you might want to change yours up a little so it stands out from the pack. Good luck!


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