Names are difficult on a good day. As prospective parents, we pour through baby name books in search for the perfect name. As writers, we do the same. We scour every newspaper, brochure, phone book or novel for a unique name to fit our unique characers.
But what about titles?
I’ve been fighting with a title for one of my manuscripts. Feedback tells me it just doesn’t fit the style of my novel. This is a concept that never entered my mind before. I knew the title told about the events of the novel, but I’ve learned that this is not enough.
Everything about a book has to be perfect. It has to flow. From the names of our characters to the titles of manuscripts to the style our stories are told in. All of this must make a complete and satisfying package. Because let’s be honest, a lot goes into the mental process of buying a book.
- Does the cover look appealing?
- Does the title speak to me?
- What’s the cover blurb telling me?
- Author bio?
- And finally, the first page…
At any point, we can be stopped cold and the puchase will never go through.
Readers, what do you look for in a title? And how much does one play into your desire to read the cover blurb or even purchase the book?
Writers, how do you pick a title, and how do you know it works?
I recently read a book with a title that I actually found somewhat offensive. The single word of the title was very strong, with a significantly negative connotation for me. Were it not written by one of my all time favorite authors I would absolutely not have read the book. On the other hand, upon completion of the book it was the perfect title. Lucky for this guy he’s had a number of great books so probably he can get away with it. At least this reader still picked it up and got all the way to the end!
You’ll have to pass the name along privately, as I know we have similar tastes. I don’t know that I’ve ever come across a title that was so off putting I didn’t read futher. It’s interesting to know there are some out there.
Pure impulsiveness. Titles just occur to me, right off the bat, and I stick with them.
Usually for me too, but this time around, not so much.
Titles are so hard for me! When I’m in a bookstore, it’s not the book cover that draws me in, it’s the title. Then I read the back cover blurb, but the title always catches my eye first. So I stress a lot about titles!
I don’t have any special method for creating titles. I make lists of potential titles and then read it over and choose the one that seems to sing loudest!
I find your method interesting. Titles don’t usually play a big role in whether I will read a back blurb or not. I’m kind of a cover gal, myself. If it looks cool, I’ll check out the author and title, then the back. And, always, the first page. If I’m not hooked by the end of page one, I put the book back on the shelf and look for another cool cover.
Usually I have a title before I even start writing, but this particular story started out as an oral tale for my daughter. The title was the last thing I tacked on. And I do mean tacked, for it isn’t quite right.
I’ll have to start making lists and listening for the song!
Hey Cat, You recall that I did a post on this a while back: Title Me Titular
Those are my thoughts. The title is your first hook. It’d better be catchy.
I usually start with a working title and work the story around that thought. Everything in the book centers around the title.
The title might change at the end, but the gist won’t. For instance, my latest wip is working title The Gladiator’s Son and I’m being careful to include that title’s theme on every page of the book.
Even so, though, it might change when I finish.
Eric, yes, I did recall your blog post and actually went back and read it just to get my mind on track. Like you, I usually start with a title. I think it helps keep focused on the book. I even title my blog posts first.
Thanks for weighing in~ cat
Actually, I get suckered by cover art rather than title. I know, I know; writers rarely get to pick their covers. I rely on my poor writing group for titles most of the time. I ambush them right after they finish and write down what pops into their heads. However, I also know that titles often change in the publishing process. If the marketing department of a publishing house prefers a different title, they’ll suggest it, or so I’ve heard.
As for character names, I once had a novel where five or six bit characters were named slightly different versions of William. I still haven’t figured out where that came from….
Was the author’s name Bill by any chance?
I’m a cover girl too! I fall in love with the art and then move on to the rest. Does this make us shallow?
Anyway, I’ve heard the same thing about titles and marketing. Because they play suck a huge roll in catching the reader, they have to be perfect.
I love coming up with titles. I even title my chapters and occasionally obsess over finding the one that’s just right. With my wip I waffled on the title, but settled on Night Blooming Flowers. As we well know, it will probably be changed eventually anyway. 🙂
We can only hope they are changed by a smart marketing director or an experienced editor : )
If not, we can do all the waffling and obsessing we want!
Titles can be hard. Some of them are just there for me from the beginning. I love that! Others lurk and hide. They make me work really hard to find them.
I like a variety of titles – but I prefer them short. I like titles that make me smile, ones with double meanings, quirky twists… 🙂
Jemi, I’m usually fond of short titles as well. A word or two can tell so much. I think this might be part of my trouble titling this particular manuscript. The younger set traditionally has longer, more descriptive titles, as early readers are less apt to understand the connotations of words.
Thanks for the comment. I have to find that lurking title now…
It’s taken me awhile to answer this, I know. My titles almost always come courtesy of someone else. My current novel’s title came about because I mined several poems found in the novel. The poems are relevant 1. because they encompass the emotional context of the overall book. 2. they are original poetry from the very popular Ming Dynasty novel my book is based upon. Anyone who is familiar with the the original story (that is, 6 billion people living in China plus several other million around the world) will potentially recognize my title. STILL, after all of that, I needed help deciding which line of poetry to use. Titles do not come easy for me, which is funny since I have a poetic style and a good title is a poem. *shrugs*
I think your last line is the most relevant thing I have ever heard regarding titles. “A good title is a poem.”
That is so true and I think it helps me put my title dilemma into perspective. Thanks so much for you comment. This one is definitely going in my book of quotes.
Yeah! I’m glad I said one relevant thing this week. LOL ;D
I think that we may have been separated at birth! I started a post on this topic with an almost identical first paragraph about three weeks ago. Good thing I didn’t finish it – we might have posted on the same day, like wearing matching dresses to a party. 🙂
LOL! Please don’t pick a pink dress, though. I really don’t wear pink well. I’m more of an earth tone kind of gal. But, if you’re going to attend the party I’ll wear any color you choose.