Monday, October 24, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name or Does the Title of my Book Really Matter?

By Julie Daines

Everyone knows that when you publish traditionally, you get little or no say regarding the title of your book. Publishers have marketing specialists lined up to pick a title that will grab readers' attention.

Your job is to grab the attention of an agent or publisher. The title is your first opportunity to sell it to them.

There are three basic categories of titles (with a lot of overlapping).

1. Character Titles: Romana the Pest; James and the Giant Peach, Keturah and Lord Death; Julie of the Wolves; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; Coraline

2. Plot Titles: The Hunger Games; Island of the Blue Dolphins; Princess Academy; The Lightening Thief; Speak

3. Mood or Subgenre titles (very popular now in YA): Paranormalcy; The Dark Divine; The Forest of Hands and Teeth; Daughter of Smoke and Bone; I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Some other things to consider while choosing a title:

Be Provocative Provocative titles (especially one word titles) are extremely popular. Just check the Amazon list of best-selling YA books. Choose words that elicit emotion or curiosity and phrases that make book browsers do a double take. The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; To Kill a Mockingbird; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now

Use Resonance Use words that bring to mind something evocative or reminiscent, and phrases that already mean something to the reader. Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Grapes of Wrath; Gone with the Wind

Create a Strong Visual The Color Purple; Where the Wild Things Are; Love in the Time of Cholera; Cry, the Beloved Country

Use Alliteration, Rhyme, or Repetition This makes the title catchy or memorable, like how we can remember a nursery rhyme we learned years ago as a child. Listen to the flow. I Capture the Castle; The Secret Circle; Maniac McGee; The Wind in the Willows; There's a Wocket in My Pocket 

Words that Contradict Beautiful Chaos; The Death Cure; Sacred Sins; Neverwhere

Above all, be true to yourself and your book. Go with what feels right to you. 

What are some of your favorite titles.

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Sarah Allen said...

Wow, great ideas here! I'm still working on mine, but the working title for now is 'The Keeper'.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Katie Rich said...

I recently read Aimee Bender's 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake' mostly because of the title. I liked the book, though some of the surreal aspects were a little unsettling for me. It is a really apt title for the book though.

Julie Daines said...

@Katie: That is a great title!

Scott said...

I was thinking about The Merchant of Venice, even though there are no merchants and the story is nowhere near Venice.

Seriously, I'd rather write a synopsis than come up with a title. It's so hard to find a good one. And when I have had decent titles, I've doubted them.

Erin Shakespear said...

Great post. I actually love brainstorming title ideas. My WIP started as a title and then I tried to figure out what the story should be.

I love the title of the book I'm currently reading, A Tale Dark and Grimm...and it's a really fun, yet creepy book.