Last week, in Name That Character, I looked into the meanings behind a name. In O Cover Where Are Thou, I discussed how a book’s cover garners a reader’s interest. But what about the name of a book? What name must a writer give their work that both piques our reader’s interest and alludes to the story?
A reader will judge a book by its cover. And if both the cover design and title are horrible, you’re done for. More than likely you’re book sales will come from friends, family and supporters. Aside from their word of mouth and a good review(s), prepare to face a loss of book sales. A book title that fails to pique curiosity and enthusiasm, does a disservice to the amazing story inside.
Use a temporary tile. Don’t force it. While writing your novel, inspiration for the book’s title might hit you. HoET was once named Mythos and then Spiritus Mundi. I was inspired by William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming and wanted to use the title in connection with the story’s theme of the antichrist. But then another author had written and published a book using that title. So it was back to the drawing board for me and thanks to the thesaurus I stumbled upon the word harbingers. Now my sword and sorcery book blog is titled “Harbingers of El Tinor.”
Use the name of your main character as part of the book title. This is especially useful if it’s a book series. If you haven’t learn anything from JK Rowling than you should take note of the icon of her Harry Potter series. I’m not sure what exactly is the lure but I think that having the character’s name in the title forms a readily connection to the reader. As a reader myself, it makes me curious to who that person is and what makes him or her important.
Use a title that connects to an event or series of events in your story. For example, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. You would think the title is something celebratory. I mean, who doesn’t want to win the lotto. But the true, chilling meaning of “the lottery” is revealed when Tessie Hutchinson is stoned to death. You can also take this example and make your title a red herring. Where the title is also a clue to the story as well as misleading.
Keep it short. A straightforward and concise title is another way to entice your reader. This is especially true if your novel is of the horror, thriller, suspense and or fantasy genres. Try using five words or less to sum up your novel but I feel that one to three words for your title is the sweet spot. Take for example Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, Dracula, The Giver, The Chocolate War, Fahrenheit 451, Sula, The Help and Matilda. Or you can do the opposite and make it long and catchy. But how long is up to you.
And if all else fails try starting your title with “The Adventures of…”, The /Diary of…” and or “The Case of the…”
What is the current name of your book or work in progress? Is it the original name or had you changed it? Why? How did you come up with the title of your book? Please share in the comment section below.
Food for Thought: For more information on titles check out Pubslush blog post How to Create Powerful Titles. Or you can read 40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever as examples on what not to name your book. Enjoy!
PS Take a gander at the full extent of my ordeal with renaming my book. I'd also liked to say that I was grateful that there was another book using the same title as "Spiritus Mundi." It gave me the kick in the pants I needed to find a better title. It was something I thought of doing for a while because I felt that it no longer fit well with the story. Like Johnnie Cochran said, "if it doesn't fit..."