Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Series on How to Choose a Title for my Work

Choosing a Title for my Novel
By Debbie Roome

Welcome to a new series where we’ll be exploring the importance of a good title. Whether your writing appears in a church bulletin or on a shelf in a bookstore, the title is usually the first thing the reader sees. If it is dull and uninspiring, chances are they won’t look any further. Read on to learn how to choose suitable titles for novels.

How to Choose Titles for Novels
As a general rule, fiction books normally have a title of one to three words. These words are very important as they should give the reader an inkling of what is inside the book and possibly the genre. Think of bestsellers you have read this year and make a list of their titles. Are they appropriate? Do they rouse curiosity? Here are a couple I have read recently that were perfectly titled:

· Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult – tells the story of a child with osteogenesis imperfecta – brittle bone disease
· The Associate by John Grisham – a thriller about an associate lawyer
· The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – the theme of the kite runner is threaded through the book
· Foreign Body by Robin Cook – a medical thriller set in India·

One Word Titles
Christian author, Karen Kingsbury uses one word titles for her Redemption series: Redemption, Remember, Return, Rejoice and Reunion. The repetition of the first letter helps the reader to recognize that they belong together. Other authors have written stand-alone books with titles of one word. Ted Dekker favours these with novels such as Kiss, Obsessed, Skin and Sinner. The titles invite questions and suitably describe the content.

Two Word Titles
John Grisham makes good use of these with books such as The Partner, The Firm, The Client, The Brethren and The Testament. Again, the title fits the story line and gives a glimpse into the subject material.

Longer Titles
While some authors use longer titles, remember these take up more space on the cover and spine and will be smaller in size. They are also more difficult to remember. In spite of this, some books with long titles have been very successful. Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet by Jamie Ford is a good example as is Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark.

Make the Title Interesting
Unusual titles generate more interest and prospective buyer will often choose an exciting title over a mundane one. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a title:
· Does it sound intriguing
· Is it open to several interpretations
· Have you used a play on words
· Is it figurative or literal
· Does it summarise the book’s contentDoes it sound intriguing

Analyze your Title
Unusual titles generate more interest and prospective buyer will often choose an exciting title over a mundane one. has a free application whereby you can enter your proposed book title and it will calculate the chances of it being a best seller. I tried out a few and the results were interesting. Try out some of your own and see what score you get.

Come back next Wednesday when we’ll examine how to title non-fiction books.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

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Terra said...

I agree that book titles are very important, to make books appealing and to be memorable.
My own work is nonfiction so I will come back to read that post next week.
With nonfiction I find that the subtitle gives useful information.
My first book which I co-authored is titled "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday."
For fiction of course, short titles can be perfect.
I enjoy the Martha Grimes mystery series, where each book has the title of an oddly named & ancient pub.

Tracy Ruckman said...

I have to have a title before I can start working on the book - even though I KNOW there's a good chance it will change during the publication process. But if I don't have a working title, I don't have a story!

Great article - I loved all the different examples you used.