Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Heavyweight Title -- Things That Make For A Good Book Title

When you walk through a library or bookstore, hopefully you’ve noticed that most of the books have their binding facing outwards. Stores do this to conserve space, but it also showcases a book’s title. This is a marketing opportunity I think a lot of authors miss out on. When I’m browsing a bookshelf, I always pull out the book that has an intriguing title. Maybe it’s not even a good book, but I don’t know that yet, and hey, the title served its purpose. It got me interested. Even if you have a book that isn’t published, having an awesome title is a good way to catch an agent or publishers attention. It can give you just a little more edge.

But it can be hard coming up with a book title. I was half way through my book before I settled on one, and I’m still not sure whether it makes the cut. So I embarked on a journey to discover what makes for a good book title. I randomly went through a bunch of virtual bookstores and looked at a lot of titles, mostly of books I've never read and know absolutely nothing about. Here are some of the titles that caught my eye, along with my immediate thoughts upon reading them: 
  1. Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead – Shadow is a rather looming word. Also, shadows are black. So why would you call them silver? I want to know more.
  2. The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak – why would you have to steal a book? That would be awful to have to steal in order to get a book. Hmmm.
  3. Counterfeit Lies by Oliver North and Bob Hamer – what? What does that even mean?
  4. Girl at the Bottom of the Sea by Michelle Tea – Wait, did somebody drown? Or are we talking about mermaids? Okay, well, I like mermaids.
  5. The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline – aw. That sounds sad.
  6. Blue Moon Promise by Colleen Coble – A blue moon…is there such a thing? That would be pretty. I wonder what the promise was?
  7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L’Engle – huh. How do you wrinkle time?
  8. 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northump – that’s awful. Why only 12 years, though? Did he (or she) escape?
  9. Believing The Lie by Elizabeth George  - rather ominous sounding. What lie?  
  10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – that's just such a different title. Really stands out.
  11. Where She Went by Gayle Forman – That's different sounding. Where DID she go?

After putting together this list, I realized that these titles all have a few things that make them stand out. Here are the patterns I noticed:
  1. They often use strong, interesting, or ominous words. Words like ‘Shadows,’ ‘Lie,’ and ‘Thief.’
  2. They often evoke immediate empathy. Orphan Train and 12 Years A Slave are good examples of this.
  3. They immediately convey a interesting image. Orphan Train and Girl at the Bottom of the Sea both instantly bring up ideas of what the book may be about.
  4. They cause the reader to ask a question. Most of the titles above did this. 
  5. They are a completely different format from the others. Titles such as Their Eyes Were Watching God and Where She Went are completely new. Usually titles don’t use pronouns and usually titles have the word ‘the’ somewhere in them.

It’s a good idea to keep these things in mind when coming up with your book title. No, a title isn’t everything. Even if your title is crappy people will still read your book if the writing is good. But it’s a good way to spark interest and it’s best to have all of your bases covered by having both an amazing title and amazing book.
What about you? What titles do you especially love? What is your book's title? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. You just caused me to rethink my working title!

    1. Well that's good! Through probably annoying for you as well. =) I'd love to hear what your title ends up being!

  2. Of your points, I suspect causing the reader to question might be the most important step to getting them to open the book. Some great points.
    I had to check if you actually had not read A Wrinkle in Time. :)

    1. Thank you! And yes, I have read A Wrinkle in Time. One of the best books out there. =)

  3. A favorite title of mine is 'Fahrenheit 451' by Ray Bradbury (also a favorite book). It sounds intimidating, automatically invokes the thought of flame, and makes you want to wonder why it deals with fire. Another of my favorite books has a great title--Chalice. I saw it at the library, and, being Christian myself, I picked it up because I wanted to know why it was called Chalice. Turned out to be a great book.
    My current WIP Sci-Fi novel is simply called 'The Crow' for now. Thinking about something more intimidating.

  4. I have three working titles for three different manuscripts. Two of them are the main ones I'm working on and one is just when I need a break from the other two and a bit of romance too since its more focused as a romance. All three take place in the same fantasy world, to different characters who do not know of each other, and live in very different parts of the world.

    Manuscript one: Bound by Shadows

    Manuscript two: Angel's Flight

    Manuscript three: Blood of a Ghost

    The first is a dark, gritty adult book that's dark fantasy and deals with an assassin and his prisoner who are forced to work together to survive the punishments of his corrupt superiors.

    The second is a cute, light-hearted but still sincere middle grade fantasy book with a similarly aged protagonist who's an angel kid and flight-obsessed and wants to learn how to fly.

    And the third is the young adult humorous romance between a malfunctioning ghost and a vampire blood lord. :D

    Do you think the working titles work pretty well so far? :3 Especially once you know what [in general] each one is about?

    1. I love manuscript three's title!

    2. I really love the title "Bound by Shadows." :)

  5. I love titles like 'The Book Thief' and 'Silver Shadows'. They are simple but manage to intrigue you into at least grabbing the book off the shelf (or clicking for more detail if online).

  6. Thanks Hannah! I'm new to writngwritng, and this really helped me weed out all of my dumber titles.��

    1. Lol! Glad to hear it. =D Best of luck with your writing! I'm sure you'll end up with an amazing novel...and title!

  7. Thank you! This has helped me rethink my current title.

    1. Happy to be of help, Annabeth! Thank you for the comment!

  8. What titles do I especially love? I love the ones that involve color - Silver Shadows, for example. I'm REALLY visual so this immediately sparks a lot of images.
    My book's title is "The Rugged Edge." It took me a very, very long time to think of it. At first it was "Changing Tradition," but I didn't have a clue where the story was going at that point (I just needed something to title my document), and it ended up having nothing to do with it. Then it was "Act CXII," which has a lot to do with the story but wasn't very eye-catching, at least not to me.
    Something else that makes a good title is an abstract connection to the story or a theme in the story, or maybe a phrase that is constantly repeated. I always love it when I read a book and see a line that reflects on the title - I've found a direct answer to the question the title made me ask in the first place. Whereas other times, I finish the book and turn it over and say, "Where on earth did that title come from?"

  9. These are great tips! They've made me think about the titles in my current trilogy: The Last Assassin, The Shadow Raven, and The King's Paladin.
    Titles are something I often struggle with, so I'll have to keep these points in mind for future stories. :)

  10. I like titles that make me think, not ones that are like "Where did this come from?" but ones that are an underlining theme. Like "Oh I think they just made a connection, to blank." One of my stories is called 60 Pine, because it takes place at the house at 60 Pine. It's a murder mystery. Another of my stories is called The Chalkboard Room, because well... you'll see! If I ever finish it.

  11. I have a few different ideas and WIPs-- one called "The Normals", one called "The UnderRealm", one called "Addy Atkins's is A-Okay", and one called "Zane the Zero." The first two are contemporary fantasy, the last two are realistic fiction. What do you guys think?

    Also, if I ever get published... look for my titles, please?

    1. Ignore the "apostrophe S" at the end of Atkins. You know, because I'm a grammar geek and may actually die if I don't correct myself.


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