Name Dropping: How much weight should an author give to the book title?

It’s widely accepted that a book’s title is important to the marketing and selling of the book. It is perhaps also accepted that a good title may attract readers to even the most poorly written manuscripts. Eliza, a writer for The Book Case gave her suggestions for the best book titles of 2010 in a recent post. Notably, the titles are great but all of the books don’t hold that same honor. In my opinion there are two parts to a book’s title: the hook and the reel. The first part, the hook should grab a reader’s attention and the second part, should reel the reader in, essentially getting your book off the shelf and into the readers collection or repertoire.

When we begin the writing process, the title acts as a place holder of sorts. For instance, ‘My Friends are Socialists and other mistakes of the middle-aged,’ a popular short story I wrote recently was originally titled, Like Chocolate for Socialists. The original choice became more unappealing as I finished the story. Titles evolve; authors shouldn’t give much weight to them initially. This doesn’t insinuate that good titles aren’t found immediately; some are. However, if your initial title doesn’t seem great I say hold on, the great title will be born to you during the writing process.

When seeking a great title, don’t be afraid to get varying opinions. Everyone, from editors to little sisters loves to give advice. Another exercise I use is called initial response.  I will sit face-to-face with someone whose opinion I respect and say, “Hey I just wrote a story called  . . .,” and look and listen for their initial response. Sometimes a look can say it all. If during the writing process the title is not revealed to you and you’re still not thrilled with your title, submit the manuscript anyway. This is what I called the contingency plan. A good agent will pick up on a bad title and encourage or suggest a better title. By this point the title becomes more vital and less experimental. If you want your story to be read by the masses, get the title right.

On a debatable note, here’s my list of the ten greatest titles of 2010. If it differs from yours, send me your list.

  1. Trespass, Rose Tremain
  2. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
  3. The particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender
  4. The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman
  5. Mr. Peanut, Adam Ross
  6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta LAcks, Rebecca Skloot
  7. Things We Didn’t See Coming, Steven Amsterdam
  8. Alone With You, Marisa Silver
  9. The Cookbook Collector. Allegra Goodman
  10. This Must Be the Place, Kate Racculia

The moment you see the cover of number eight on the list, you’ll know what else drew me in. Admittedly not all the books on my list were best sellers but all deserved a look, a read, and a consideration.

For the self-publishing, Ray Robinson writes, “The title of your book is the first place you should start creating a great SEO strategy for your book.” A great way to select a title for a book you plan to publish yourself would be with keyword searches. Go to Google or any other site for keyword searches. Look up keywords that your subject. Use those words in the title of your book.  I, like a lot of artist tend to be too fancy when it comes to titles. Because I plan to self-publish this year, I will be utilizing keyword searches to avoid pitfalls. How do you come up with the perfect title? Share your secret. Whatever the means, the title should engage the reader and work to promote your work each time it is viewed.



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