You know those books that have such a clever/intriguing title you want to read it without knowing anything else about it? Talk about love at first sight.
We talk a lot about how important a cover is, and that process is a great topic for a future post. But editors don’t have the benefit of a gorgeous cover to suck us in when we’re first reading a manuscript or proposal. If we’re lucky, we have a fabulous query letter that gets excited to read more. But what can often help complete the package is an amazing title to go along with it.
Every one of my authors is going to think this post is directed him or her today because we’re all going through the process of finalizing titles as we start to set our Fall 2012 list (yes, we’re working that far ahead). But it’s really for all writers at any stage in their career. And for writers going through the submission process, a strong title can help you stand out from the pack.
One of the most important parts of my job is to help position a book for the market. How do we show what the genre is (military romantic suspense? Regency? paranormal?) so readers can identify it, while still making it distinctive enough to stand out from the pack. It’s a combination of art, tagline, back copy and marketing materials. And—you guessed it—title.
So what should you look for when thinking about your title?
- What are the titles of other books in your category? Do some words tend to repeat? No surprise that certain words tend to have built-in appeal: bride, cowboy, lord, lady, duke, etc. There’s a reason why so many category novels are some form of The Greek Tycoon Billionaire Secretary’s Secret Baby. Certain words work. Use them. But…
- Avoid sounding generic. Or choosing a title that’s already been done.
- Are you planning a series? Can your titling lend itself to a theme? But also keep in mind that you don’t want all the books to sound the same.
- What’s the tone? Can you use some clever wordplay? Alliteration?
When brainstorming titles, I find it helps to create a word-association list to start. Even if they’re crazy words, they’ll help me find the tone of what I’m looking for. And when I get stuck there, I’ll turn to some resources:
- my Rodale’s Synonym Finder (best graduation gift ever!)
- imdb.com – Can I play off a movie title?
- iTunes – Can I play off a song title?
- BN.com – Has this title already been used?
- NYT, USA Today and Bookscan bestseller lists – What titles are selling big?
- An online title generator - Sometimes sparks something good, sometimes just good for a laugh (unless you're dying to read Deadly Men on Fast Hotties)
- Colleagues, husband, friends – I’m not above picking brains and bouncing ideas