Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What's In A Name?

Finding a title for your book is like trying to name a child. You must always remember that the name you give it will have a profound impact on how much success it receives. It is how everyone will know and remember it. 

I loved this story. My daughter wrote it in the 1st grade.

So what are some things to remember when naming your book? I will share some of my own thoughts on titles. However, I do not claim to be an expert. Also, since I don’t want to offend anyone, I will refrain from using examples.

Here’s my quickly, made-up list:

  1. Your title should capture the theme, idea, or plot. And if you’re lucky, it will do all three. If not so lucky, your title will have nothing to do with any of them and it will leave your reader confused about how you came up with it.
  2. Try to avoid clich├ęs or overused adjectives. I am sure examples fill our heads as we read that sentence. 
  3. Don’t make your title too long. If it is the length of a sentence, then a few words could probably stand to be cut. 
  4. Try to avoid words that people need a dictionary to understand what it means. You don’t want to send them to another book before they open yours, even if that book is the dictionary. This also includes titles that are too esoteric. Leave those types of titles for Philosophy dissertations.
  5. Don’t try to be too clever. (This piggybacks on #4)
  6. Capture the reader’s attention, but don’t do it cheaply or deceptively. The reader might get angry, or worse, disappointed.
  7. Try not to use overly generic words. It should have enough specificity to inform the reader of what they are to expect. On the other hand, don’t be too specific. Find that happy medium that no one can identify and that others can write about in a nonspecific way.
  8. Ironic titles can be fun.
  9. Sometimes simplicity is the best. (This piggybacks on #5)
  10. Try not to rip-off other people’s titles. (e.g. Sherry Porter and the Jailbird of Hazkaban, a book about a girl who finds out she has magical powers!)
So, you can see that I find the Quest for the Great Title is as elusive and tricky as perhaps the writing of the novel itself.  

You can keep these rules or throw them out, or even make up your own. In the end, none of them may be true. But if you want, tell me what some of you favorite book titles were.

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