Before I start: a confession. I am on a plane right now headed out of the country on a business trip. I will not be back until Friday afternoon and therefore will probably not be able to approve comments or answer email until Saturday. This post and the others following it this week have all been pre-scheduled releases. Most revolve around articles or blog posts I discovered in the past few days. When I get back I may post some pictures if I end up with any good ones and I hope to write up a couple posts on editing, too. So, without further ado, I give you titles:
Most of the time, I struggle hardest with titles. I put something in place as soon as I start writing a book, mostly to keep it distinct from my other projects on my computer. It’s rare I like my first title. In fact, it’s only happened once. But you need a title, especially once you start submitting the book to agents and editors or–more importantly–if you plan on self-publishing. How do you find one that works? There are a bunch of theories and methods, but Rachelle Gardner, an agent with WordServe Literary, talks about one I’ve heard recommended most.
Before I talk about the actual “how” of titling, Rachelle offers this piece of wisdom:
Let’s start by acknowledging a few things. The publisher is usually responsible for the final decision on title, and in the query stage, it’s not that important. In fact, some agents have said they don’t pay any attention at all to titles. But at some point, you’re going to want to think seriously about this. Your title is part of the overall impression you’re creating about your book. It can set a tone and create an expectation. Whether you’re pitching to an agent, or your agent is pitching to publishers, I think you want to have the strongest title possible. Think of it this way: the better your title is, the better your chance that the publisher will decide to use it, rather than changing it.
In other words, don’t get so emotionally invested in your title you’ll be in tears if the publisher decides they don’t like it. Of course, you do always have the self-publishing route where you have control over everything. Even if you do self-publish, you’ll still need a title. Now for the how!
What Rachelle recommends–and what some other authors and industry pros have also recommended–is creating a list of words that somehow relate to your book. Images, themes, locations, anything that pops into your head when you think about your story. Add to the list over a few days if you need to, then put it aside. Come back to it later and read through the words. What jumps out at you? Is there anything that would serve as a one-word title? If not, start writing up a new list this one pairing up words from the original list. Put this new list away and come back to it a few days later. See anything you like? Anything close if you tinkered with it?
The most important thing a title does is capture the spirit and style of a book. As often as you tell people not to judge a book by it’s cover (or title), how else are you supposed to make a first impression? Especially if a book is sitting spine out on a shelf, the title is the first thing customers see. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Even if readers eventually give the book a second chance, in the back of their mind there will still be the first instinctual judgement. Take the time, do the research, and make their first judgement a good one.
Other blogs/articles on this topic:
Shimmer – Five Authors/Five Questions
Luc Reid – Luc’s Desiderata of Titling
Caroline Baum – What it Takes to Title a Book
Elizabeth Richards – How to Write a Great Book Title
GoodReads – List of Great Book Titles