I’m often surprised when I notice a fiction piece doesn’t have a book title. Or from what is there, it’s obvious the writer didn’t put much thought or energy into the title. While ultimately the publisher will select the title, if authors create an excellent title, it will stick throughout the publishing process.
Book titles are one of the key ways you can hook your reader or editor. It’s a topic to pour some considerable thought and creativity into because it might pay off for you—with a juicy book contract! Sometimes a book title will become a phrase that enters the culture. For example, if you say something is a catch-22, you know the quandary of the situation. (Joseph Heller).
How important is a book’s title?
In a word: vital. Good titles should reflect the content of the book. They should be fairly short and snappy, and they should suit the type of book you are writing. If it’s a crime novel, blood is often used in the title, in romance novels, love broadly features. The title should also reflect the theme and tone of the book. A title gives the reader a hint of what the book is all about.
Who decides on a book’s title?
Mostly this is the author. But if the sales and marketing team don’t like your chosen title, you’re in trouble. Sometimes it’s worth sticking to your guns, but often they have a point. All they care about is selling your book. They are not really interested in how much work you’ve put into coming up with a clever title. Your editor might be, but it’s the sales and marketing team’s job to squeeze as many of your books into as many bookshops as possible, and in order to do this they demand a good cover and a good title. Arguably the sentence or two at the top of your manuscript is the most important part of your book. Yes, that's right; the title. And yet, it's often an afterthought and the part of your book that you spend the least amount of time on.
There's an old saying in traditional publishing. A random reader will pick up your book if they like the cover. Once they pick it up, they'll read the title. A potential buyer will pick up the book if they like the title. If they like the title, they'll read the front copy. If they like the front copy, they'll read the back copy…and so on, until ultimately they buy the book.
But it all starts with the title. This must be a strong title or you will never have any readers!
A good title is your first hook, your way to tell the reader what the book is about. You need to touch the reader’s imagination and their emotions, with your promise of a good read.
Some Interesting Facts about Book Titles
Even bestselling authors and great classic writers can struggle with what to title their masterpiece. Here are some surprising examples.
* The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally titled Men who Hate Women
* Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the wind was originally titled Pansy. Other titles she considered were Tote the Weary Load and Tomorrow is Another Day.
* Tolstoy considered All’s Well That Ends Well for his novel War and Peace
* F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel This Side of Paradise was first called The Romantic Egotist
Much thought should be given to the selection of a title because it can be a deciding factor on whether or not a book will appeal to the reader. Good titles get picked up, while dull or ambiguous ones may languish on the shelf.
When I chose the title for my first book it fitted perfectly into the theme and tone of what I was writing about. ‘The Crossing’ conveyed many things; crossing The Atlantic in a yacht, crossing over into Germany during World War Two, crossing from happiness to despair and then crossing over and finding peace, and finally crossing from youth into manhood.
I never realised that my title had been used before, as it was only just before publication that I did a spot of research into the title. I was amazed to find I was among some fantastic authors – but for me ‘The Crossing’ was perfect and I needed to look no further. Among other writers who have used the title I am up with some of the best they include:
Cormac McCarthy, James Cracknell and Ben Fogle, Kathy Watson, Gilbert Morris and lastly but perhaps most illustrious of all, Sir Winston Churchill. What a fine gathering of writers to be included among.
Good reading .