Title Presentation

Title Presentation, by Kathy Pritchett                        5/21/2022

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” according to William Shakespeare. On the surface, this is a noble thought. But would you want to read a book called Two Guys in France and England? Or does A Tale of Two Cities intrigue more. How about Poetry vs. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? What about Murder in Small town Kansas vs. In Cold Blood?  How about Defecting Russian Sub Commander with Great Hair or The Hunt for Red October?

Racine Zakula, Adult Fiction Selection Librarian with the Wichita Public Library who presented to us last month, had an example of the impact a title can have. In 1982 Naura Hayden released a book called “Astro-Logical Love.” It bombed. She only changed the book title – not the text. She called it: “How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time…and Have Her Beg for More!” And the book was a #1 best seller. 

The Pratt Public Library is on an automatic order with their supplier to receive books on the New York times best seller list. That’s why it’s important to stay up to date on what is trending. Although, if you are a local author and cultivate a relationship with your library, they might purchase copies of your books or help you host a book signing. You can also offer to give seminars or classes.

Racine had some good advice about titles. Her advice is not only from a reader and buyer, but a marketing standpoint.

Don’t use one word titles, NOT unless you have a *very* unique name. “Shame” by John Smith will just not be found in a book store or online or library with ease.

Don’t make a long title unless you are writing Non-Fiction. I like Fredrik Backman, but hate recommending “My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry.”  Long titles at this point are kind of cliché. Examples: “Elenaor Oliphant is Completely Fine” and “The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules.”

If you write fantasy, do not include the following words:

Shadow, bone, queen / king / prince, night, thorns, crown, red, thief, fire, city, throne, game, ash. They have been overused in too many titles.

IF you write fiction, do not have the following words in the title: Girl, Mother, Daughter, Woman. Or proper names (example: Racine Zackula Read That Book).

DO –

Take your time to think of something memorable. Make it understandable – save $5 words for the inside of the book. Eliminate small confusing bits in a title or your name. Is that St. James spelled St. or Saint. Are you Brooke Van der Meer or Brooke Vandermeer?  What about if you were just Brooke Vander? Make it easy to come up in a Google search.

Look on the Internet to see if someone else has thought of it. Search using quotes so that the whole phrase is searched together. You might find another book with your title. 

Make your title informative and memorable. “The Death Papers” is interesting in a way, but “The Harlot’s Testament” might grab more readers.

Make a list of titles and “try them on for a week.” Imagine Hoda saying here’s Kathy Pritchett with her new book “ _____________________ “

From C.S. Lakin’s blog https://www.livewritethrive.com/2022/04/11/how-to-come-up-with-the-perfect-book-title/. By the way, this is a very good blog to subscribe to. Her advice: You have to capture a reader’s attention in just a few words. If your book is displayed with the cover out, like a James Patterson book or books on the Walmart shelves, your cover will be the first attention getter. But in Barnes & Noble, unless you are a big-name author, all a potential buyer will see is the title and your author name on the spine of the book. Same goes for a library.

And title creation is different for fiction than non-fiction. Non-fiction needs to describe what’s inside: 100 Ways to Cook Hamburger or The Ten Best Beach Vacation Spots or How to Train a Cat. Those titles should be as short as possible to get the message across, but enough to get a reader interested in that topic to pick it up. Often a non-fiction book will have a catchy title followed by a : with a descriptive title. Because “People read nonfiction for information.” Like Twister: What to Do If Your Home Is Hit By a Tornado. Descriptive titles are also easier for search engines to find. You want to pop up high in the search results.

For fiction, though, genre drives the title choice. YA romance best sellers typically have less than 3 words in the title. Suspense, mystery or thrillers usually have short, suspenseful, almost scary titles: Taken, Gone, Never Tell, In Cold Blood, Silence of the Lambs, Prey. Often in these, the covers are vague and hint at the mystery of the title.

Romance novels on the other hand, rely more on the breathtaking cover models which also show location and time period. Titles here are usually short, but you know that the book follows the formula and ends with a happily ever after, even if it’s just for now.

She suggests looking deeply at the market to see what titles are available in your genre. You normally don’t want to choose a title too close to another one on the market. But it may give you some inspiration.

Sometimes your title will reflect a theme in your book or a recurring phrase, such as my More Than a Point of Honor. Its original title was A Washington Affair. Not memorable or marketable. But the title phrase is repeated in the book and summarizes the theme.

Other ways to choose a title mean including a motif from the story, such as Dustin’s Dylan O’Drak story. Or the Allison Brennan series. Or Sue Grafton’s M is for Murder, K is for Killer. Just make sure if you choose such a convention that you can maintain it.

Your title can also hint at the conflict: Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Peter Benchley’s Jaws, John Nichols’s The Milagro Beanfield War. Or it can be a play on words: The Green Mile, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The Lord of The Rings. The Martian Chronicles.

Titles that evoke imagery, use alliteration, or take readers by surprise by the choice of words can feel important or sublime. Examples: Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See; Michael Connelly’s The Wrong Side of Goodbye; Inglath Cooper’s And Then You Loved Me; G.R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords.

I have had some pretty lame working titles. And one book that the title came first. Some ideas still have just the working titles like Nuclear Waste story, Arthurian tale. For my Richard and Terra series, the title for the second book (The Judas Seat) came first, then I had to come up with the plot. I have the basic premise and titles for the next two: Convergence and Rain on the Righteous. I just have to write the books….