48. Book Titles Part 4: Choices and Caveats

Author: Nola Published: 6 months ago.
Tags: nonfiction, Adele Jones, genre, book titles, gimmicks, marketing, tone, word of mouth, series Category: Writing tips

If you’ve followed the suggestions I gave in Part 2 and Part 3 of this series, you should have a long list of possible titles. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best options from your list.

Genre and Tone

Although there’s a lot of leeway within genres, ensure your title creates the desired impression. You wouldn’t call your light summer romance Nightmare on Ghoul Reef, but it’s not always easy to strike the right tone. Try testing your title in a poll and see what images it conjures up for potential readers. Tucker Max gives some great suggestions for doing that.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is an effective marketing tool. As Christian Sexton and Tucker Max note, however, people are less likely to share your book or ask for it at bookstores if they have trouble pronouncing it or feel uncomfortable saying it out loud (e.g. if it contains swearing or something offensive, such as The Benefits of Abuse). Titles that are difficult to remember may also garner less word-of-mouth traffic.

Gimmicks

Original titles can help get your book off the shelf and into a reader’s hands (See Part 1). However, avoid gimmicks that will frustrate readers. If you call your book A Trapeze on Mars, consumers will either take it literally and expect circus performers in space or they’ll assume it’s a stunning metaphor that captures an important element of your book. If neither of those things occurs, your unique title is just annoying.

Series

When writing a series, think about how the different titles fit together. Adele Jones used similar types of verbs for her young adult techno-thrillers—Integrate, Replicate, and Activate. James Patterson used phrases from nursery rhymes for some of his Alex Cross books (e.g. Along Came a Spider; Kiss the Girls). While the titles in a series don’t have to follow the same pattern (e.g. The Hunger Games and Mockingjay), consider how the titles work as a set.

Nonfiction

Although the suggestions in my previous posts don’t just apply to novels, nonfiction does pose a different quandary. If you’ve written an informative book about a particular topic, you want it to pop up easily when people enter key terms in search engines. Your book Rainbows on my Wellies might be the best self-help book on depression available, but it won’t help anyone if they can’t find it. Sometimes a straightforward title like Accounting Made Simple will be the best marketing option. However, a more creative title can work well if coupled with a subtitle that explains what the book is about. Brennan Manning does that to great effect with his book The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-up and Burnt Out.

When you think you have the perfect title, be sure to check sites like Amazon or Goodreads to ensure another author hasn’t beaten you to it.

Have you ever read a book that didn’t live up to its title? I’d love to hear your comments.

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