Book titles are funny things. They have to distil the essence of the book into just a few words – words that are instantly captivating to a potential buyer. And therein lies the challenge for anybody trying to create one.
Commercial publishers are adept at getting the ‘captivating’ side right, which is why commercial publishing contracts inevitably hand the sole authority for titling a book over to the publisher.
But on my experience that sometimes leads to other problems – such as the title that the marketing department imposes not correlating with the essence of the book. That’s happened to me a number of times, with the result that – every time – I was crucified by critics on the basis that I was so personally worthless and incompetent I couldn’t even write content to match what was promised by the title. Quite. Curiously, most of the people doing it were authors themselves, with books in direct competition with mine, who knew very well that titles are a publisher’s prerogative.
Setting aside the way these issues tweak the insecurities of reviewers with conflicting interests in the field, the fact remains that getting the title right is challenge for both publishers and authors, and that’s true even when the author IS the publisher – as is so often the case these days.
There is no ‘right’ way to go about titling a book, but my suggestion is this – and it applies whether you’re self-pubbing or have a contract with a publisher. If you give a publisher a really good title, they’re more likely to use it – something that’s also happened to me.
- Start with the logline. Er- you DO have a logline, don’t you? You know, the one-sentence summary of purpose?
- Figure out ways of rendering it into a couple of punchy words plus a subtitle.
- Sit on it for a while. The ‘put it in a drawer and think about it’ principle applies.
- Road-test it. Check with beta readers.
- Repeat as needed – even have two or three possible titles.
Do you have issues finding titles? Have you had problems with the ‘title not matching content’?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016