Guest post by Michael Nohoyos
Whether it’s your first memoir or novel or a sequel, there’s passion in every word and hundreds of hours of research and planning in your work. With so much effort put in, you want it to succeed, but there’s one hurdle left before you can publish your work and share it with the world — the title.
Alongside the cover art, your title needs to grab attention and draw the reader in. The title can make or break whether a consumer reads the blurb, but are there benefits to thoroughly fine-tuned titles beyond initial impression?
Titles That Slay: Four Key Features of Great Book Titles
It’s all well and good stating a title needs to be good, but what does this entail? Elevating a title from good to great is easier, when you know what to include and what to avoid. Incorporating the following key features will encourage more targeted audiences to peruse your work.
Especially in self-help manuals and guides, including the purpose of your book in the title helps a potential consumer find your book. For example, How to Make Money in the Stock Market informs a reader of the subject, premise, and the genre of the book, all in the title.
Match Keywords to Genre
Certain words and phrases can be associated with particular genres, and tailoring a title to an audience increases potential search hits. For example, the comedian Steve Martin titled his memoir Born Standing Up, while Keith Richards’ memoir is titled as the self-explanatory Life.
Engage their interest, but keep it punchy!
Adding a question, sense of deceit, or eluding to a twist in a title draws in readers who want to know what happens. Let the title sell itself by adding a little intrigue. Just remember that long titles can be off-putting, so keep it short. If you want more detail, consider a subtitle.
Alison Bechdel calls her graphic novel memoir about her family Fun Home, to be contrasted with “fun house.”
Keep it PG
Adding expletives, sexualizations, or inventing headline-worthy titles is tempting, but in doing so you’re stifling the potential for those who’ve read and love your work to share it with peers.
Titles That Slander: Three Common Mistakes
It’s easy to get carried away with naming a book and fall into the trap of extreme creativity — or the opposite. Both are detrimental, so let’s discuss the Three Most Common Mistakes writers make when creating a title.
Single Word Titles
Simplicity is the heart of commerce, but you can get too simple: single word titles rarely rank as first in searches (unless written by a celebrity), are easy to confuse with similar words, and convey very little about the content. Stick to at least two or three words, and consider an informative subtitle.
Being Too Descriptive
On the other end of the spectrum, using complex vocabulary will put consumers off picking up or clicking on a book. Keep descriptors intriguing but simple to attract more potential buyers.
Does your title include words that could be considered colloquial, offensive in other countries, or appealing to a niche market? Target global audiences with universal language, and do research to be sure your choice is inoffensive in other countries and cultures.
Create a Unique Title: Brainstorming Techniques
Months of work and dedication have culminated in your book, and it’s time to create your title. The task can be daunting, so let’s discuss techniques you can use to create a unique title for your book.
Reference the Contents
Choosing a pertinent phrase or event within your book to reference in the title not only ties the title to the contents, it offers a glance into the plot — one that can be irresistible to avid readers. A character name or plot device can also work, if they’re unique.
The title for Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat Pray Love, gives you a basic idea of what the author does in the book.
Use Word Generators and Formulas for Freewriting
Plenty of resources exist online to aid title production, including formulas for title structure and word generators for added descriptors. Note any you find appealing and start playing with the words on paper. Something might just jump out at you.
Share Your Inspiration
You can reference works that inspired your story. Did a Shakespeare play or sonnet inspire your book? Perhaps a song or movie? Choosing an obscure line, an anecdotal comment or the setting if they’re similar eludes to your initial vision while adding more intrigue.
The title of David Niven’s memoir, The Moon’s a Balloon, is a reference to a poem by E.E. Cummings.
Get Witty With Words
Alliteration is a fun and simple way to make a title interesting and memorable. Find synonyms for words and play with combinations. You might just make something so catchy, it sticks.
Frank McCourt’s autobiography, Angela’s Ashes, has found popularity due in part to its title’s use of alliteration.
Ask Your Peers
Once you have a title (or two or three), show it to trusted peers and ask for feedback. What does the title tell them? Does it pique their interest? Would they read the blurb? Peer reviews are invaluable for understanding the market and getting outside perspectives.
About the author: A lifestyle writer and editor at Write my research paper, Michael Dehoyos contributes to numerous sites and publications while assisting companies with marketing strategy concepts.