Friday, July 23, 2010

Title Envy


Okay, I've seen a lot of blog posts lately about book covers. A good cover can lure us in for a good (or bad) read, or capture so much about a book. Or not.

But what about book titles?

Take Twilight, for instance. Gorgeous title. Okay, gorgeous cover, too. But the original name, Forks, just didn't cut the mustard. Heck, it couldn't even squeeze the mustard, either.

Giving my manuscript a title isn't easy for me. Just think. It's the first thing an agent will see when you send them a query. It's the first words a potential reader will read when they see your book on a shelf, or online. It has to mean EVERYTHING. And often I hear that even after you've got that perfect title, a publisher might make you change it anyway!

So forget about covers for a while. What about titles? Have you ever bought a book because the title was just too delicious?

64 comments:

Jess of All Trades said...

I love titles. I'll usually at least pick up a book with a cool title. I dunno... I think your working title up there is pretty brilliant ;D

I mean, come on, if it worked for "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius".... right? Right? :D

Mohamed Mughal said...

It's true that titles are what initially draws us to books. But I don't read a book solely for its title. I leaf through it, skim the table of contents, read the beginning, sample text and prose in and around the middle, then, if it still has my interest, it's mine! :)

Hey, I just posted this week's Friday Friends on my blog; it's you, and it's the cool diagram you did on writers' sensitivities. Let's see what my readers think of your medical analyses :)

Have a great weekend, Lydia!

Mohamed

Theresa Milstein said...

Titles draw me in too. But don't get too worried. Some editor or agent wasn't worried about Meyer's boring writing style, repetitiveness, or bad title. She still got a lucrative book contract and a title change. I guess they couldn't do anything about the other stuff. She had the right premise at the right time.

Nicole MacDonald said...

It needs to be succinct I think.. But I quite like the Fantasy series that have a name which covers the series and then individual titles for each book... not sure why ;p

Piedmont Writer said...

Eat, Pray, Love was like that for me. I loved that title. Another was Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch. I just had to read those books.

I spend hours with my titles and pray that if they ever do find their way to publication they make it through.

Sarah Enni said...

I love some titles that are longer and just reeeeeally interesting to me for some reason. Examples: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter; Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned; The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner; Let the Great World Spin. It isn't always practical to have names like that (and titles like The Passage or Shiver or Mist work also), but titles that are poetic really stick with me.

Vicki Rocho said...

Sure, titles and covers are a wicked team working to seduce me. If one doesn't do it the other usually does!

KarenG said...

Great post! Was Twilight really called Forks originally? Holy crap that would have changed everything if they'd kept that horrible title!!

Aubrie said...

Oh yes, titles always catch my attention! "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" was one that did.

When I brainstorm my title, I make a list of ten possible titles and then pick one from there.

Good luck with your title!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Lydia... just love your working title. Good titles are extremely important as they will first attract an agent (we wish) and then will interest an editor (we hope) and finally will lure readers (we pray).
Though I am attracted by unusual and interesting titles, I go through few random pages to see if I will like the book.

Erinn said...

I normally write a LONG list of titles at least 20 and then come up with the one I like the best.

My favorite is "How to defeat evil and become a rock star in the process."
Although I have yet to officially name my novel that.

B.E. Sanderson said...

LOL, that's how I ended up with Fearless Jones by Walter Mosley. The title grabbed me and the book delivered. =o)

Mary said...

Twice I've chosen books by 'delicious' titles. Twice I've been disappointed.
I shy away from long titles because I figure if it's too wordy the book will be too wordy.
I like to have a working title and then allow the piece to change it when I'm done.

Janet Johnson said...

I honestly can't think of an example, but I'm positive I have. The first thing you see after all.

On my current ms, I used a working title, never intended to be the final title, but it influenced every critique I got. And not for the positive.

Indigo said...

I've had a hard time coming up with my current title. Finally it clicked and when it did, I knew it worked perfectly for my WIP. Titles usually come easier for me, this one...ugh.

I admit to picking up a book because the title intrigued me. (Hugs)Indigo

Abby said...

I actually love that working title. I think I'd pick up the book if I saw it in the bookstore.

I'm really bad at coming up with titles, so I'm totally in awe of people who can come up with amazing ones. The Forest of hands and teeth was one book that I keep on looking at because of the title. It's the same with music titles. Regina Spektor has some of the most amazing titles that can be simple yet are the essence of the whole song.

Brenda Drake said...

Titles are so important to me, I can't even start writing a new novel without the title in my head.

Bee said...

A good title always is appealing just like how appealing an eye-catching cover can be...but ultimately the back cover summary is what works as the hook! :D



I guess.

Walt M said...

A title only gets me to pick up a book and look at it. The rest of the package is what drives the purchase for me.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes! I picked up Ally Carter's "I'd tell you I love you but then I'd have to kill you" because it cracked me up.

Mary McDonald said...

I hate to admit it, but I'm terrible with remember titles of many books I read. I remember my favorites, but sometimes when I pick a book, I look at the cover, the author and then flip it over to see the blurb.

My poor memory makes it hard for me to chat on the Amazon forums because I'll try to respond to someone's plea for a good book with, "Uh, yeah, I read one just like what you're looking for, but I can't recall the title."

That said, I had a hard time coming up with my title. I think it fits, but it's also not as original as I wanted.

Alexandra Shostak said...

I've definitely bought books that had cool titles--a couple of my favorite books actually initially caught my interest because the cover AND the title caught my attention.

Also... sometimes I get finished with a book, and I go "Huh? That title had NOTHING to do with this book!"

Crimey said...

Titles will tempt me to read the blurb of a book, but they've never sold me on a book. The summary and a quick read inside does that. All and all those, who doesn't love a great title!

Jaydee Morgan said...

Yes, I'm definitely drawn to a good title and cover design. Unfortunately, coming up with titles is a painful process for me. It's something I need to focus more time on in the future.

Liza said...

My favorite title lately? The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The title hooked me, and the book did too.

Liza said...

My favorite title lately? The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The title hooked me, and the book did too.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't think I've ever purchased a book based on title alone, but a cool cover has often swayed my decision.

storyqueen said...

I love titles! Almost always, I think of my titles before I have the story...and the title gets me excited to write the story that fits it.

Recent title I love: Cabinet of Wonders.

Shelley

Joanne said...

A title alone will not get me to buy the book. But it will get me to pick it up, and look inside to consider the story. So I agree, that title is crucial to keep readers from passing by.

Mayowa said...

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; now that's a great title.

That's also what every writer thinks their novel is :)

Great post.

Munk said...

It makes you wonder how "Moby Dick" ever got past the editor's desk.

Jolene Perry said...

Title is crucial. It's scary.
I've wondered more than once if some agents just hit delete and the words "Query - insert horrible title here"

WritingNut said...

Yes, all the time! For me, sometimes it's the title that grabs you more than the cover art.

I too, am having a HARD time titling my work--I haven't as yet, but have gone through many "possibilities"!

JEM said...

I love titles! It's usually a combo, but the Frankie Landau-Banks book's title is awesome and makes me want to read the book! Okay, so does the cover.

Terri Tiffany said...

Yes! Today in fact I was browsing the library and a title caught my eye. I was actualling brainstorming on the way home about some and the ones that would make me want to read that book--anything with beaches or friends or love:))

Connie said...

I wouldn't buy a book for the title, but a great title will make me pick up a book and consider it.

Nicole Murray said...

I hate to admit, but its the title that strikes me first, when I'm picking though the shelves with no particular plan.

Needful Things, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Headless Cupid. Ya gotta love titles, if not the book after you've read it.

lbdiamond said...

Yup, a title will make me pick up a book.

I suck at titling my novels. Just sayin'.

E. Arroyo said...

A title does have to catch my eye if I don't know the author.

Saumya said...

Yes...I am very guilty of picking up books because of the title and cover!! Haha, I love the picture you've got there.

Rena said...

I love titles and covers. Usually, I come up with a title before I'm done with a story. That's not the case with my current WIP though. Ugh.

Bossy Betty said...

I love a quirky title!!

Krispy said...

Titles don't get as much rec as they should, but they're definitely an important part of the package. I didn't read "A Great and Terrible Beauty" until this year, but I remembered it from when it first came out because of the title. The book cover didn't do much for me, but the title stuck.

I'm no good at titling things, which is probably why most of my WIP are untitled or have a word/phrase tacked onto them as a working title - just so people know what I'm talking about (using Untitled Story 5 isn't very helpful). :P

Stina Lindenblatt said...

No really. But the cover has grab my attention first, and the blurb has to suck me in for the title to work.

I'm no good at coming up with titles, either. Sometimes I get lucky, and sometimes the titles are just plan sucky. ;)

Lisa Gail Green said...

It will definitely make me pick up a book, but that opening still has to rock for me to bring that baby home. I'm a tough customer!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Yeah, sometimes the titles really make me pick up the book. I bought a couple of books when I was on holiday because of the title. :)

aspiring_x said...

coming up with a title is the HARDEST!!! i'm still unsure about mine!

Laura Pauling said...

Definitely. The title, the cover hook me in and then I read the backflap. I think it's very important! Thanks for commenting on my post! :) Nice to meet you.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love titles, but sometimes have a hard time picking them out. Other times they just pop into existance. :)

Usually I prefer short titles, but one title that has stuck with me lately is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It works so well with the book!

Susan Fields said...

I think hush, hush is a great title, but I still don't really see how it relates to the book. I really like the short titles, like Speak or Inkheart.

DL Hammons said...

For me, deciding to pick up a book and read the jacket is a combination of the title and the front cover. I think I'm pretty good at naming my books...in fact I love naming so much I give all my chapters titles as well. :)

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

For me to pick up a new book it is all about the title and cover image. Then I'll read the blurb on the back.

Sarah Mullen Gilbert said...

I usually remember cover art more specifically than titles, but a title like "I am a genius of unspeakable evil and I want to be your class president" was too good to pass up :)

Francine said...

Hi,

Yep a Title can say a lot and have absolutely little to do with content. And, specific covers often catch one's eye (gory)and not always for the right reasons.
I'm a must read blurb and first page at least and rapid browser of middle, if it don't grab me by the throat it goes back on the shelf.

Must say I love it when authors' come up with superb "one word" titles that leap off the bookshelf and say "buy me", (you know what I am) "my title reveals all".

Example: Mo Hayder's Tokyo - scary thriller.

So too with "two word" titles.
Examples: Harry's Game by Gerald Seymour - Lion's Game by Nelson Demille. Both terrorist based novels.

Long titles smack of lazy attitude to thinking succintly! Though seemingly obligatory in ruddy category romance novels: airing ludicrous in some titles.

best
F

Talli Roland said...

I think titles can make or break a book - but less so than the cover, perhaps. I don't think I've ever bought a book because of its title but I may have put it down because of it. I hope that makes sense!

Alexandra Crocodile said...

I think titles are important, because that's something to remember! Also, if you're shopping online, you're title can stand out in a list of other titles if it has the right title:)

Heather said...

Titles are tough because they can affect sales. They definitely can draw me in as a reader. I've been struggling with the title of a book of mine that is going out on submission to editors. The title can grab an editor or agent as well which makes me want to get it just right!

Carol Kilgore said...

Yes I have. More than once. And usually I love the book. I wish I could easily name my own manuscripts, but it's almost as hard as writing a synopsis.

Dawn Simon said...

Yes, a good title can totally hook me. (And your mock title is hilarious!)

Titles are funny things, aren't they? A good title might seem like it must have been so obvious/easy to come up with--until you try and name a book! The title of my last manuscript hit me right away and I still like it; this time, I'm less certain.

Nice post, as always. :)

Julie Musil said...

I not only pick a book based on the title, but on the looks of the book cover too! Shallow maybe, but true. Well, I also have to be interested in what the jacket flap says. Maybe not too shallow after all!

Heather Taylor said...

When I was 13, I was dying to know who "Gossip Girl" was.

Jen said...

I've definitely jumped on the title bandwagon! When I see something that has such a great title I can't help look away! That's how I picked up some of my favorite books, just based on the title alone, isn't it fun!!!

For me titles are important but at the beginning I stick with the major goal or role of the MC, The Traveler is based on an alternate world where people travel... simple enough. Getting to Peloria is as simple as it sounds, my MC getting to peloria and last but not least THE COLLECTOR is about a serial killer who collects his victims. I'm not saying they're going to stick but I am saying I keep my options open!

Sandy Shin said...

Titles draw me in, too, and I admit I've had many moments of title envy. A catchy title will definitely make me give the summary a closer read, but I've never bought a book depending solely on the title.

It's so difficult to find that perfect title for your WiP; I've found it helpful to make a list and then slowly narrow it down.

lindsey said...

I used to refuse to title my poems because I didn't want to take away from the poem itself...and then I realized the title can do so much work for you. It can provide the setting, it can generate the mood, it can tell you about the narrator or the reader, it can contain the one easily overlooked thing that's the key to everything. Titles are almost my favorite part now.

I love short story titles, which seem to me to be a little...harder, harsher. "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," "For Esme - With Love and Squalor," "A Good Man is Hard to Find," "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz." Maybe my favorite short story title: Alice Munro's "Who Do You Think You Are?"--also the name of the collection in which it appears, but only in Munro's native Canada. The collection is titled "The Beggar Maid" everywhere else...and I kind of dig that Canada was not afraid to print a book with that question on the cover.

 
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