Wednesday 6 July 2011

Inspiration for a Title

I have a wip and a new work both in need of a title, and I've been thinking about what it takes to make a good book title.

The biggest question of all is 'what does the title need to convey'? The answer isn't simple. These are the main points I've been considering:

Do you want the title to convey an aspect of the story?

Can you tease the reader with a title which conveys the action of the story without spoiling it? What is it about the story that makes it unique?

A good approach to this is to start with your logline. If you haven't come up with one yet then it's a good idea to do so before attempting to title the book. Coming up with a good logline is an art of its own, so it helped me a lot to research the art before coming up with one. Once you have a logline you have a core statement from which you can key a title.

Is there a message or theme which could be conveyed in the title?

Does your book have an underlying message, moral story or fable? Is there a snappy way this underlying message can be conveyed in the title?

How well will the title convey the genre of the story?

If the title conveys the story genre, all's well and good. It doesn't hurt to do so and in some situations it can be an advantage (such as when your book is listed out of context and without a cover image). What has to be avoided is a title which indicates the wrong genre, or is confusing about the genre. For example a title that sounds historical for a story set in the future.

Will the title reach out to the right kind of reader?

Every title has an effect on a reader, but that effect can be hard to predict, since everyone reacts differently to the next person. This is one of the reasons to get feedback from others on your title choices before making a commitment.

What do you want the reader to think of when they see the title?

Even if everyone reacts differently there is still scope to create an impression with the title. Having answered the question What do you want the reader to think of? the next step is to find ways of conveying that in words. Again, experimentation and feedback are key.

How will the title look on the spine and the front cover?

Once in the shelf the spine is the only visible part of the book. How will the title look when viewed that way?

The title will probably come before cover art, but it is important to consider how it will look on the front of the book. A seventeen word title won't look great on any front cover or spine. Remember, the front cover will often be viewed as a small icon on websites and in catalogues, so whoever designs the cover needs a title they can make readable even at that small size.

Where else will the title be seen?

The title will often be seen without a cover image. This can happen on websites, in lists or catalogues, and the title may even appear without the author's name. These situations need to be considered when answering questions about what the title conveys to the reader.

How does your title compare?

There's a market for your book, and there are other authors writing for that market. Take a look at successful books in your genre that are comparable with your work. Their titles work, or at least don't harm sales, so it's worth considering why to see if there is an approach you can use.

Having considered all these points I try to come up with a small selection of options for the title and begin with my favourite, seeking feedback.

I've been through this process for my wip and here is the logline and title I came up with:

Wishing to free his sweetheart from a government enforced breeding programme, a young man finds himself competing for her with a ruthless underworld boss. - Bolter

This was after a lot of agonising and many options considered. The back cover blurb can be seen at the 'Bolter Baron' tab on this blog.

So, my questions for you...

How do you set about creating a title for your book?

What do you think of Bolter as a title? Do you have a suggestion for me?

Finally, I'd like to say thanks to my followers for sticking with me while I've been a bit sporadic with my posts. You're a great bunch.