En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Three)

Remember that old adage for retailers, “The customer is always right?” Well, for novelists seeking the perfect title, that should be “The audience is always right.”

Tip #4: Remember Your Audience! Novelists do a great job, on the whole, of keeping their audience in mind as they write. But sometimes when trying to come up with a catchy title or cover image, they go a bit far afield of that audience. The result is that readers who would love the story won’t even pick it up. And those who do pick it up may not find what they expected inside. So as you work on your title, remember who your reader is. For example:

  •  Age range. If your book would appeal mostly to Christian women in their 40s and up, then don’t use a trendy title that will appeal to the twenty-somethings. And watch out for technology phrases. Unless your certain your core audience is familiar with both the meaning and use of something technologial, steer clear. For example, using RAM, bits, bytes, and bauds as words in your title may work for a younger audience, or one that’s technologically savvy, but for older readers? Odds are good you’d lose ’em. (Or have them writing you letters scolding you for misspelling bites.)
  • Region. If your book is set in a particular region, are there phrases or even familiar sayings you can adapt to a title? Or, as we discussed in the character tip, are there landmarks that will position your story in a readers’ mind? In the Northwest, using words such as Cascade, Siskiyou, Sun Valley, and Snohomish create an immediate image in our minds. For example, the publishing house I work for, B&H Publishing Group, is based in Nashville. Can you guess the phrase that I hear ALL the time…and now say on a regular basis? Yup: Bless yer heart!
  • Education levels. This has nothing to do with your readers’ intelligence, but more with the fact that what appeals to those who’ve gone through advanced levels of education often is different than what appeals to those who finished their formal education in high school. And studies have shown that reading tastes of those with different educational backgrounds often differ as well.
  • Married and family status. Are your readers married? Single? Do they have kids or not? Are you readers of an age where their children are toddlers, teens, college-bound, etc? All of these factors come into play with what appeals. For example, I’ve been married almost 30 years, but my hubby and I never had children. So while I’m drawn to titles focusing on love or relationships, I’m not inclined to pick up a book that, by its title, is aimed at either someone single or someone with children. Unless, of course, the children are in jeopardy! Then that moves it from relationship into suspense, and I love that!
  • Gender. Yes, it does make a difference! Not that women aren’t drawn to guy titles, or vice versa, but you do need to remember your core consumer and how the title will both sound and feel to them.
  •  Tastes in music. Song titles can be great book titles, or great springboards to a title. And every generation has universally known titles. Think about it: Leader of the Pack, Close to You, Great Balls of Fire, Hotel California, Billion Dollar Babies, If God Was One of Us, and so on. Also, consider hymns. There’s a wealth of beautiful imagery in hymn titles. (note: you can’t copyright a title, so no worries about copyright infringement. But to be aware of Trademarks. Trademarks cannot be used.)

Also, keep in mind what may be uppermost on your readers’ minds. What are they feeling, struggling with, fearing, anticipating? For example:

  •  Economics (is your audience made up of those who are most likely hit by the current economic issues such as job and retirement loss?)
  • Issues with children
  • marital struggles
  • struggles with organized church
  • faith crises
  • Emotions (for example, with all the job and retirement loss in the last year, fear is a huge factor for many people. Titles that offer hope and peace, or a respite from the struggles, would draw readers’ attention)

Remember, good titles–combined with good cover art–create an image or mood and garner a visceral response from the reader. It’s my hope these tools will provide you with some assistance in coming up with two or three good options to send to you publisher when the time comes to do so.

So have at it–and happy titling!

 

 

 

 

 

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News You Can Use – August 30, 2011

Are Books Dead? Can Authors Survive? – Ewan Morrison presents a bleak picture of the industry. Agree or Disagree? (I disagree.)

The Golden Era of Books Isn’t Over – As the writer says, “The Golden Era is NOW.”

I Can’t Think of Anything to Blog About! – This is a fantastic article on ways to break your blogging writer’s block.

Economics Rewrites the Book Business – The Wall Street Journal show how recent events effect every publisher and thus every author.

What NOT to do if you get a Literary Agent – I wish I had written this article!

The Five Most Common Blogging Mistakes – Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Hmm. I guess I still have a lot to learn!

 

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To Pay or Not to Pay: For Your Own Media Travel Costs

I have had the privilege of knowing Ellie Kay since I first found her book proposal in the slush pile while an editor at Bethany House. That proposal became the first of her fourteen published books. I later became her literary agent and together we have seen her wrestle with a number of issues related to a growing platform. From those humble beginnings in the late 90s Ellie has been on nearly every major radio and television program including Nightline (twice) and was a regular on ABC’s “Good Money” for quite some time. I invited her to be our guest blogger on the question of whether or not an author should pay their own way to a media opportunity. I know you will find her thoughts insightful. Make sure to visit her web site at www.elliekay.com and get her newest book The 60 Minute Money Workout.

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One question authors often ask is, “Where should I put my marketing dollars?” When you have an opportunity to go on a national show but you have to fund the trip yourself, how can you make sure it’s worth what I call the “Media Investment.”

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Fun Fridays – Aug. 26, 2011

Don’t tell me you haven’t done this with your own books.

I’ll admit that after leaving a bookstore my clients tend to have their books face-out.

[I do not recommend moving books around! Publisher pay good money for product placement and the poor booksellers have enough to worry about.]

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A Matter of Perspective

During a recent visit to my local bank, I produced a document bearing the Virginia State seal. The banker commented on how terrible the seal is for men.

What an odd thing to say!

Mrs. Judith Gue taught third grade at the small private school I attended in a bucolic part of Virginia. Mrs. Gue was a plump woman who favored silk dresses, kept a paddle on her desk as an unspoken and ever-present threat, smoked cigarettes like a fiend and had also taught my mother. She relished the first story in the Virginia history book, about how Sir Walter Raleigh covered a mud puddle with his cloak so his queen’s feet would not be sullied. Pride filled her voice when she shows us the seal, speaking of “Victory over Tyrants” for our great state. The woman depicted is the Roman Goddess Virtus, the goddess of virtue, and the defeated man is a tyrant. I have my doubts that the men responsible for the seal, designed in 1776, were raging feminists.

I said to the banker, “You’re not a native, are you?”

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Two)

First, here are the answers to last week’s questions:

Name That Tone!

The Boneman’s Daughters–chilling

Redeeming Love–romantic

The Shunning–Amish

The Riddlemaster of Hed–fantastical

A Vase of Mistaken Identity–whimsical

Without a Trace–suspensful

Three Weddings & a Giggle—humourous and romantic

Name that Genre!

Kidnapped–adventure

Sister Chicks Down Under—witty women’s fiction

The Lightkeeper’s Ball—historical romance

Deadly Pursuit—suspense

The Twelfth Prophecy, A.D. Chronicles—biblical fiction

Okay, now, on to Tip #3 for crafting strong titles. As USA channel puts it, Characters welcome! Ever and always, Keep Your Characters in Mind. Sometimes the best title for a book focuses on the character.

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News You Can Use

World’s Highest Paid Authors – According to Forbes – August 2011.

Four Top Twitter Feeds for Book Lovers

How an Author Can Use Google+ – Fascinating new social network. Worth adding to your circle? And click here for a complete guide to Google+.

Who Do You Write Like? – This little word game has you paste clips of your writing and it tells you which classic author your style echoes. Mine? H.P. Lovecraft, who is probably best known as a writer of weird fiction. How is that for irony?

The Danger of Using Stock Photos – The Caustic Cover Critic blog found these three book covers that use the same image.

Presidential Reading List – This is a list of the 23 books President Obama has read since he took office. Here is a list of his Summer Reading List according to ABC News. And here is a link to a discussion of the 95 books President Bush read in 2006.

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The Woman Behind the Man

by Steve Laube

Thirty years ago today a beautiful young lady said “I do” and we have been married ever since. They say that behind every good man is an even better woman. I couldn’t agree more. Through the ups and downs of life, my wife Lisa has been the foundation of our home and raised three incredible daughters.

I can safely say that The Steve Laube Agency would not be what it is today without her efforts behind the scenes. Her consistent prayers, her pursuit of God, and her love for me have made it all possible. She has been there through every agonizing twist and turn.

My sentimental side lacks a little polish and words tend to fail me. So in a simple way, today on our 30th wedding anniversary, I would like to honor my wife and say “I love you” and “Thank you for all that you do.” I am humbled to be married to such an amazing woman of God.

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Coming Full Circle

by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Today’s guest blog is from Kim Vogel Sawyer a best-selling author whose books have topped the sales charts and won awards since 2005, when she left her elementary school teaching job to write full time. Her books have won the Carol Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Her stories are designed to offer hope and encouragement to her readers. Kim sees a correlation between the writing of a good story and God’s good plan for every life, and she hopes her stories encourage readers to seek God’s will in their own personal lives. Bestselling author Tracie Peterson says: “Kim Vogel Sawyer is an exceptional storyteller who is sure to please fans of historical fiction. Her attention to detail and love of God shines through.”

In addition to writing, Kim Vogel Sawyer is a popular speaker, freely sharing her testimony of God’s grace and healing-both physical and emotional-in her life. She and her husband Don reside in Hutchinson, Kansas, and have three daughters and four grandchildren. She is active in her church and loves singing, acting, playing handbells, quilting, and chocolate!

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In 2002, as my health was crumbling to the point that full-time teaching was no longer a possibility and I didn’t know what I was going to do, my dad–feeling as though I needed a major lift–took it upon himself to make my publishing dream come true. He sent a story I’d written, titled A Seeking Heart, to Steve Laube, who, at the time, owned a self-publishing company called ACW Press. And Steve agreed to help me get it into print.

Thus began a journey beyond the scope of my wildest imaginings.

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