Book Business

I Couldn’t Think of a Good Title for This Post

Some writers love to come up with titles for their stories, articles, or books. Some hate it. Some are good at it, some are awful. But we all have to do it, like it or not. A title can make or break a pitch, even though editors will often change our titles.

So here are my twelve top tips (try saying that ten times fast!) for titling your tomes:

  1. Know your market.

If you’re writing for the Christian market, some words and phrases should not be in your title. A title that enchants women may not appeal to men. Or kids. And so on.

  1. Define the genre, tenor, tone, and theme you want your title to convey.

A great title for a Gothic romance probably won’t fly for your picture book. Obviously.

  1. Review at least twenty titles in your genre.

Or 100. Become a student of titles, especially in your genre. Figure out why you find some more intriguing or compelling than others.

  1. Brainstorm a list of words related to your story, article, or book.

Sometimes a title leaps out at you. At other times you have to go fishing. And brainstorming words and phrases that relate, even tangentially, to your piece may spark inspiration.

  1. Circle or highlight words that might work as a single-word title.

I know many people don’t like single-word titles, but I’m kind of partial to them, myself. Holes. Dune. It. 1984 (okay, that last one’s cheating, but just a little).

  1. Start experimenting with different word combinations.

Some titles seem to be delivered to the author, while others take time and effort—and play—until something “clicks.” I wonder if that’s what happened with Neverwhere and Dragonspell.

  1. From those lists, compile a list of twenty or more possible titles.

Don’t stop until you have twenty, even if you think one or two are positively, absolutely, “the winner.”

  1. Narrow your list to 4-5 possibilities.

Try not to focus only on your “favorites,” at this point. It’s too soon for that. Shoot for variety.

  1. Compare your short list to the list of titles from other books, especially those in your genre.

Are any too similar to someone else’s title? Do any not sound like a title in your genre? Do they evoke what you want them to? (I recently chose a name for a children’s book that the editor thought could have been the title for a Stephen King novel, a possibility that had totally escaped my attention).

  1. Field test 4-5 titles.

For example, write the titles on 3×5 index cards and show them to friends and acquaintances, especially those who read in your genre. Ask not only “which one do you like?” but also “what does it suggest to you?”

  1. Ask a few more questions of your top title.

Does it “snap, crackle, and pop?” Does it lend itself to a sequel or series? Would your target audience be drawn to it? Etc.

  1. Run with it…but don’t fall in love with it.

Remember that your job in writing and pitching your work is to come up with a perfect title. But there’s a good chance a savvy editor will make it better…or replace it entirely. That’s a good thing.

Of course, you may do all of the above, and still not be excited about your title. That’s okay. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

You may want to start the above process again, and do it as many times as necessary to “nail it.” That’s okay, too. It’s an art, not a science.

You may need to keep writing, using a “working title,” and praying that something better will leap out at you. Sometimes that happens—like the sudden realization that I should have called this post, “Creating a Title Wave.”

Leave a Comment

Your Money is Your Business or Keep a Lid on How Much Money You Make

How much should author friends reveal to each other about contracts or other business dealings when they have business with the same publisher?

I think it is a huge mistake to reveal the amount of your advances to other authors. This is similar to finding out the salary of the co-worker in the office cubicle next to yours. When I was a retail store manager we had major problems when salaries were revealed, a near fist-fight between two people who had been friends.

Money is viewed as a measure of worth; i.e. a measure of the worthiness of your work.

Read More

Six Questions for a Literary Agent

1. What should a client expect from you as an agent? That I will work hard. That I will keep on top of the ever changing marketplace. That I will maintain my integrity as a businessman of honor and honesty. That I will protect your interests. That I will tell you the truth, about the industry, about your writing, about your ideas.
Read More

Marketing vs. Publicity

by Steve Laube

Recent I have run into a common misunderstanding. Some writers use the words “marketing” and “publicity” (or P.R. “public relations”) as synonyms when actually one is a subset of the other.

There are marketing departments that have a publicity division or a marketing department that outsources their publicity. The two go hand in hand and should compliment each other.

The best way I can define it is to say that:

Marketing is all about creating multiple impressions.

This can be through ad placement, in-store displays, banner ads, reviews, contests, etc.

Publicity is all about meeting the author.

This is done through radio and television as well as through all forms of social media.

The difference is that author “feels” publicity because they are involved. They do not “feel” marketing, per se.

Read More

Writers Learn to Wait

Ours is a process industry. Good publishing takes time. Unfortunately time is another word for “waiting.” No one really likes to wait for anything. Our instant society (everything from Twitter to a drive-thru burger) is training us to want things to happen faster. Awhile ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved. Below are some of the things for which a writer must learn to wait.

Waiting for the Agent

We try our best to reply to submissions within 6-8 weeks and are relatively good about that. But if your project passes the first review stage and we are now reviewing your entire manuscript remember that reading a full manuscript is much more demanding than reading a few short proposals.

Read More

Actually, It IS Rocket Science

I love rockets and space travel stuff. I grew up watching Mercury, Gemini and Apollo manned missions to space and built plastic models of various rockets and capsules. The technology still awes me. At age twelve I watched liftoffs of manned missions and wrote down the comments of the flight …

Read More

Reaching a New Generation of Readers

Last Friday I posted a fun song about Millennials. Earlier this year a number of articles told of a Pew Research report that declared there are more Millennials in America than Baby Boomers. There are now over 75 million people ages 18-34. Boomers (ages 51-69) are no longer the largest demographic. …

Read More

Publishing Acronyms

After being in an industry for a while there is a natural tendency to speak in code. Acronyms flow freely and can be a foreign language to those new to the conversation. Below is an attempt to spell out some of the more common acronyms in the publishing industry and …

Read More