One of the most difficult—and important—things we did when I worked in the publishing house was come up with titles for our authors’ novels. Sometimes it was a breeze, either because the author’s title was spot-on or because the story lent itself organically to a certain title. But more often than not, it was a long process of back-and-forth with the author, marketing, and sales. So how can you, the author, develop a title that works well? Give the following tips a try.
1. Tone. Be sure your title reflects the tone of your story accurately. A whimsical title on a book that is dark and tense will leave the reader feeling suckered or betrayed. Avoid disconnects, so that when the reader is drawn by the title, what they find on the back cover and in the content will only make that draw even stronger. Be sure the title creates a sense of whimsy, tension, danger, romance, mystery, fantasy, the future…whatever best reflects the tone of your story.
Okay, so ready for a challenge? Based on the titles below…
Name That Tone!
The Boneman’s Daughters
The Riddlemaster of Hed
A Vase of Mistaken Identity
Without a Trace
Three Weddings & a Giggle
2. Genre. This goes hand in hand with tone. While it’s important to reflect the tone of your book, you also need to be sure the title fits the genre you’re writing. For example, many contemporary novels have a strong thread of romance in them, but you don’t want to put a title that focuses too much on the romance element. Those who read romances have specific expectations, some of which won’t be met by a contemporary novel. The beauty of genre, though, is that we often mix genres. Cozy mysteries, for example, mix mystery with a bit of a whimsical tone. Romantic adventure–self-evident. So you can use that interplay in titles. One caveat: you can offset the genre focus with the cover art. For example, a title like The Longing Heart could be romance, could be contemporary. How the designer treats the cover will clarify genres for the reader.
Name that Genre!
Sister Chicks Down Under
The Twelfth Prophecy, A.D. Chronicles
Part two coming next week!