Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Power of A Catchy Title

On the ACFW course loop this week the topic is Contests, and the assignment is: What draws you to a book in a bookstore? What is most likely to make you purchase a book?

Answers have ranged from author's name recognition, to cover art, to backcover copy, to catchy titles, to great first lines.

I love a great first line, myself. In fact, my favorite first line of all time comes from To The Hilt by Dick Francis. "I don't suppose my stepfather much minded dying: that he almost took me with him wasn't really his fault." Isn't that great? And the entire book is just as amazing.

But I also love a catchy title. One of the reasons I love Dick Francis' books is that the titles always contain a double meaning.

But to illustrate the power of a catchy title, I was wandering the stacks of my local library one day looking for something to catch my eye. I enjoy reading mysteries, and our library shelves mysteries in their own section. After determining I'd read all the Ellis Peters books and all the Elizabeth Peters books, and all the Anne Perry Inspector Monk books (can you tell what section I was in?) I decided to pick up something totally new. Trolling along, a book title caught my eye. What on earth could a book by this title be about?

It was Sarah Graves' The Dead Cat Bounce. What a great title. I pulled the book down and read the back cover. Intriguing. I took the book home and read it in two days. I enjoyed it so much, I went to the bookstore and bought it, and the next three or four in the series that were available at that time. Since then, I've purchased each new book in the Home Repair is Homicide series, even going so far as to purchase them in hardback when her publisher made the jump to publishing the books in that format first. There are now 11 books in the series, and I've enjoyed them all. All that from one eye-catching title in the library.

So, what is it that makes you pick up a book? The title? The cover art? The author's name? And have you ever found such a great title you just had to read the book?

Oh, and for the record, a dead cat bounce is a stock market term. Often when a stock is in free-fall, it will rebound slightly before bottoming out. Because even something as limp and futureless as a dead cat will bounce when it is dropped. No cats were injured or killed in the writing of this book. :)


  1. Great post, Erica. I must admit I go to the bookstore to look for certain authors. Rarely do I buy a book that I don't know the author or some hype about the book. I love Dick Francis, too. My all-time favorite mystery author. Since you read so many mysteries, do you write them too? I've taken the leap and am writing a mystery now for the Genesis contest. My first mss was also a mystery, but the writing was like most people's first books--incredibly bad. I still like the characters and the premise, though.

  2. I love reading mysteries, but I've never tried to write one. I'll be praying your mystery finds favor in both the Genesis contest and editors' eyes. :)

  3. I love mysteries and write them. Coming up with a catchy title and first sentence are hard. In my children's mystery the first sentence is "Where?" Thought that was short and snappy.

    Sarah Graves books are wonderful good reads but I never read the title you mentioned. Good thing I just happen to be in the library right now. . . . :)

  4. I think I pick up a book based on the author or the buzz I've heard. If I were shopping blind, then it would have to be title power since most books are shelved with the spine out =)