Monday, August 24, 2009

The Importance of Titles

One of the things that will make me pick up a book quickly is a catchy title. When I stroll through a bookstore, I will search for the best, most intriguing titles. It's hard to say what will pique my interest. Sometimes it's a clever rhyme, or alliteration, or a title that hints at a mystery.
I love the titles of Dick Francis books, because each one has a double meaning...not a double entendre, but one that could and does mean two things in the story. I'm currently re-reading my favorite Dick Francis, To The Hilt.
In this story, the title means "all the way" and it also refers to the hilt of the ceremonial sword of Prince Charles Edward which features in the story.
I was also thinking about how strolling through the library, a bookstore, a local thrift store...any place that has a lot of books...I read titles and try to imagine a story to fit that title. Have you tried this? It starts the creative juices flowing.
For my own works, the titles come pretty early in the process. So far, I haven't needed to change any of them with the editor. In fact, recently on The Edit Cafe, my editor picked out The Bartered Bride along with nine other titles that she really liked. You can read her list here.
Also on The Edit Cafe on Friday, JoAnne Simmons, editor of Heartsong Presents, listed her top five contemporary romances and top five historical romances for 2009. I'm so honored that The Bartered Bride made her list. To check out her other favorite titles, click here.
So, how do you choose your titles? Do story titles ignite your imagination? Have you ever spun stories and asked 'what if' questions when you see an intriguing title?


  1. I love a good title. Stieg Larson's book 'The girl with the dragon tattoo' has a cool title and it is one of the reasons that I picked it up. Titles matter I think. even though you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. The cover still matters :)

  2. I'm terrible with titles!!! My agent helped me fix my titles before we submitted the proposal to the publishing house. But unfortunately, my terrible titles are still listed for the Genesis contest! Oh well. I'm glad some people are gifted at titles! Because I'm certainly not!

  3. Congratulations on making the lists!

  4. Overall theme usually helps me define a title. Sometimes a poignant line in my ms gives it to me, too!

  5. I am horrible at titles. When I wander through a bookstore or someplace with a lot of books I wonder how these authors managed to come up with something interesting that also suits their books.

    Titles make me curious, too. Many times I'll pick up a book because of an interesting title.

  6. Tabitha, I've not read that book, but the title would make me pick it up for a look. And you're right (as I wait for my debut cover art to arrive) that the cover still matters.

    Jody, no worries about your Genesis titles...editors know that most titles are for working purposes only. It's cool that your agent brainstormed titles with you.

    Thanks, G!

  7. Eileen, I'd love to hear some of your titles. :)

    Cindy, have you ever grabbed an interesting title off the shelf, then wondered how they could be so misleading because it doesn't seem to match the story described at all?

  8. I confess. I judge books by the cover. Not only the title, but the artwork, layout and design.

    And congrats for making the list! (-:

  9. I LOVE titles!! I have a whole document filled with titles that I'd love to use someday. Sometimes brainstorming titles gets my creative juices going.

    Congrats on Bartered Bride! That's awesome - just like your title!

  10. Yes I have! It's even worse when the summary on back doesn't exactly match up with the story either. Or tells what happens in the first twenty pages but the rest of the story has nothing to do with it. Ugh!

  11. Congrats, Erica, on making both lists! Yay!!!!

    My favorite recent title of a book is "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." Who wouldn't be curious after that? And the story fits the book.

    I'm terrible at titles - glad there are marketing and sales people who know more about it than I do.

  12. CJ, I would expect you'd be all over the artwork and design, since you're such a good artist and graphic designer. :) I leave that stuff to the experts!

    Katie, I love the idea of a title document. You've given me an idea for some blog posts. :)

    Carla, Thank you!, and I so need to read that book. I just came across it again at a bookstore the other day. many books, so little time.