You’ve done it.
The book you slaved over for the past few months (or years) of your life is finally finished and about to go into final editing stage. Suddenly, somehow, the working title you thought was so cool 70,000 words ago, just doesn’t fit now that you’ve pulled everything together….
How do you choose a suitable title?
Let’s agree on one thing up front – the title of your novel is critical to its success. If you’re already standing in Watersone’s, what’s the first thing you check out about a book after being drawn in by the cover? You’re not being honest if you didn’t say ‘the title’. A titillating title can do about as much (if not more) for your book than a best-selling cover. Think about it – the cover traps only those people who are already in front of the bookshelf/Amazon page. When people actually read your book and go to tell other readers about it, they don’t say ‘I really enjoyed that book with the riveting cover shot of the two women aiming guns at each other’. They say, ‘I just read this fantastic book called ‘Sucker’ and I couldn’t put it down!’. The person on the receiving end of that plug then goes to Amazon’s website and types ‘Sucker’ in the search engine. At that point, the cover is not the initial draw, the title is.
So here are my three tips for choosing a title that does justice to your tome:
1. Make it short, sweet and snappy – Chances are, the shorter your title is, the easier it is for people to remember it (Zadie Smith’s ‘N.W.’ is a good example of this) and the key to a great title is people being able to remember it.
2. Make it memorable – ‘Short’ doesn’t always equal ‘good’, unfortunately. If the title is short it’s easier to remember, but if it has all the appeal of boiled cabbage, you’ll need to give it some ‘oomph’ to grab people’s attention. So, say your novel is about a vet who experiences a mid-life crisis and travels to Kenya to dedicate a year to providing veterinary services to giraffes on a reserve, your title could be ‘A Vet in Kenya’ or it could be ‘Flu Season in the Jungle’ or it could be ‘Dr. Giraffe’. The first title is the ‘boiled cabbage version. The second title is much more interesting, but still a bit long. The third has both punch and interest.
3. Make it relevant – Ensure that your title relates in some way to your novel. It could be as simple as a word, phrase or line said by one of the characters in your book that is memorable for some reason or encapsulates one of the major themes of the book. Alternatively, it could be your take on what the book is about – a summary of sorts.
Tomorrow, I’ll give a more detailed ‘how-to’ about coming up with a title…