This Business of Writing

Tips on How to Title Your Novel

In How-to's, The Craft of Writing on March 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm

by C. Patrick Schulze

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Understand your title is a sales tool. You therefore, should approach your title with the same eyes you use to design your web site, your bookmarks and your elevator pitch. It’s a premier component of your marketing.

So, how might you decide upon this all-important aspect of your book? As with so many things in our chosen field, there are dozens of ideas to consider. In this article, I’ll offer a few and hope some hit the mark with you.

First, your title could spring from its storyline and your target audience, those who might purchase your book. Look to the plot, your major characters, special articles or powers of your hero, or even his quest for sources of inspiration.

Because I can, I’ll use my current manuscript as our example of how to pull from within the story itself. My novel is about two unrelated men who develop a bond reserved for few but brothers and how a woman and war disrupt their relationship. The title? Born to be Brothers. Whether you like the title or not, I’m certain you see how is springs from the story itself. I’m also sure you can see how The Lord of the Rings came from a talisman within its story. Where might the inspiration for the title, Gone with the Wind have come? How about War and Peace? All these titles originated within the conceptual ideas of their stories. Your title can too.

If you review the titles mentioned above, you might also notice they adhere to the tone, the feel if you will, of their stories. This tells us another important aspect of your book title is how it should pull from the feeling you wish your reader to garner as they decide to purchase it.

Search for some sort of emotional pull and tug on it with all your might. Strive to tweak their curiosity or their fear, their love, their fear of love, whatever string you can pluck, pluck it. Quite often, that implies relationships.

As with so many things in life, your title needs to paint a picture for your prospective reader. The title, Buy Me, will not encourage many purchases whereas, Buy Me for the Health of it, might.

Try to find a phrase that tugs at their ear as well as their heart. Alliteration works well, as do catch phrases, rhymes and clichés where you’ve changed one word. Keep it short, five words or less is a good rule of thumb. Keep in mind your title won’t tug at anything if they can’t pronounce or understand the words of your title.

I’ve mentioned your title is a sales tool, so try to think like a salesperson. The reader unfamiliar with your writing will give your title a quick once-over, then move on. In that ten-second time frame, it needs to hook them. So, think of your title as a sales pitch. I know that word conjures negative emotions, but a sales pitch simply tells them what’s in it for them.

Consider how your title will read on the spine of a book as it sits on a shelf among your many competitors.

Here’s an interesting tip. Make sure your title is Google-able. (Say that three time fast.) This means you should insure your title doesn’t compete with others. Gone with the Winded will just cause too much confusion when people search for your novel.

Here’s yet another tip of interest I found when I researched this article. Create your title from a metaphor of your story in iambic pentameter. (An unrhymed line with five words where each word contains one accented and one unaccented syllable.) Wow! If you can do this, let me know.

For more on how to title your novels, read THIS article by Rachelle Gardner or THIS article from my blog.

Until we meet again, know I wish you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze

Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers”

  1. […] Tips on How to Title Your Novel by C. Patrick Schulze Visualize it on the spine as it sits on a shelf. Well right on. I kind of like to do that anyway. […]

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