Monday, January 17, 2011

Why Titles Can't Suck

Ever browsed a bookshelf and just HAD to pull out a certain book just based on its title?  I'm sure everyone's done it.  What other way can we navigate bookshelves?  Read each and every back cover blurb?  Well, while that's essentially what an agent does (query letters are basically back cover blurbs), if I'm swamped with query letters, I'll peruse the email subject lines until something catches my eye.  If something has a title that I just can't look away from, I'll go ahead and read that one, even if it wasn't the first in my queue to read (I read from oldest to newest).

The point is, your title can't suck.  Not only are you trying to get the attention of your readers once the book is finally published and you have a pretty cover (a subject all its own), the first step is getting the agent's attention.  Easier said than done, I know.  I suck at coming up with titles.  But the time you put into it will be worth it.  And make sure you research the title you would like to use: if it's been used, over used, will remind readers of something completely different, etc.

For your pleasure (and procrastination) here is a compilation of the best book titles (I'm a fan of 6, 10, 16, and 25, though the others shouldn't be discounted).

Which are your favorites?

What books have you picked up based solely on their titles (not on the list above)?

If you could title a book anything (doesn't have to be written, yours or otherwise) what would you title it?

Happy writing!


Rachel Harris said...

Titles are so hard . . . and even harder might be knowing that what you come up after hours, days or months of struggle, with will likely be changed by the publisher lol.
From the list, I only looked at the first 100, but these are the ones I am digging: #1 (haven't read it, don't really plan on it, but wow I stop every.single.time I see it), #6 (chocolate and apocalypse?), #7 (ha! I must research this on amazon now), #10, #13, #16 (love love love),#23, and #55.
Now off to request some of these from the library!

tiftruitt said...

My favorite title not on the list (at least I don't think it was...I got too distracted by the two Jane Austen books with some sort of paranormal creature attached to it. Adding Sea Monsters and Zombies to the end of a title doesn't make it great...and the books aren't so stellar either. Sorry. I digress)is The Lord of the Flies.

If I could title a book anything? I do enjoy the title of my dystopian - The Things Never Said, but my mom and I joke we're going to write a non-fiction book titled, Why the Hell am I Raising Your Kids? She works in childcare and I'm a teacher.

Unknown said...

It's interesting considering the fad of one word titles that most of these are phrases. Maybe I should be rethinking my clever one word title!

Tombstone said...

I have watched movie trailers where the movie looked interesting until I saw the title and thought, "Wow, that title sucks." And then I didn't want to see the movie anymore. Likewise, I feel the same about books. Sometimes the interesting cover art got me to read the back of the book which seemed interesting . . . until I read the title.

tiftruitt said...

to be honest, I don't think I've ever not picked up a book because of the title. I have not picked up a book because of the cover though.

btw. i just got an arc for a book entitled Ten Things We Did and Probably Shouldn't Have.

I think it's a pretty cute title.

Unknown said...

I guess you have proved your point, because I've either read the books, or based on a lot of these titles I would DEFINITELY not touch them with a barge pole. Likewise, I agree with the poster above about covers.

Josi Springs said...

I guess I'm weird. I never pay attention to titles or cover art until after I've read the back cover blurb. When I enter the bookstore, I randomly start pulling books from shelves and reading their backs. When a blurb catchs my eye, I'll read the first chapter before deciding whether or not to buy it. THEN I look at the title, author and cover art.

Karen Baldwin said...

I think I'd probably want to see why and what would happen if I did. I picked up Lovely Bones because it was an interesting book title.

Heather said...

I agree that a good title is really important. It's the first impression your book gets to make. I like titles that tell me something about the book, no matter how small or minor, a teaser if you will. I also love titles that make me curious. That will get me to pick up the book!

Unknown said...

I think Ally Carter comes up with some good YA titles:
* Heist Society
* Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy
* Only the Good Spy Young

Janine said...

There are a few books that I have tried and tried to get through because of their awesome titles. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Isn't my style, but bits of it are amazing and the title...I just want to love it so much.

Anonymous said...

I think, for me, it's more about the cover art. I ALWAYS judge a book by the cover, even though I know I shouldn't. For example: I read Luxe, A Great and Terrible Beauty, 13 Reasons Why, and If I Stay all because of the catchy covers.

Great link, thanks for sharing it!

ChristaCarol Jones said...

I'm similar to Nicole, I go for the cover art. And? The talk...if I've heard about it. Whether or not good or bad things, if the title is familiar to me I'm more than likely going to read the back blurb just to see if it's for me.

And I ROFLed at TifTruit....Why The Hell Am I Raising Your Kids? I'd so buy that book! There was a movie out there I think called Steal This Movie (or Steal This DVD) and I want to say maybe one called Steal This got my attention...but I never did end up watching the movie, and had to wonder if anyone really tried to steal it. I, for one, suck at titles.

Stina said...

I'm a cover girl. If that gets my attention then I'll read the blurb. But sometimes I see a title that makes me want to check out the blurb even though the cover was only okay.

I've seen queries for books that ended up with brilliant titles, but the ones in the query sucked big time. WAKE by Lisa McMann was one of them. I can't remember what it was, but it was boring.

Anonymous said...

Oddly enoughl, coming up with book titles is my favorite part! It's my chance to be creative and think about what I would pick up off the shelf. Sarah Dessen's book titles are great, that's why I started reading hers, that and the book cover, they all have a feel to them, much like a CD. You see something and know, without picking it up, what author it is. Titles and covers become like a trade mark.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

I am having a dilema with my title "The Shifters" about a group of friends who shift from one reality to another. I love it, I think it epiomizes the book BUT it is common and there are other books with the same title. I was told to change it for marketing purposes - so it was easier to find on amazon. what do you think?

HowLynnTime said...

Phyllis --
I would change it too. You don't want to be listed as the third book in a list of that title. Maybe, Shifty Business or something that still uses shift as the base word. Unfixed Reality or Shifter's Club. It is easy to change it enough to be unique without ditching the word you want. Also google it, and that way you will knock out the over used right away.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the title suggestions, I think I will change it to "New Shifters". CristaCarol there is a book called "The Book Thief" it is amazing. You might like it.