Monday, March 29, 2010

What Did You Just Call Me? Selecting a Best-Selling Book Title

Years ago, “Steal This Book” was the actual title of a book. People stole it. People also bought it. Many of them did so simply on the basis of the cleverness of the title. Titles, like book covers, should not be the criteria on which the merits of a book are judged. In reality, however, they are. Give careful thought to selecting a book title that moves people to buy.
The book title is often one of the first things a writer will think about. This is not always the best of ideas. While having a title in the beginning may help form the early thinking of a book, it will likely be a hindrance later on, as books evolve throughout the writing process. Titles that fit in the beginning do not necessarily fit by the time the book is finished.
Start with a working title, but don’t exchange marital vows with it.
It is difficult to accurately detail what makes one book title more appealing than another. Many of the most successful titles are simply a play on words, sometimes they are meant to be provocative (Steal This Book), often they simply cause the reader to think. There are some general guidelines. Contemporary catch phrases are good for topical books, but not for books that are meant to be read for years to come. The use of subheads is common in non-fiction and less so in fiction.
Write down ten possible titles for your book and “market test” those titles with friends, coworkers, neighbors. We call this a “Title Storm” at Yorkshire Publishing. Pay attention to their responses. Which titles do they seem to like the most, which seem to elicit the most curiosity, which make them giggle or think?

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