Friday, November 16, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update: Titles

Naturally, a good title is mega important. Thinking of a good title gives me almost as much aggravation as writing the story itself, and that's no exaggeration. A good one will reel in the readers; a bad one gets a book set aside faster than David Garrett plays "Flight of the Bumblebee." And now, I give you...the titles of my projects this month!

Maid of Iron - This one is the prologue I posted a few days ago! The working title was "The Blacksmith's Daughter," which was direct and used enough times in the narrative to give it resonance, but how many other titles are out there with "fill-in-the-blank's daughter," exactly? Too many! I can think of three off the top of my head--four! Five! All right, you get the point. The one I settled on had some catchy wordplay and a nice, solid feel to it, which is of course what you ought to aim for.

From the Ashes - Depending on whether or not you cyber-stalk me on other sites, this sounds familiar, but hear me out. Its working title was "Broken Pieces," another boring, generic name. I'm staring at a book with the exact same title on the shelf next to me right now. I used a recurring theme of fire throughout this one, so it only made sense for the title to reflect requires some scrambling elsewhere to avoid confusion, but that can't be helped.

The Phantom of the Chagnys - (What? Susan Kay could publish hers, and--God help us--Frederick Forsyth could publish his, why not me?) This one still has the same title it's always had, and for one good reason: it tells you exactly what it's about. It connects you with the story I based it off of immediately. And it covers all the bases, pretty much...

Here's a helpful little article I found on how important a title is to a book:

Go into a bookstore and browse through the titles in the bestseller section. Book publishing companies hire high-priced people to come up with a title or "headline," because book publishing is a big business; therefore a lot of contemplation goes into making their titles as commercially-viable as possible. Many well-known and highly successful books started out with other titles. According to Dan Poynter, the father of self-publishing:

� Tomorrow is Another Day became Gone With The Wind.
� Blossom and the Flower became Peyton Place.
� The Rainbow Book became Free Stuff For Kids.
� The Squash Book became the Zucchini Book.
� John Thomas and Lady Jane became Lady Chatterly's Lover.
� Trimalchio in West Egg became Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

� Something that Happened became Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.
� Catch 18 became Catch 22

While you are at the store, notice how the other browsers pick up a book, scan the front and back cover, and then put it down again before going on to another book. The whole process takes about two seconds each. That's all of the time you have to make an impression on a potential reader. In those two seconds, you must appeal literally to three of the five senses that human beings have, sight, speech, and hearing, and figuratively to the last two, touch and smell.

1) Sight: When someone first comes in contact with your book's title, it is usually by seeing it on the front cover. So your title must be aesthetically appealing.

2) Speech: If a person stumbles over the words, it will add to the difficult in marketing your book. Even if you are writing only for family members and friends, and you are giving away your book for free, there is still an element of marketing.

3) Sound: Business philosopher Jim Rhone says in order to have effective communication, you must "Have something good to say, say it well and say it often." Your title will be heard often, but will it be good and will it be said well?

4) Touch: Touch also means to "relate to" or "to have an influence on." Figuratively, your title must allow itself to touch or be touched by being able to relate to your readers or have some type of influence on them.

5) Smell: Your title should figuratively give off an aroma. In other words it should project "a distinctive quality or atmosphere." If the aroma the title gives off suggests that very little thought or concern was given to it, people will assume that the rest of the book is the same way.

On a recent Publisher's Weekly Bestseller list, out of 20 books, one had a one-word title; five had two-word titles; four had three-word titles; five had four-word titles; three had five-word titles; one had a seven-word title and one had an eight-word title. The point is, most honchos at major publishing companies believe that the simpler/shorter the title, the better. None of the titles were complex.
Some useful stuff there, but I like to keep it simple. What I usually keep in mind for titles is imagery, impact, and individuality (call 'em the three I's if you want). They need to set a scene, hit hard enough to be memorable, and stand out.

Now tell me, have I succeeded?

Your pal,


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Well, you now have two of me, due to the google situation. I really like this information about the importance of titles. I use to work directly with packaging and marketing and know about the attention challenge, within the 2-3 second consumer time window. "Sight", the graphics are critically important. The perfect title must seen, using colors and space to make that happen. An old trick that can sometimes backfire, is to run the title off the front, prompting curiosity or rejection.

    You changed your title to "Maiden of Iron." My first thought was "Iron Maiden." umm...a whole storyline shift? Is"The Phantom of the Chagnys", just what the title states?

    This was a great topic. Thanks! (Resubmitted for typos)

    1. No change in the story, just the title! For a few days back when I had first started working on it, I couldn't decide which title to go with, and you see which one won in the end.

      And yes, "The Phantom of the Chagnys" is exactly what it sounds like...expect excerpts in days to come!


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