45. Book Titles Part 1: Original Spin

Author: Nola Published: 6 months ago.
Tags: titles, originality, publishers, readers, genre Category: Writing tips

Your writing group is on a roll. Whimsy Stonehenge is seeking a publisher for her fantasy novel Dragon Quest, Brad Spinetingle is about to self-publish his suspense novel Race Against Time, Faith Evergood has just completed her inspirational book Sacred Places, and you’re about to enter a competition with your romance novel Love Finds a Way. They’re all wonderful books—characters you love, beautiful settings, fresh prose, great pacing, thought-provoking messages. However, there are already dozens of books with the same or similar titles. Is that a problem? Isn’t it the content that counts? Yes, but there are at least four reasons why you should consider a more original title.

Attracting a Publisher or Agent

As Rachelle Gardner notes, publishers are usually the ones who have the final say about a book’s title. However, they won’t even get to that point if your book doesn’t grab them. If you have a tired old title, maybe your content is also old and tired. In contrast, imagine being the first publisher to see Douglas Adams’ manuscript for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Wouldn’t you want to turn the page to see what happens?

Attracting Readers

We choose books for different reasons: our favourite genre, brilliant cover design, positive word-of-mouth, good reviews. However, a stand-out title can also prompt us to take a book off the real, or virtual, shelf. I recently came across the 2016 novel Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. I didn’t know anything about it other than the title, but I immediately wanted to find out more. It’s now on my ‘to read’ list. The title hooked me and the synopsis reeled me in.

Avoiding Practical Problems

If your book has the same title as others, it can cause confusion when people search for it online or request it at libraries and bookstores. Websites of the same name can also create difficulties for you. When Tim and I were trying to find a unique name for our editing business, we brainstormed lots of possibilities. We thought Inspired Ink would be perfect until we discovered lots of tattoo parlours with the same name. We scrapped about twenty alternatives before deciding on The Write Flourish.

Avoiding Genre Confusion

Originality won’t necessarily solve the genre problem, but generic titles can sometimes be ambiguous or confusing. Let’s say that Faith Evergood’s book Sacred Places is a Christian devotional. A quick search of that title on Goodreads reveals numerous religious books from various faith perspectives, as well as books on travel, photography, and architecture. There’s even a novel with a buffed, shirtless man on the cover. It’s probably best that I don’t try to guess the sacred places visited in that book, but you see the dilemma.

In my next blog, I’ll give some tips for creating original titles. In the meantime, what are some of your favourite book titles? I’d love to hear your opinions.

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