Choosing a Subtitle by Mary Deal
Sometimes you can conjure what you think is the best title ever for your book. No one has used that title and there is nothing close to it in all of literature. Then, after a while, you begin to wonder if your great title covers all that your book entails. You search for a new title but always return to the one you first chose. It is that good!
So you begin to wonder about using a subtitle. Subtitles used to be seen as a way to enhance a weak title. However, at the writing of this article, the consensus is that utilizing a subtitle provides a great chance to tell more about your book. Use a subtitle, realizing however, that some titles will never need a subtitle.
What subtitle would you add to Gone with the Wind or The Old Man and the Sea?
Peruse book selling sites and notice any recent books that have no subtitles. Notice those that use subtitles. You will get a feel for when to use and when not to use.
Usually a title will tell the overall feeling or story without giving away any exact details. Using a subtitle allows you to hint at more of the detail.
Subtitles must be as short as possible. I have seen books with eight to ten words in the title alone, and then a subtitle with the same number or more words is added. This represents not only a misuse of a subtitle but shows an overall title not well thought out.
Your subtitle should give the strongest clue as to what the story is about. Choosing a subtitle because your title is not necessarily weak but is broad inclusively, your subtitle will draw the reader in. Think of it. The title is unique and catches the reader’s attention. Then the subtitle tells more of what the reader can expect of the prose. I use prose here because nonfiction, even books like cookbooks, sometimes have subtitles.
The reader will need to learn something about the book from the subtitle. Never use a subtitle with the intention of keeping the reader’s eyes glued to your cover. It doesn’t work that way. Every word must offer the reader something to learn about the book. A lackluster subtitle leaves the potential book buyer with a ho-hum feeling.
Your title can be anything from plain and simple to quirky. Whatever it represents will be enhanced and enticing through the subtitle.
Mary Deal is an award-winning author of suspense/thrillers, a short story collection, writers' references, and self-help. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Artist and Photographer, and former newspaper columnist and magazine editor.
She has traveled most of her life and has a lifetime of many and diverse experiences, all of which remain in memory as fodder for her fiction. A native of California's Sacramento River Delta, where some of her stories are set, she has also lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii. Having traveled a bit, she continues to paint and use her art and photography to create gorgeous products.
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