The first advice is to try for the main title to say what your story is about. Use of a subtitle would be to further delineate the plot or entice a reader. Then you will need an revealing bit of information for the subtitle.
To decide on a good subtitle:
~ Does it tell what that story’s about?
When your title doesn’t say enough about your story, be careful that you don’t choose a subtitle that is just as non-telling.
The title of my short story and flash collection is Off Center in the Attic. The attic refers to the mind and the phrase is jargon. It suits the types of stories included in the book, but many people will not realize the true meaning – even though my cover shows a disturbed woman in a crumbling attic pulling out her hair. So I added a subtitle: Off Center in the Attic – Over the Top Stories. Everyone knows what over-the-top implies. That subtitle says this book is full of stories that go beyond the usual boundaries of plot situations.
Your subtitle must add to your title and further define it.
~ Does it pull the reader in?
Again, if your original title did not pull the reader in, then your second and last chance to do so is the subtitle. Reading it together with the original title should give the reader an understanding of what to expect from the book. As always, try to assure your subtitle enhances but doesn’t replace the main title.
~ Does it offer the reader something to learn?
Subtitles are used on both fiction and nonfiction. In both cases, the title and subtitle should provide the reader with something they will learn from reading the contents. Or, in nonfiction, the title and subtitle should offer an answer to something the reader seeks to learn.
Here are some great nonfiction titles that need subtitles:
· Carpentry for Fido: How to Build a Doghouse
· Synthetic Woods: How to Float a Floor
· Cooking Today: Shorten Your Kitchen Time
Sample blasé fiction titles and subtitles might be:
· Jonathan’s Dream: Why it Could Never Come True
· The Basement: A Secret Storage Room
~ Is it short enough?
Neither a title nor subtitle should ramble. I’ve seen some. Take my word for it. When it comes time to tell others about your book, you don’t want to spend a whole minute quoting your title and sub-title. You want most of that all-too-brief minute spent on quoting your logline and a bit of your synopsis.
Long titles and sub-titles can easily become your undoing. People move fast these days. They read that way too. Make your titles and sub-titles short and to the point. People sometimes have only seconds to snatch at something to remember and they will remember shorter titles.
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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