The Effect of Titles by Mary Deal
Your story title is the first word or words a person sees when looking for a book to read. Yes, they see the cover, but the title is the first bit of information they read. What if your title is...
a bit offensive
similar to so many others
doesn’t give a clue about the plot
Those are just a few instances where an author can lose a sale before the book is opened for perusal; before the prospective buyer flips the book to read the back cover.
In selecting either paper books to buy or eBooks to download, we can now read a percentage of the book, either the first few chapters or we can jump to various pages therein. When perusing sites that offer downloadable books, the same problems occur in identifying about which story to learn more. If a title and cover on that site doesn’t appeal to you, do you bother to read the blurbs describing the eBook? Do you read the first chapters that have been made available in an attempt to capture your interest?
Many writers do not think through the meaning of their titles. As a result, it’s difficult to determine anything about the plot. Some solutions could be:
Use a very short phrase that tells the theme.
Down to the Needle is the title of one of my novels. It’s about an innocent young woman facing lethal injection for a crime she didn’t do. The case goes all the way into the lethal injection chamber. When something keeps happening until the last possible moment, in ordinary speech we use a cliché, saying it goes down to the wire. Knowing the story is a thriller, Down to the Needle tells the one perusing to buy a mystery that this story is either about the needle (drugs) or lethal injection, or both. If that incites their interest, they then read the book blurb and learn the gist of the plot.
You can use a wee bit of great dialogue for a title.
Remember the best seller, Who Moved my Cheese? That was a one-liner throughout the book and made a prospective buyer think about what the content might be about. A phrase that makes a person wonder about the inside of the book is a great title.
How many times in a book store, when looking for a great new read, have you looked at all the titles in a row. Only the spines are turned out. You pass on many until you find an interesting title. That, in itself, proves the value of using a phrase that incites curiosity.
Titles need to be thought carefully through. Titles can cause the shopper to investigate further or buy, or it can cause a person to move on to something that seems more interesting. Test this premise yourself the next time you look for a new read.
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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