Why Are Book Titles Important?

By Jasmine

There are many factors that will influence whether or not you get a book deal [including a good bit of luck that your book will land on the right desk at the right time].

Without a doubt, the most important factor is telling a compelling story as well as you possibly can but there is also a need to think about whether you are giving your book its best chance to be noticed with the title you have chosen.

Your book title is your calling card.  In a sea of submissions on an editor’s or agent’s desk it can help you stand out.

sub pile

It is surprising then how often I see titles that perhaps seem a little flat or generic—or maybe haven’t had as much thought put into them as might be expected.

Sometimes, you might luck out and the title will come to you easily—a sweet gift that completely encapsulates what it is you’re trying to do.

A good example of this is my second novel Oliver Twisted written under my pen name J.D Sharpe. This title gives the reader a really clear steer as to what the story might be about, it’s memorable and easy to say. All really important.

Oliver twisted cover

Other titles are harder won but it is worth spending the time thinking about what makes your title intriguing and standout. And don’t operate alone! It can be really useful to talk to others. As an editor, I’ve helped many authors come up with titles for their books and sometimes I think it is the fact that I’m a further away from the text than the author that aids this title generation.

I should say at this point that in the publishing process titles are not a fixed thing. Your publisher may well have strong feelings about what type of title might work in the market and as an author it makes sense to listen to that market knowledge.

However, if you are mindful of the importance of the title from the get go—it will undoubtedly help the process and make the whole experience a little bit less stressful.

I’ve asked some others in the industry for their opinions on the importance of book titles. sarah_davies1Sarah Davis of The Greenhouse Literary Agency says that, ‘As an agent, I encounter thousands of titles every year. Some sing powerfully from the query, making me desperate to read the manuscript and predisposed to like it. Others put me off so strongly that it’s a struggle to feel motivated. I’ve seen manuscripts practically sell themselves based on title alone, so I know the power of a great one at all stages of the process, from initial query right through to which book a reader selects off the shelf. Your title is your showcase to the world, so make sure it is enticing, original, and has strong appeal to your target market.’

download elv moodyElv Moody, Publisher at Oxford University Press Children’s Books agrees, ‘It’s not over-stating the case to say that a title can make or break a book. A great title is a huge asset, but it’s also part of the positioning process and a publisher will very often want a change to ensure it’s appealing to the book’s strongest market. I’m in the middle of acquiring a project at the moment, and, not for the first time, I’ll need to sound out the author on whether they’re prepared to change its title – and if they’re not, the book’s success looks much more uncertain. Coming up with the right title can almost be the hardest part of writing the book, but it’s also a useful check. If you can’t work out what it should be called, do you really know what kind of book it is, and who it’s for?’

What is clear then is that titles are incredibly important but perhaps even more important is really understanding what your story is about. That might be the key to finding a title that will stand out from the crowd.

Interested in attending a title workshop for £10? Click here to find out more.





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