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.




Book Bound Joins Forces With The Story Museum


Last Sunday in Oxford, 17 authors joined us at the truly excellent The Story Museum for an intense writing workshop. Did we have fun? You betcha. Did people go away inspired and educated? Here’s some of what they said:

The day-long event was run like a military operation, with our army marching on a diet of workshops, powerpoint presentations, brainstorming, creative writing … and a Sack Of Secrets! We divided the day into a variety of sessions covering:

  • opening lines
  • world building
  • characterisation
  • plotting
  • editing
  • a Q&A
  • and speed one-on-ones

Our favourite bit was actually at the end, with the Q&A. We were each asked for our top tip, but none of us could stick to just one. The ones I can recall were:

1. In your scene, highlight just the nouns and see if you can see what’s going on. Do the same with your verbs. If the story isn’t suggested by just those words, they aren’t working hard enough.
2. If you get feedback from an agent or an editor – wait. Don’t reply with that rush of emotion that screams they are wrong and the need to defend your work. Just acknowledge, sleep on it and think it through. Then see what you can work on and what you just can’t change for very good reason.
3. When you approach your writing session, don’t put huge pressure on yourself to get masses done. Consider that you only have to fill a one-inch picture frame. Just that, and you’ll have met your goal for the day. Anything beyond that is just bonus. (Source: BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, a great writing book!)
4. Use a word cloud tool like wordle to see what words you use most in your manuscript. Is your main character the biggest? Do you have any unexpected words repeated than you need to tone down?

If you were there and remember some of the others, please post them in the comments!

Family Storytelling with Book Bound at The Story Museum

We also ran a family event on the Saturday, aimed at families – parents and children – writing together. Half the Book Bound team are parents (the other half are pet owners!) and we know how important creative engagement is to literacy. Plus, writing together is fun!

As ever, we felt immensely privileged to engage with a group of willing, open, and oh-so-creative students. The real pleasure is seeing all the potential gathered in a room, and we have learnt that people attending our retreats really feed off the energy and friendship of the Book Bound team. It helps that we have all experienced the author journey first hand, as well as working in the industry.

We don’t claim to know it all, but what we do know we’ll share. And we know how it feels when you’re straining to push a rock up a mountain. Fortunately, we have seen the view from the top – and it’s breathtaking. We can’t wait to see more Book Bound students plant their flag at the summit.

Ministry of Stories, Official Inspiration to the Nation

Titles and Truths – The Final Polish Follow Up

It’s been a whirlwind of a week since we hosted our first day event at the excellent Ministry of Stories.

Ministry of Stories, Official Inspiration to the Nation

I loved meeting all of you and reading the beginning of your stories – and I look forward to reading the rest, once your stories are all polished up.

I said in my opening little speech that I was so impressed with the standard of the manuscripts. Sara G and I have read through many, many openings in our days running the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices project, and the group that gathered around those gourmet pastries definitely raised up that bar.

But there were two areas of improvement that kept coming up.

First and foremost, TITLES.

When submitting, your title is very important. Think of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Beast Quest, The Chaos Walking trilogy. These are titles that stand out, that do what they say on the tin.

You are creating a brand, something creators of shoes or video games pay MILLIONS to do – so you’ve got to spend some time creating something good.

You’ve got try to take your title at face value – you know the significance of the word(s) from your story, but the reader doesn’t. So make sure that you’re giving the right signals as to the book’s content without any context.

Secondly, TRUTHS.

plot thickens PB

I read a lot of fantastic plot summaries, with rise and fall, twists and lots of pace – all great – but just as important as the action plot is the truth you’re questioning. Sara G recommends a book called THE PLOT THICKENS by Noah Lukeman.

Lukeman has a lovely way of describing this issue. He labels the plot as “the surface journey” with the emotional undercurrents making up “the profound journey”. Make sure your profound journey is actually profound – age appropriate to the young people you are writing for.

And why is it that only YOU can write this profound journey. What can you bring that really makes it meaningful?

Hope to see you all again in the future. Stay tuned for details of our next event!

The Final Polish – a Book Bound day workshop – 25 October

Announcing our first Book Bound day event!

You’ve finished a draft of your novel for young readers, congratulations! But that is only the first step on your road to publication. This workshop, on 25th October at the Ministry of Stories in London, will give you the tools to revise your novel and help you position your pitch to catch the eye of editors and agents. It includes both practical advice that can apply to any of your projects, as well as specific and personalised feedback on your current work in progress. (Please note, we first announced this date incorrectly as the 18 October. It is the 25th.)

While author Sara Grant leads an in-depth workshop on revision – using a combination of discussion and hands-on activities – editorial director Sara O’Connor will meet with each participant for a ten-minute critique of their pitch, synopsis and cover letter.

The workshop will start at 1:30 p.m. and conclude at 5:30 p.m. Be prepared to review and dissect your own work and provide feedback to other participants.

Participants will be asked to bring the first two and the final chapter of their novel as well as colour pens or highlighters to the workshop. In advance, participants will be asked to send a short pitch, one-page synopsis, cover letter and first 1,000 words of their novel for the one to one feedback session.

Why this course?
Sara Grant has published two young adult novels, DARK PARTIES and HALF LIVES in the US and UK, as well as the MAGIC TRIX young reader series. She has edited over 100 books and is a guest lecturer in children’s writing at the University of Winchester.

Sara O’Connor has acquired over 150 books in twelve years in the industry, including books about shrinking sheep, prison breaks, rubbish heaps and airship adventures. In addition, she has written four books in the MY SISTER THE VAMPIRE series and teaches writing workshops on a regular basis around the world.

Together Sara and Sara (or Sara Squared as Malorie Blackman calls them) are the founders of Undiscovered Voices, a project with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators British Isles, that has seen 24 previously undiscovered writers sign publishing contracts for over 70 books.

We know about getting books published.

To Register
The workshop costs £85. Space is limited, on a first come first served (with payment) basis. To reserve your place, please send an email to sara@sara-grant.com. Please note: your place will only be confirmed after payment has been received.

Ministry of Stories, Official Inspiration to the Nation

Practical information:
Saturday 25th October, 1:30 – 5:30 p.m at the Ministry of Stories (behind Hoxton Street Monster Supplies), 159 Hoxton Street, London N1 6PJ. For directions click here and scroll to the bottom: http://www.ministryofstories.org/#contact. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided.

The only way to book is to email Sara Grant at sara@sara-grant.com.

Questions? Email Sara Grant at sara@sara-grant.com