I believe that a well-chosen title helps sell a writer’s work. The first impression a book or story creates depends on several factors, one of them being the title. The title will set a certain tone or expectation. Whether you write literary work, genre fiction, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, etc., the title should fit the work. If it’s not appropriate, the reader may rightfully feel cheated.
I have a few suggestions that I believe might prove useful:
First suggestion is to do some initial research. For instance, visit Amazon and Google. Check out titles for the kind of work you’re writing to get a sense of what is appropriate.
All right, let’s assume you have formed some ideas for titles. Second suggestion, go to World Cataloging and type in your title under the keyword heading. See what pops up. If your title is used by many authors many times, you might want to try for something different. Ecclesiastes states that there is nothing new under the sun; however, you can do some variations that are unique. Also, keep in mind that titles are not copyrighted unless there’s a trade mark involved. You can, in fact, have the same title as another author, although if possible, it’s best to distinguish it in some way. Here’s an example: one of my Five Star/Gale novels is a mystery entitled THE THIRD EYE. There are a number of other books with the same title. However, my full title is: THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY. This differentiates it. It also informs readers that this novel is primarily a mystery.
This brings us to my next suggestion: consider if the chosen title can properly characterizes a theme of your book, story, poem, article via your word choice. Maybe it represents a reoccurring symbol in your book. Example, in THE DROWNING POOL, my second Kim Reynolds mystery, the pool becomes an important symbol and, in fact, there are two separate pools related to two separate deaths. You’ll note that a much more famous mystery writer than myself used that title before I did. But I didn’t hesitate to adopt it because it happened to fit my novel as well. In THE BAD WIFE, latest Kim Reynolds novel in this mystery series, the first murder victim and the key character in the novel is (you guessed it!) the bad wife. And yes, she really is very bad.
Another suggestion: keep your title short if possible. Modern titles are generally brief unless you’re writing an academic dissertation. Otherwise, a few words will suffice. For example, the title of one of my novels is DEATH LEGACY. Just two words. Appropriately, it’s a suspense thriller. Enough said.
Last suggestion: Try for a clever use of words which will make your title in some way memorable, interesting, intriguing, and/or provoke curiosity. Example: for the third novel in the Kim Reynolds mystery series I used the title THE TRUTH SLEUTH. Kim is an amateur detective and also an academic librarian. So the title fits the main character. The whimsical bit of rhyming hopefully makes the title stand out.
In my short story collection, BEYOND THE BO TREE, I used alliteration. I also hoped to provoke curiosity with the unfamiliar Bo tree in the title.
In my YA novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, I used familiar names in the title to provoke reader curiosity.
Are there any titles that stand out in your memory? If so, why? If you are a writer, how do you select your titles?