C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Brainstorming better book titles (and what can kill a good one)

1. The tone of the title should match the genre. If your thriller’s title makes potential readers think of young adult romance, keep brainstorming.

2. Non-fiction titles tend to be linear promises to provide solutions to a problem you have identified. Deliver.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

3. Intriguing is good. Confusing is not. That’s a fine balance. I loved the titles Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus. However, it’s pronounced “Hay-soose” and it’s about a funny, hardboiled Cuban hit man. Titles you (and I) have to explain (endlessly!) are not good titles. The cover treatment by Kit Foster of Kit Foster Design saves me from readers who buy my crime novels thinking they are religious books. Also, I do have another solution to this problem. I’ll explore that next year, after a couple more books are written. In the meantime, I remain an idiot for thinking those titles would serve me better than they did.

What? You thought I write these blog posts because I get everything right the first time? Ha! No.

4. When you’re brainstorming, think in terms of keywords. A short, killer, catchy title can be helped a lot by a more explanatory subtitle. Don’t go overboard with keywords, though. If you run out of breath, forget the rest halfway through, or can’t cram the whole title on the cover, rethink. We’ve got to be able to read the title without squinting, so don’t cram it.

5. Generally try to avoid titles that are very long. After catching the title in a wisp of conversation, the potential customer has to remember it all the way back to their computer or the bookstore so they can order it.

6. What’s the central theme, promise or event that’s crucial to your story? Brainstorm titles out of that.

7. Think in terms of brand and series. Can you connect titles in some way? A is for Alibi is already taken, but think about what might fit. I have two new series planned for the end of next year that connect tangentially to existing books.

8. Come up with a bunch of titles and throw out a bunch. Don’t get too attached to a title early on. Some authors feel they need a title before they can begin to write. Your story may change, so just keep that WIP title tentative and to yourself for now.

9. You can take titles from phrases from the Bible or Shakespeare or be completely original. Go for memorable. However, don’t let the absence of a title stop you from beginning to write. It will probably emerge from the manuscript organically. Use a focus group of trusted friends or fellow writers to save you from your worst impulses.

10. Build a brand around your author name, not your title. I don’t want people more excited about my title than they are about me writing another book. That’s why the name “Robert Chazz Chute” is so big on the cover. Make them want to buy the next [insert your name here], not the title. I don’t really like the title, Doctor Sleep, for instance. But it’s Stephen King! Of course I want to read it!

I’m convinced that titles really don’t matter quite as much as we’d like to think.

I can name a lot of titles that shatter these ten well-meant suggestions. It’s like naming a band. Lots of band names sound pretty stupid or obtuse at first, but if the music is any good, people don’t even think about it much. I doubt everyone was enthused about the name The Beatles or Led Zeppelin on their first encounter (before hearing the songs.) I didn’t like the title Fight Club. The book is about so much more than that. However, I got over it quickly.

It’s true for TV shows, too. The first time I heard the name MASH as a little kid, I thought the TV series had something to do with potatoes. The Pink Panther? I didn’t know it was animated, so I pictured an actual pink panther skulking through the jungle. Without seeing it (and hearing its musical theme by Henry Mancini) I had no idea it was destined to become so iconic.

To sell more books, what’s ultimately more important than the title? Your graphic artist.

A good graphic artist can build on an awesome hook. A bad cover can sabotage even your most clever title.

A great title doesn’t matter if no one can see it. Don’t undermine that title you’ve put so much thought into. You need an excellent graphic artist to support your efforts. A great cover maximizes the power of your title and your author name. That’s why I use…wait for the shameless, enthusiastic plug for my Scottish buddy…

Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com

Check out his portfolio for powerful images

that pump up all the authors he serves.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. With my serial, This Plague of Days, I’ve written two bestsellers. However, my catalogue of my inspirational errors in the early going will tell you more about the challenges of being an indie author. Get Crack the Indie Author Code. I don’t scold you and it’s actually pretty funny. The 6 x 9 print version is about ten bucks and Christmas is coming, so get on that or Christmas is cancelled and Santa’s elves will turn into goblins. It’s up to you to save Christmas from rampaging goblins. It’s up to you and you alone. No pressure.

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Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Armand Rosamilia and commented:
    Yet another great post, this time about titles and covers. I should just reblog his posts and be done with it already…

  2. I like short titles. I feel they provide more impact.

    As for covers, it’s so subjective. What constitutes a good cover? I thought the cover of my novel, Relations, was pretty good and although it wasn’t colorful (it’s black and white, which was intentional), a reviewer wrote that she thought it was offensive. Wha–? You can’t please ’em all.

    Great article, Robert. Thanks for the post, Armand.

    • Chazz says:

      I like short titles, too, though many of the good ones are taken and are therefore too sound alike. For instance, Run by Blake Crouch is a great book with a fast pace. It’s also the title of a James Patterson and an Ann Pratchett book.

      For covers, we don’t want them to all look alike, of course, but there are commonalities among solid covers. I’ve hit this a bit before on this blog, but for great insight, I talk to Kit Foster and follow the evaluations and tips by Joel Friedlander at TheBookDesigner.com. Joel’s monthly ebook cover awards (which Kit has won a couple of times) are must viewing and reading.

      And yeah, any cover can get an unexpected reaction from people. The stranger thing is how unpredictable those reactions are. Sometimes, things I was sure would get a reaction went unnoticed and stuff I thought innocuous got a horn blare.

  3. Hey Robert, I wasn’t able to open the link to your Scottish friend’s book cover designs. Or maybe that just XFINITY… 😦

  4. Chazz says:

    Hm. Try another browser perhaps? KitFosterDesign.com worked okay for me.

  5. Reblogged this on relationspdbeverly and commented:
    Great article.

  6. Stacy Claflin says:

    My current series has one word titles. I like how they get the point with a powerful punch, but for my next series I’m going for something longer. I’m definitely going to keep this post handy. Thanks!

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