Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Judging books by their . . . titles?

I've been reading some decent PODs lately (not many great ones, but many that are "close") though I have to say, I went in thinking the worst of many due solely to the title. Now, keep in mind that I try to read at least a little of everything submitted to me to see if it grabs me, so I am (a little) more objective than the average book buyer. But some of these titles just make me cringe.

Remember: One of the most important aspects of a book is its title. Sure, some people may ramble on and on about the importance of book covers, but the title can just as easily sink a book.

An editor at St. Martin's once told me that they change about one quarter of all the titles that they publish. What does that tell you, POD authors? Ask people what they think of your book title and use the criticism to your benefit.

I mean, sure, some traditionally published folks come up with bad titles. John Grisham has written some great books but has probably some of the worst titles out there (I've read every one of his books but I can only remember A TIME TO KILL, THE FIRM and THE PELICAN BRIEF.) If you are a bestselling author, you can use an incredibly bland and non-insightful title like ENVY, even as another bestselling author comes along and uses an incredibly bland and non-insightful title like ENVY.

Unless you are one of these authors, I would stick to the good stuff.

If you're clever, you can create a title that catches a reader's attention just like a snappy or moody book cover. Consider this smattering (and no, none of these are mine):

Even if you think some of these titles (or others: a la THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME) are over the top, keep in mind that it is the first thing that will stand out to booksellers (or editors and agents if you are at that stage.)

Remember, it doesn't take much to make a book title stand out.