Thursday, July 3, 2014
THE SUPERLATIVE TITLE BY RITA KARNOPP
One of my favorite things to do is give my book a title. Most times I’ll give it a ‘working title’ because I know the ‘true title’ will reveal itself while writing the book.
Titles should be inspiring – even catchy. While doing research for my book Whispering Sun, I ran across the sentence, The white man didn’t like the bitter taste of the white berry off the red willow, but the native found the medicinal properties worthy of putting it into other foods to mask the taste. It’s a rather plain and factual sentence – right?
That sentence jumped out and grabbed me! My wheels started churning … my white berry could be my white heroine and the red willow would be the Indian nation. Thus became one of my favorite books, The White Berry on the Red Willow. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve said, “That’s a great title.”
Ekuskini, son of the Blackfeet chief, revels in the demise of the non-Indian. Then he meets Alcina and finds himself searching the old ones for the answers. Together Alcina and Ekuskini realize they must learn from the past and use it to make things better for the future of all people.
A great title is everything and should be the advertisement of what’s inside. Your title needs to stand-out in the slush pile and also shout ‘read me!’ We’ll even go one further and repeat the over-used cliché – “You can judge a book by its cover.”
Create strong titles that are distinctive and memorable. They must reflect what’s inside – or you’ll hear about it. Titles should draw attention and make the shopper reach out and wonder, ‘what’s this one about?’
One thing you don’t want to do – not on purpose anyway, it title your book and find out after it’s published there are two other books with the exact title. I wrote and had my book Atonement published before the movie came out. Ugh. .. and recently a friend titled her book Atonement . . . and I thought ‘seriously?’ So I went out to google and searched my title, which I should have done way before submitting it to my publisher. There were six books entitled Atonement. I’ll never make that mistake again!
If you’re struggling with the title (I don’t think that’s ever happened to me) you can create a list of possible titles and ask friends or family if they like any of them. I’ve seen authors go out on ‘writing’ sites and ask for a little help . . . nothing wrong with that. There’s something to be said for ‘public opinion.’
A strong thing to consider when naming your book is voice. What? Well think about it this way; My Wild Cowboy would not be written in third person. You wouldn’t mix point of view inside your book – so remember to be consistent also with the outside.
We’ve heard one word titles sell better than three or four . . . short is better than long . . . but there really isn’t an algorithm for naming a book. I’ve heard it said choose precise nouns and strong, active verbs. White Berry on the Red Willow is certainly better than Alcina under a Tree. LOL
Publishers say readers think about your title realistically three times; when they purchase it, when they start reading, and again when they finish reading. You should hope the reader will close your book (at ‘the end’) and reflect how the title adds even more to a fabulous read.
Now we come to a point that really gravels me. Don’t allow your title to reveal the plot of the book. The title, One Survivor really got to me. Yes, I know, it was based on true events . . . but I don’t care. Don’t tell me that – now I’m not sure I care.
Another good point I’ve read– and have always remembered – don’t use the first or last lines of your story as the title for your book. It pilfers the surprise of the opening hook or the intense conclusion.
Every title you produce is an affirmation of one thing – you’ve just finished another book and the pride you feel is beyond any paycheck. Pat yourself on the back and stare at your title and cover . . . celebrate and know you’ve accomplished something many people just talk about. You’ve just written a book and it has a great title and your name on the cover.