Countless factors can make or break a book—the cover, the marketing, the reviews, the store placement, the actual writing—but what about the title? The title of the book might (and probably will) change several times from the first time the author sits down to begin the novel to its publication. But the actual meat-and-potatoes of the book isn’t usually affected by the title, so why does it even matter?
The title is meant to draw the prospective readers’ interest right after the cover design captures their attention (but that’s a whole other post). The title should persuade the reader to actually pick up the book (or click on it if we’re talking about you online shoppers). It should also be memorable enough that the reader will remember it to recommend months or even years later. So, what components might a title have to draw that kind of interest?
For an example, we’ll look at Lanai Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, since it hits on most of the components.
- Mysterious. The title should make the reader curious. “How the Lowly Peasant Discovered that She was Actually a Princess” is a terrible title for many obvious reasons, but the point here is that it gives the plot away. Strange the Dreamer makes you ask all kinds of questions (Who is Strange? Why is he/she a dreamer?) and doesn’t give away any key information. Truly great titles will make you wonder both what the book is about and how the story will end.
- Relevant. After reading the book it should be obvious why the author and their publisher settled on that title. Strange the Dreamer is incredibly relevant because Strange is one of the main characters and dreaming is (in several senses) a centerpiece of the plot. The title needs to be connected to the book so when a reader is amazed by the revelation that is the author’s masterpiece, they will still remember it months later when their good friends need recommendations for their vacation reading.
- Shocking. No, I’m not lobbying for obscene words or phrases on the covers of books. Shocking in this case means something that will make a potential reader stop their browsing and actually pick the book up. Maybe it’s unique. Maybe it catches you off guard. Regardless, it sets this book apart from the countless others on the tables and shelves (or laptop screen). In the case of Strange the Dreamer, Strange being a noun instead of an adjective is slightly jarring. It makes the reader stop and wonder, which of course probably means they’re going to pick the book up. Mission accomplished.
These are just of few of the things that I always like to see in a book title, but be sure to comment below and let me know what you like to see in a title!