Why Book Titles Are Important?
I’m often surprised when I receive a fiction query and it doesn’t have a book title. Or from what is there, it’s obvious the writer didn’t put much thought or energy into the title. While ultimately the publisher will select the title, I regularly tell authors if they create an excellent title, it will stick throughout the publishing process.
Book titles are one of the key ways you can hook your editor. It’s a topic to pour some considerable thought and creativity because it might pay off for you—with a book contract.
This past week the publicity wheels on television have been turning for the movie, Snakes on a Plane. While I don’t plan to see this film, I understand the draw of the title. Repeatedly I’ve seen Samuel Jackson say, “All I needed to hear was the title and I knew I wanted to be in this film.” It’s the same with books. I’ve been in publication board meetings with a room full of executives. Everyone will get excited about a particular concept and most of the enthusiasm comes from the title. Inherently they know people will be drawn to the book.
A recent New York Times article, Titles That Didn’t Smell As Sweet by Thomas Vinciguerra was fascinating. [If for some reason this link doesn’t work, google the title to see if you can find it—I did in a matter of seconds. The original place I had stored wanted to charge me $4.99 to access the full article. I hope this link works for you and I purchased the newspaper.] I love the story which opens this article, “In late 1924, a young writer sent his new novel, “Trimalchio in West Egg,” to Charles Scribner’s Sons. The publishers hated the title. “Consider as quickly as you can a change,” wrote the editor, Maxwell Perkins. F. Scott Fitzgerald quickly complied; he substituted “The Great Gatsby.”” Who would have purchased the first title? I certainly read The Great Gatsby.
Sometimes a book title will become a phrase that enters the culture. For example, if you say something is a catch-22, you know the quandary of the situation. Yet this best-selling novel from Joseph Heller was almost Catch-18 according to the article. While it’s perfectly OK to have a “working title” with your book, make sure you give it your absolute best before you pitch the title to a book publisher. If you need any more encouragement about titles, go over and sign up for Mahesh Grossman’s free report on Strategies For A Six-Figure Advance. You will get on Grossman’s newsletter list (which I find valuable). One of the keys to getting published is an excellent book title. I can’t overstate the importance of a good title.