Sunday, July 12, 2020

Three Reasons NOT to Create a New Word

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

This week a submission from some new authors crossed my desk. As editors, the title is the first thing we read. These authors coined a new word in their title. For every book or magazine article, the title is a critical part of the creative process. Your title is your memorable hook for the reader—and your editor or agent is your first reader in the publishing process.

I understand these authors were trying to be creative in creating a new word in their title. While there are probably many reasons for not creating a new word, in this article I want to give you three reasons:

1. Editors and agents will roll their eyes and reject. While the author will not see this roll of the eyes or shake of the head, it will happen. As an author, you have seconds to capture the attention of the editor and you want that attention to be positive and interested. Your title needs to draw the editor to read your work—and not veer off into “Why did they use that word?”—which leads someone away from your book.

2. If you decide to self-publish with your new word (and 1.6 million books were self-published last year), now think about your readers. They will also have questions about this unfamiliar word in the title. Can they pronounce it? Does it make sense? Many people will pass on reading more—which is not what you want to have happen with your book. 

3. Finally it is difficult to gain acceptance for a new word—especially as a new author. Do you have the visibility in the marketplace to coin a new word? Most new authors do not have a large audience and tribe and readers for their book. They should not go this route with their title.

A good title needs to be:

One to five words and something that draws the audience to read more. Why no more than five words? Because a title has to fit on the spine of a book. Most books are spine out on bookshelves.

Especially for nonfiction, your title will need an interesting subtitle. The subtitle needs to stress a benefit inside your book. For example, Book Proposals That Sell (Title), 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (subtitle and reader benefit). Subtitles are not as important for fiction nor always used.

I understand I've been pretty negative in this article but please understand my motivation is for editor and reader acceptance of your title. I'm certain your intention is draw readers and interest instead of rejection. There are exceptions to these cautions. You can use a new word in a title—if you have huge visibility in the marketplace. My example is Morgan James author Bryan Kramer and his book Shareology: How Sharing Is Powering the Human Economy. Notice the little extra words at the top of the cover on this book: USA Today Bestseller. While I work at Morgan James, I do not personally know Bryan Kramer.  From my knowledge of publishing, I know a book like Shareology does not reach the USA Today Bestseller list without a great deal of effort from the author. Also notice this word is easy to pronounce and use.

Your title is a critical part of your submission. I encourage you to put a great deal of thought and energy into your title. I understand publishers control the title—but repeatedly I've found a well-crafted thought-provoking title will make it through the publisher consideration process and end up on the published book.

What type of energy do you pour into the title for your book? Have you created a new word? Let me know about your experience in the comments below.


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