Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What's in a name?

Well if it’s the name of a book, only the power to completely and utterly capture the attention of an agent, editor, or reader. Give your book title the time and thought it deserves.

The title is the first thing everyone sees and it can make or break your chances of getting noticed. It's your first impression so make it count. Make your book stand out. Grab the reader's attention and make them desperate to find out just what your book is all about.

As literary agents, the title is the first thing we notice. A great title will make us read. Every time. It will make us open the email almost immediately to check it out.  Quirky or profound, we are suckers for a good title. Some titles are entertainment in themselves. They are also a window into the author’s soul.  They tell us the author is creative because a good title, after all, takes time and talent to develop.

Tequila Got Me Pregnant, the title by one of our most recent authors screamed from the subject line in our list of email queries.  Tattoo Rampage, by our beloved Dave Gusto Jackson piqued our interest in both the manuscript and the author.  Demons and Cocktails by Anthony Bunko, Deadgirl by B.C. Johnson, are only a few examples of attention getting titles that front amazing books.

Now we can’t talk about an amazing attention getter without mentioning, Curses! A F***ed Up Fairy Tale.  Who wouldn’t be curious to take a peek?  The title of J.A. Kazimer’s novel captured our attention immediately, and fortunately, garnered attention from Peter Senftleben, the editor at Kensington Books. He grabbed it up along with its sequel soon to be released, Froggy Style. A F***ed Up Fairy Tale. They continue to capture attention of book reviewers, readers, and Hollywood producers. I mean after all it ain’t easy being green.

Here are some more titles of bestselling books to get your creative juices flowing, fiction and non-fiction. These titles of literary genius are enough to make us want to check them out and make us wish they had come across our desks.

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City - Nick Flynn
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream - Harlan Ellison
When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein

What's the secret to these great titles? They elicit an emotional response from the prospective reader, positive and negative. They give the reader something they can relate to. How many times have you had a bullshit night out on the town? Or felt like you wanted to just scream but couldn’t find the energy?

What other ways can you get your title to stand out? You can string together words or ideas in an unorthodox way. Learn from some of the pros.

Walk Two Moons - Sharon Creech
Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Winner Stands Alone - Paulo Coelho

Spunky titles, for less serious subject matters, will automatically draw attention too. And remember sarcasm sells.

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse - Robert Rankin
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea - Chelsea Handler
Women Are from Venus Men Are from Hell - Amanda Newman

So how can you create a title all the world will remember?

Take some time to search Amazon or Goodreads for titles. Write down words or titles that grab you. Combine them with different nouns, verbs, adjectives, colors, or numbers and then recombine them over and over until something grabs you.

Brainstorm with others; friends, family, your writers’ group. Tell them some of the key points of your story and see what they come up with to describe it. Then combine their suggestions with different nouns, verbs, adjectives... you get the picture.

Check out newspaper and TV show titles. They may spark some ideas.

Browse your library or bookstore. Take a notepad. Capture titles or words that move you.

Never copy and strive to create an original.

Read through your manuscript. Is there a passage or a scene that describes it all perfectly? Use your thesaurus to come up with more clever synonyms.

Most importantly, take the time to get it just right. A great title demands your manuscript get noticed and not just in your query to literary agents but to editors, book distributors, reviewers, and finally your desired readers.

Now, go grab some attention for your novel with an unforgettable title. Just make sure the manuscript that follows lives up to its name.

 Sharon Belcastro
 Belcastro Agency


Anonymous said...

I love and admire great titles, primarily because I'm oh-so-bad at coming up with clever, catchy titles. Drives me crazy, and you're right, they are so important.

Patricia Stoltey said...

As a reader, I am also a sucker for a great book title, almost as much as great cover art. Both catch my eye when I'm browsing in a bookstore or library.

Julie Golden said...

What about a made-up word? What does the title, Vagilantes say to you? (Self-published:

I am also a visual artist who works in stained glass. I usually have a title before I begin a piece.

J.A. Kazimer said...

I love Jess' Tequila title. And Tattoo Rampage is perfect too. It's amazing what a title conveys. Great post.