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Never underestimate the importance of a great title. What if The Hunger Games had been called Katniss and Friends? What if Harry Potter had been called Wizardry is Super Duper Fun? What if The Lord of the Rings had been called Frodo and Gollum: Two Weirdos, One Ring? I’ll tell you this much, they would not have made these books into movie franchises.
You are going to want to spend the bulk of your time as a fiction writer creating characters and scenes to tell a great story, but it all starts with choosing a title that will compel someone to consider reading your book. I have outlined several key factors that writers, agents, and publishers all agree are crucial to giving a novel the perfect title.
Your Novel Needs A Name
Giving your book a title is more involved than picking names out of a hat. It is a process. We will start from the beginning. You will want to have a working title even when you are just starting to write your novel. It is likely that the finished product will not be exactly how you envisioned it from the beginning, but having a preliminary title will help you to keep the book focused on the story. This will give you time to consider what might be a better title for the final product.
It is important to remember to be patient while you are searching for the perfect title for your book. A novel’s name is forever. You don’t want to change it in the future, so take your time. This is similar to having a child. You have time to give your book the name you will be calling it for the rest of your life.
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Build Interest In Your Book
The most important thing to remember when giving your book a title is that the name must generate an impetus for the consumer to want to read your work. A title can do this in different ways for different kinds of books, but Michael Hyatt states that when coming up with a title for fiction “it seems like the strategy is usually to create intrigue.” You aren’t writing a how-to, a biography, or an encyclopedia. You’re telling a fictional story. Your book’s title has one job: get people interested in your story.
There are two main things that you will want your book title to do in order to earn the interest of potential readers in a sea of literature.
The first thing is that the title must capture a reader’s attention. There has to be something compelling, unique, and in your face about the title of your book. If your book sounds boring, people will assume it is boring and they will probably be right.
The other thing is that you want your book to be memorable. Just because your title caught someone’s attention does not mean that they will want to buy it right away. If the name is too obscure it may be difficult to remember it when the reader wants to find it later. Make a name memorable so that anyone will be able to recall it with ease in the future.
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Know Your Audience
One sure way to drive away customers is to not understand them or their needs. Different kinds of books have different kinds of readers, which is why Rachelle Gardner says to “make sure you know the genre of your book.” Imagine a romance novel titled “Galactic Robot Wars” or a Science Fiction novel named “To Samantha With Love.” Not only are those terrible, cheese filled names, but they don’t describe the contents at all!
Even fictional titles carry a certain presence with them that will make a reader think the book belongs in one category over another. If you do all the other steps right and mess this up, all you will have done is wasted a few minutes of someone else’s time and plenty of your own. You can intrigue someone with a title that will only confuse them when they start reading the actual book!
One great way to know if your title fits in your genre is to compare it to other titles in the same genre. If your book sounds like it belongs with the best sellers in that same genre, then your chances of having the perfect title increase dramatically.
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Avoid These Mistakes
Since you are a writer, I’m going to take a leap of faith and believe that you have at least one or two ounces of creativity flowing through you. This means that you have the ability to be just as clever when it comes to choosing a title as you are in writing the contents of the book. You have the talent it takes to ensure that your title is original. You don’t want it to be a copycat or a cliché. If your book title sounds like it could be someone else’s work, then it isn’t yours. Be creative, it will be worth the effort.
How The Dream Got Its Title
Since I am about to release The Dream, it is only fair that I tell you how I came up with the title for my own novel. I was working with the title “End Communication” for most of the writing process. The idea is that the main character is going to go off the grid for some time. The problem with that title is that it sounds like I wrote something that would fit in the same category as The Bourne Identity. Sure, my character is trying to figure out who he is, but in a grander sense than “what is my name?”
My book is a little more absurd, so I needed a title that displayed my character’s search for meaning. I realized that there was an interesting theme developing around dreams (literally and figuratively) when I was coming to the end of the book. I would tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. I want you to read the book, which is exactly what the perfect title will do for you: it will get someone to read your book.
I’m not going to declare that my own novel has the perfect title until I see the results when it is released, but I believe that it fits into the necessary criteria of building intrigue to my prospective audience.
Now it is your turn, have you titled your current or latest project? Does it fit the profile of the perfect title?