Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How important are titles?

After having nailed down a title for Mageri Book four, I'm once again looking at the importance of titles. One thing that is very popular in any series (of almost any genre) is repeat word syndrome, something I avoided with this series. I'm not sure why this is done, or why it's necessary. Here are some thoughts:

It will connect the books so readers will know they are part of a series.
Em, really? Usually a series has a tagline. (eg: Night Huntress Series). So if you have the tagline and you properly mark your books as 1,2,3, then you're all set.

Readers will know the order.
Em, really? I love my series books, but honestly I couldn't tell you the order, let alone the name. When the same word is repeated, all the books tend to run together for me.

It's fun!
Granted, it can be fun when the author (or whoever makes up those titles) cleverly makes a pun, or even replaces a word using movies titles (like what Kim Harrison does). But what happens when you run out of fun title ideas?

We all know what order the Twilight books go in - albeit there are only 4. If your a fan of a series, you''ll love the books regardless, and you'll probably remember the order. IMO, if the names are drastically different, they stand out in my memory more easily.I have issues with repeat words in titles and remembering such things.

When choosing a title, you do have to connect it to the book. If someone asks me why I chose the title, "Peanuts", I need to be able to explain myself. Maybe it won't be obvious to the reader, but it has to connect. Choosing titles is one of the most difficult aspects of publishing, because even worse than summarizing your entire book into a blurb, you're summarizing it into a phrase, or a single word. GAH! I can easily sit down and tell you how I came to choose my previous titles, and I like that they're all different and just one word. But in some cases, it took me months to come up with the title. I decided against doing anything that made the words similar, but each would be unique and connect with that particular book.

And yeah, most titles have been used before. Most likely, you won't have an original title unless you come up with something really quirky, or has more than 4 words. Just be sure not to choose anything that is a world-famous book.

It's not to say I won't ever do the repeat word thing, because it actually makes naming a book easier if you have a starting point. Like, if your word is "never", then you have at least half of the title nailed. Never Leave, Never Was, Never Lasting, Never Peanuts....

Does a name sell? That's a really good question. When I skim through the titles on Amazon or in the bookstore, how important is the title? Well, online, it's not so important. Why? Because you have the cover, price, and author name to consider. Usually the cover sells, or draws your interest in clicking on a book.
In a bookstore, a title is more important because you are only looking at the spine of the books and are drawing conclusions from the titles.

Skim through the bestseller list and without looking at the covers, which names would you click on? What assumptions are you making from that title, which in some cases, tells everything that the book is about? I love a title that piques someone's interest. Going back to the bestseller list:

Beautiful Bastard - Title alone I make all kinds of assumptions that this is a book about an arrogant man and there's some kind of a sexual relationship.

Beautiful Chaos - This piques my interest. Title alone doesn't tell me what the book is about, but the imagery is ensnaring.

What do these two titles have in common? Besides the word beautiful, they both use a contrasting word that doesn't necessary get associated with the word beautiful. It's like saying someone has a somber smile, which is more descriptive than a gleeful smile.

So to a degree, yes, titles are important. Originality is great, but it's the book that will breath a title to life.


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