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"The title of your book or short story is your only opportunity to make a good first impression on a reader; it will either establish a promising tone – or not." – Edmund R. Schubert
A title should intrigue the reader, hint at the theme or subject of the book or magazine piece, and it would be great if it was unique. (More on that later.) One book I rewrote for a publisher was originally called What’s that Smell?, a title the editor disliked, and in my opinion made it sound like nonfiction. Since it was fiction, I retitled it to The Smell of Trouble, which made us both happy.
Some authors use one word book titles, which is something that appeals to me. Others use quotes—either a line from within the book or a portion of a famous quote. Titles can ask a question. They can include a character’s name, a place name, or feature an action. One author I like uses titles that reference classic books in some way—and the subject of her novels fits these references.
I also like titles with multiple meanings, e.g. one of my students wrote a story she titled "In the Dog House." The story was about her getting in trouble, but was also about a dog, therefore double meaning. I also like taking clichés or sayings and twisting them. For example, I wrote an article for Children’s Writer on judging the Science Contest (July ’10) and titled it: "It’s Not Just Rocket Science." All I did was add one word to a common saying.
Some titles are so unusual, it makes a reader say, “Huh, what’s that about?” However, Tucker Max says one attribute of good titles is “Not embarrassing or problematic for someone to say aloud to their friends.”
So you have some potential title ideas, but are they unique? I think this is especially important for books. One easy way to find out is to look up proposed titles on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and your library system. I didn’t do this with my book ALONE and wish I had—seeing how many other books have that title would have made me rethink.
We do all this work for our titles and sometimes the editor, or publisher, or marketing recommends (or changes it to) a new title. Sometimes we think “Wow, I’d wish I’d thought of that.” Other times it’s just different.
Here’s another post on this topic: “How to Pick a Title for Your Book.”
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.