At least they are to me and apparently to a lot of other writers, if the list of bad titles on my Google search are any indication. The (ahem) interesting titles ranged from poor taste to silly, and from inadvertently offensive to boring.
The font type, size and color of the title on the front cover and spine of a book are meant to catch a reader's eye, but the words are most critical in convincing a browser to become a purchaser.
Ever tried to recommend a book to a fellow reader but you just couldn't remember that title? Maybe the title said nothing about the book or was difficult to pronounce, or just too long. Wonderful stories sometimes get tangled in their titles. The Curious Case of the something something Night? The Potato Pie Society what? If you can't remember the title, how will your friend who has never seen the cover remember it?
Here are a few books that (thankfully) were saved from their original titles:
First Impressions changed to...Pride and Prejudice
Something That Happened changed to...Of Mice and Men
The Dead Un-Dead changed to...Dracula
Trimalchio in West Egg changed to...The Great Gatsby
Atticus changed to...To Kill a Mockingbird
Titles are sure tricky business. Here are some titles that could have used a second opinion:
Still Stripping After 25 Years (Quilt in a Day) for quilters
Who Cares About Elderly People A child's book about caring for your elders
Everyone Poops I used this book for potty-training my kids and it gets the point across, but still...
Are Women Human? an International Dialogue Just, whatever
Some writers know the title when they begin a manuscript. It comes to them and settles in and is proven out by the story. Good for them! That hasn't been my experience. If it also hasn't been yours, you might try this:
- Make a word list for your theme - distinctive action words rather than passive, forgettable ones. Does a word jump out at you?
- Write a paragraph about the story, or read through your synopsis to find a meaningful word or phrase that sums it up. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, considering Gone With the Wind was almost titled Tomorrow is Another Day
- Try alliteration or rhyme: Angela's Ashes; Captains Courageous; Sense and Sensibility; Amelia Bedelia
- Give clues as to what your story is about. Something Wicked This Way Comes; The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks (this one's non-fiction); The Miracles of Santo Fico
- Use a name that's important to the story: Frankenstein; Rebecca; Gilead; Jewel; Matilda
- Use a catchphrase (or part of one), but consider that All's Well That Ends Well was better as War and Peace.
- Use a phrase from another literary work: For Whom the Bell Tolls; All the King's Men; The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag
- Use a play on words: Tails From the Garage (okay, my daughter used this for her collection of stories about her cat when she was young, but you get the picture)
Titles cannot be copyrighted, so it is especially important to do an internet search of the title you have chosen in order to make yours distinctive. Also consider that you may be repeating the title frequently in your marketing efforts, so don't choose one that is a challenge to say.
Do you have a title for your work-in-progress that you would like to share, and perhaps a one-sentence pitch? We would love to hear.