Not so long ago, I shared a few of my starting points for titling my WIPs. In that post, there were a handful of things that ended up being omitted, so I'm back this week with a Part Two.
Titles are often the first introduction to a book. Telling readers what the story is about in just a few short words is a big job, so there are quite a few things to think about.
Rather than focus on ways to come up with titles, we're shifting the focus to other things worth taking into account.
We've already covered matters like genre and keywords, so here are four additional considerations for titling your story.
Short And Sweet
We writers love our words. Lots of them.
Chances are you want a manuscript of some length, but that shouldn't be the case for your title.
It's better to have your book title on the shorter side for a few reasons.
For one thing, keeping your book's title on the shorter side can make it easier for readers to remember. Longer titles that trip up the tongue can be harder to promote by word of mouth.
Lengthy titles can also cause trouble for cover art. Trying to squeeze a bunch of words in such a small space can pose difficulties for your designer. In a world where so many books are purchased online, thumbnails have become a crucial aspect of cover designing. A cover flooded with words and shrunken down to a thumbnail might look like a pixelated mess.
Typically, novel titles tend to be somewhere around 1-5 words.
Granted, there are some occasions where longer titles suit.
Several of my research materials have a catchy main title and then a subtitle describing what the book is about. This tends to help identify specifics, like a time frame or a region the text covers. No matter the reason for your research, finding feeling like you're losing time as a result of materials not lining up with expectations can be a hard hit; longer titles here can avoid such confusion.
Word of mouth is just one of the ways you'll likely be promoting your book, and one that involves other individuals.
If you've ever recommended a favorite book to a friend, you've played a part in this. It may not be as flashy as blog tours or signing events, but it's certainly not to be overlooked.
Having a title that's easier to pronounce can make this smoother.
This is not to say you should not use fantastical words created for your story's world or those of a foreign language in your title. Doing so can often make your book stand out and help inform readers about what your book holds—or even intrigue them.
If your potential readers stumble through unfamiliar words or hard-to-pronounce phrases, though, it might make them hesitant to dive into the story. Tongue-twister titles might be also harder to remember or bring up in conversation, which can make the word harder to spread.
Titling a book series is a post for another day, but some writers intending to write one might keep that in mind as early as the first installment.
The general tips and methods of titling one novel carry over to multiple, though with a few other things to bear in mind.
Often, the titles of each book in a series share some commonality. This might be a reoccurring word, rhyming, or the same number of words or syllables. It's not mandatory, however.
If you're planning to write a series, you might find it worth looking ahead and starting a list of titles for future installments.
This may not be true for everyone out there, but you might find it's worth considering.
In this day and age where authors do so much of their marketing and promotion online with a character limit, some might try to save space by using a single keyword from a longer title or an acronym where possible. You may also see authors create their own hashtags for each of their books.
There's nothing wrong with acronyms. They're often part of my document names and the notes in my phone.
But some acronyms are more SFW than others.
Say your book is a rom-com titled Something Happened in Tampa.
That's pretty catchy, short and to the point. It plays on the "What Happens In Vegas" cliche while adding a hint of mystery because readers might want to know what exactly happened in Tampa. All good things to have in a title.
But if you were to abbreviate it, you'd end up with SHIT.
While this may not turn potential readers away, advertising your book as SHIT may lead to some, shall we say, interesting experiences.
It isn't the biggest deal in the world, but if it's a potential concern for you, it might be worth taking the time to go over possible acronyms and abbreviations for any potential title—just in case.
Is there a single, definitive rule for titles? No.
There is, however, a lot of pressure that comes with it. It's something that needs to be right.
What "right" means is up to you.
As you'll see me say on the blog from time to time, writing isn't a one-size-fits all scenario. Titles are of no difference.
It's often a gut feeling or instinct, but it's also an awareness of what works for you and what doesn't. Every writer has their own methods for titling their books. It's a process where some things can matter more than others, including each listed above and those covered previously.
This is merely a second helping of what helps me.