I am approaching the final chapters of the first draft of the novel that I am currently writing and I have a problem. It’s something that’s been niggling away at me for weeks to develop into an issue. It is not a problem with the writing of the book and how I’m going to end it; all that is chugging along quite nicely – for a first draft. My problem is what to call it. Nothing is really working for me for longer than a few hours, maybe a couple of days. I think that I have something and I get excited and then I either find that someone else has already used that particular combination of words, or my enthusiasm for it simply wanes.
I have given myself five criteria, which must each be satisfied, to my thinking, before I can settle on a title. In no particular order they are:
Uniqueness: I don’t want to use a combination of words that has been used before for a book title. Apart from the inevitable confusion for readers searching on-line self-publishing outlets – that I am confined to – for my book (pause for laughter) only to be confronted with perhaps three or four different books with the same title, I have more personal reasons. The first book that I self-published I called, ‘Rope Enough’. I was trying to be creative and get original. There are many books out there with the words ‘enough rope’ in the title. I didn’t do my research thoroughly. I have since discovered that typing in, ‘Rope Enough’ as a book search term with Amazon, for example, will first return a book of that title with two young men kissing on the front cover. That’s not my book by the way.
Cleverness: I want something with a hidden double meaning that the reader might reflect on at the end of the book and go…oh, I get it. That’s clever.
Conciseness: it’s still got to be short and punchy. Something like, ‘The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie’ isn’t for me. And there is also the typography issue to consider when the cover art is shrunken to a thumbnail image. It’s going to need to stand out. A sentence of a title can’t do that.
Appropriateness: obviously it’s got to strongly reflect/suggest something of the content.
Eye-catchingness(?): it’s got to be something that readers of the genre it’s aimed at will linger over as they scroll through the hundreds of other titles listed. Downloaders must be immediately hooked and intrigued by it.
When I choose a book to read whether I’m buying it, borrowing it or downloading it for free I find myself increasingly reliant on my initial reaction to the title and the cover-art, unless it’s a book by an author who I know and enjoy. Example: I just finished a thriller by the quite superb Gerald Seymour called, ‘Traitor’s Kiss’ and I eagerly anticipate the next book of his I can lay my hands on, but the title doesn’t really do it for me and the cover art I would ordinarily pass without pausing. If I didn’t worship the paper his pencil scrawled across I wouldn’t have given that book a second glance. More fool me I suppose. But with all the books to choose from there has got to be something that lures one in.
I’ve just had a look at some of the titles on my shelves. How do the authors or their publishers come up with some of them? What made someone think that, ‘Billy Bathgate’, ‘Moby Dick’, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’, ‘Waterland’, ‘Ratking’, ‘Birds Without Wings’, ‘The People’s Act of Love’, ‘Great Expectations’, and ‘Debbie Does Dallas’ for examples, would work for those authors?