“Enter title here…” That’s the suggestion or command or instruction or whatever you face first when you’re getting ready to put some words together for this thing they call a blog post. Of course you don’t have to do it first. But somewhere along the way, at least before you do the official posting, you have to come up with a title.
On a blog, it’s probably not all that important a step. You try to think of something descriptive without giving it all away, something clever, something funny, something ironic, something engaging. But unless you come up with a title that’s completely boring, readers will probably at least give your post a look.
But what about a book title? How important is it? We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t tell a book by its cover,” but regardless of how true that declaration is, research finds that people do make reading choices by looking at the cover. And the title is a significant part of the cover.
So it’s important. How important? Hard to say. Could a book’s success, or lack of it, ride entirely on the effectiveness of the title? Probably not, but would TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD have had the same success if the title had been ATTICUS FINCH, LAWYER? Would THE CATCHER IN THE RYE have done as well if the title was HOLDEN DOES CALIFORNIA? How about instead of JAWS, Peter Benchley had convinced his publisher to call his novel I SAW A BIG FISH? What if HOLES had been titled DESERT HABITAT FOR LIZARDS? Or SHOVELING HURTS MY HANDS?
We’ll never know exactly (or even inexactly) how big a role these titles, or any titles, play in the sales figures of their books. But when it comes to titles, you don’t get do-overs. So you, along with your agent and editor and publisher and marketing team and whoever else you’re listening to for suggestions, better get it right before your book heads off to the printer.
My titles? Some of my “working titles” (you have to call that manuscript something while you’re plugging away at it) have survived, some haven’t. I came up with DARK STARRY MORNING, THE LAST MAN’S REWARD, THIN WOOD WALLS, A PIECE OF THE SKY, and EPITAPH ROAD. SOMEONE WAS WATCHING (originally THICKER THAN WATER), FRAMED IN FIRE (THE WILD BLUE), HAUNTING AT HOME PLATE (THE GHOST OF PHANTOM LIMB PARK), COLDER THAN ICE (TWENTY-THREE DEGREES AND FALLING), and DEADLY DRIVE (HER MOTHER’S EYES) were suggestions from my editor or collaborative efforts (make a huge list and whittle it down together) after the powers that be decided my title wasn’t strong enough.
What do you think? Were all the changes for the better? It’s intriguing to think about how the books would’ve done with their original titles, but the answer to that is in the air somewhere, along with all the other titles that got passed over during the process.