Titles are very important to me. For poems and stories, I like it when the title adds something to the piece itself rather than labeling. Labeling is effective for essays and sometimes novels (to a lesser degree), but for short, creative pieces, I like to take advantage of that extra line to do something special to the piece. I’m fond of one-word titles that have multiple meanings (maybe as both a noun and verb, for example). I also like it when a poem is about something without ever telling you what it is, but then the title does.
Titles are fun tools, and I wish more writers used them to their full advantage. So many times it seems like a quick afterthought. If the title doesn’t seem perfect, I’m dissatisfied – including my own titles.
I’ve been trying to figure out what to use as a working title for my new horror manuscript, and I keep drawing blanks. Working titles are often changed in the end anyway, but I’d still like to have a good one. It affects the way I think of the book as I’m writing it. And if it’s really good, it might stick around all the way to the end.
In an attempt to unblock my title impasse, I decided to make a list of all of my favorite book titles. It hasn’t helped yet, but it sure was fun. =) Here they are, in no particular order, with a few notes of my own:
1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
This title is actually why I first picked up the book.
2. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
This is a phrase from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes.”
3. *Where the Sea Breaks Its Back, Corey Ford
4. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
5. ‘Salem’s Lot, Stephen King
Originally titled Second Coming, but later changed to Jerusalem’s Lot, and finally shortened to its final version to avoid sounding “too religious.”
6. *Exactly Where They’d Fall, Laura Rae Amos
This book isn’t actually out yet, but I had to include it. Even if I wasn’t online friends with the author, I would buy it for its title alone.
7. The October Country, Ray Bradbury
8. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
This is a phrase from Robert Burns’s poem “To a Mouse,” which reads: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)
9. *House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
10. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic where several major ocean currents deposit their debris. Sargassum is a type of floating seaweed. This is a literary “prequel” to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
11. The Dead-Tossed Waves, Carrie Ryan
What can I say? She’s good at titles.
12. *No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
13. It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, Robert Fulghum
The author of the collection, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, which was also a clever title until everyone beat it to death.
14. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Lorrie Moore
15. *Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King
16. The Lives of the Heart, Jane Hirshfield
17. The Art of Drowning, Billy Collins
18. *Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, Douglas Adams
19. A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle
20. The Radiance of Pigs, Stan Rice
Random fact: Stan Rice (deceased) was Anne Rice’s husband.
21. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
This is a phrase from Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens: “The moon’s an arrant thief, / And her pale fire she snatches from the sun.”
22. *Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
23. Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice
24. The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
Auction items are called “lots.” The auctioneer is said to “cry” a lot when he takes bids on it. This novel ends with the crying of lot number 49. But it’s not as dull as it sounds, it ties into the plot, which is not about auctions at all.
25. The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson
I must say, this book is even more beautiful than the title – a rare find.
*Denotes books I haven’t read yet.
As you can see, for novels and book-length works I tend to lean toward long, phrasal, and poetic titles. They just really grab my attention and then stick with me. Not to mention that they whisper, “The writing inside is just as good.”
I want a title like that for my new WIP (work in progress). Maybe you can help me get new ideas. What are some of your favorite book titles?Share this:
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TweakYourBiz.com – Title Generator
Get ready to have your eyes opened. Inserting your keywords or topic into the submission box will increase your open up rate for a variety of usages, including social media posts.
For “book publishing”, Tweak Your Biz came up with:
- How to
- even Snarky
Over a dozen categories were displayed in seconds. Most likely, many of the suggestions will be tossed … but Book Publishing on a Budget: 5 Tips from the Great Depression might create some pull.
Portent.com – Idea Generator
Get ready to have a little fun with Portent—it creates a variety of twists and turns, even goofy … but hey, sometimes goofy may be the perfect hook. Portent’s process is simple—don’t use capitals unless it’s a proper name; use the singular version of your keyword; and keep revising to create a grammatically correct headline that is often laugh-out-loud.
My keyword phrases often have “book” or “publishing” in them. When I inserted “book publishing”, one of the options was Why Book Publishing Is More Tempting than a Cinnabon—sounds delicious. I don’t know about you, but comparing book publishing to munching on a Cinnabon wouldn’t normally be something that I would think about for a title hook—but millions enjoy Cinnabons weekly and the odds are many of them are authors or authors in the making. My market.
AMInstitute.com – Headline Analyzer
Created by the Advanced Marketing Institute, the Headline Analyzer is an excellent way to “goose” up your emotional pull with the reader.
Step 1 – Enter your “working title”.
Step 2 – Click on a category.
Step 3 – Submit for analysis.
As you tweak your words, you will note the percentage of emotional marketing value change—or in some cases, disappear.
Ideally, you would like to pull a score of 40% or higher. Most copywriters and headline pros will do a happy dance when they hit that magic percentage.
For a recent blog I did, the title The Secret to Author SMARTs Is Being DUMB garnered a 57.14%. That surfaced after I played around with just a few words. The theme of the blog was that being dumb was OK … learning new things delivers the smart tag; that being ignorant on a topic isn’t a crime.
Note: punctuation will be removed by its software when the results of the analysis are revealed.
The higher your score using the Headline Analyzer, the probability of an open rate accelerates. I would suggest you copy your headline so you can simply paste it in again and again as your tweak, adding/deleting/changing words until you get a headline that works for you.
For this blog, I submitted my ideas for the title to AMInstitue’s Headline Analyzer. Starting with Create Titles with Snap, Crackle and Pop to Hook Your Reader, the score popped up at 30. Adding “how to”: How to Create Titles with Snap, Crackle and Pop to Hook Your Reader, the score increased to 38.17. Refining just a bit to How to Create Titles to Hook Your Readers, it leaped to 50.
I could have continued to play with words, but there was this thing called “deadline” … 50 was good enough.