Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wednesday’s Writing: The Few Words That Could Ruin Your Sales–Your Book Title

Funny_Lady_Receptionist_Desk_Working_Computer-1mdCould your titles actually be putting potential readers off? If you’re anything like me, a cute (to you) title arrives around the time of the book idea, or during the writing of it when one of your characters uses a phrase that catches your eye and provokes a Eureka! moment.
The accepted wisdom is that the cover lures a potential reader, the back blurb reels them in, and then you have 30 seconds of the first paragraph on the first page to seal the deal.

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But in my humble opinion, if your title sucks, you seriously damage the chance of your potential reader getting past first base.

I’ve not seen research on this, but I believe a catchy, intriguing title is your first line of hooking a reader – and a sale. For example, after one of my most successful books of a couple of years ago, the Indie published The No Sex Clause, I vowed to use the word ‘sex’ in as many titles as I could squeeze it into! I quickly came to the conclusion that wasn’t a good idea, as ‘sex’ doesn’t fit with other phrases. Sex & Naked Writing? Sex & Another Man’s Son, Sex: The Bride’s Curse? Uhmmm, not the right image at all.

While The No Sex Clause seemed to leap through the ether to readers, I decided it was the idea of a romance novel in which there was a binding clause that the protagonists couldn’t have sex that obviously intrigued a lot of people into pressing the BUY button.

Winters & Somers, which I thought was a neat title and one of my best books, didn’t fare as well. Judgement By Fire grabbed quite a lot of people’s attention, as did Resort to Murder. The latter two are examples of getting readers to ask the question: What? Who? Why? Read the book!

Marrying Money was a fun book that made quite a few readers smile all the way to the checkout button.

So, inquiring minds would ask, just what constitutes title magic?

Unusual word combinations. Common phrases used in an unusual way. Questions or statements that call the reader to seek an answer or explanation. Anything that arouses curiosity. Think of Gone With The Wind. Gone where? Who? Why? Oh, a romance. Gee, the civil war. An old Southern Mansion on the cover..Gotcha.

Elizabeth George’s What Came Before He Shot Her is a prime example. For followers of her Inspector Lynley series, the title promises an answer to the question we’d often wondered about: Why was Helen Lynley killed? Who did the deed? For those who are new to the series, the unusual title raises a raft of questions that pique curiosity enough to take a walk to the checkout.

Canadian author Louise Penny hit the title jackpot with her beautifully written and intriguing mystery series, the Inspector Gamache books, set in Quebec. Don’t titles such as The Beautiful Mystery, How The Light Gets In, or The Long Way Home, when applied to a detective series, just fill you with curiosity to find out more?

So, to sum up: titles aren’t just a bunch of words typed in as an afterthought. They are a vital part of telling your readers what your book is. A good title invites a prospective reader to solve a mystery, to enter a story, to seek the answers that lie between the covers of your book.

Don’t you think titles deserve some serious thought?

***You can follow the links to each of the books mentioned here, and my own books have a free first chapter read here on my website.

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