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Choosing Your Project Title

November 3rd, 2017

Choosing a good title for a novel or a play can be very important.  I want to quote you some words from Anthony Horowitz taken from his new book, “The Word is Murder”.  This was published in August 2017:

Almost 200,000 books are published in the UK every year and although some of them will have the advantage of a well-known author attached, the vast majority have just two or three words on a surface measuring no more than 6 x 9 inches to sell themselves.  Titles have to be short, smart and meaningful, easy to read, easy to remember and original.  That’s asking a lot.

Many of the best titles are simply borrowed from elsewhere.  Brave New World, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Vanity Fair… all of these were drawn from other works.  Agatha Christie used the Bible, Shakespeare, Tennyson and even The Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam for many of her 82 titles. 

For my money, nobody is better than Ian Fleming: From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die.  His titles have passed into the English language although even he didn’t find it easy.  Live and Let Die was almost published as “The Undertaker’s Wind”.   Moonraker was “The Moonraker Secret”, “The Moonraker Plot”, “The Moonraker Plan” and even for a short time, “Monday’s are hell”!  Goldfinger began life as “The Richest Man in the World.”  

© Anthony Horowitz 2017

So think very carefully.  Don’t be afraid to change the title when something stronger comes to your mind, and look around you at what others are doing.

When I studied under the Writers Bureau as a student I wrote my first book.  It was accepted by HarperCollins and published in 1994 under the title “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: a practical guide to recovery”.   I was disappointed with the title because I thought it was far too long and clunky.  However, I decided that the publisher knew best and so went along with it.  In 1996 the book was ‘remaindered’ which is something that doesn’t seem to happen today in our computer age and instant printing of single copies of books.

Undaunted by this, I reworked the material and updated it extensively and then in 1998 it was published by a small firm called Success Unlimited under the title “PTSD: the Invisible Injury”.  Under this title, the book went through two further revisions and is actually still available today, almost a quarter of a century after the original publication date.  Sales under the new title outstripped the original sales by a ratio of over 8:1 so I think that is a success!

Mine is a non-fiction title though.  Sales are modest in this genre.  Imagine the difference a good title can make to a fiction book!  It is worth taking some time and sounding people out.  At the end of the day, your publisher will also have some input on what the title might be.

 

A freelance write now for twenty-eight years, David worked his way from being a Writers Bureau student – through writing columns for the local paper, drama for radio, short stories/articles for magazines in the UK/USA – to being a Bureau tutor for well over twenty years and writing four textbooks on PTSD.  So a wide variety.  “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is his creed for any writer.

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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