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Novels: What Makes a Title Shine?

January 25th, 2013

I forgot to introduce this week’s guest blogger at the end of last week’s post – sorry Jane!  Jane is one of the runners up in this year’s  ‘Student of the Year’ competition.  To read about how her writing career has developed since she enrolled on our Creative Writing Course, click on ‘Student Stories’ at the top of the page.  Now, over to Jane…

As I put the finishing touches to my second book, I’m increasingly aware that I haven’t chosen a title yet. Actually, I’ve chosen several, none of which seem to quite fit. So, how important is a book title?

Last month I read an article by a leading UK agent who said it was the title and opening of a novel that draws her initial attention. No pressure there then… At a recent book signing a reader informed me the cover art, title and blurb (in that order) makes her decide whether or not to purchase a book by a new author.

I’ve spoken to authors who cannot start a novel without deciding on a title, and others who leave it to the very last minute, allowing the plot to develop, the characters grow, the full extent of the story to mull over in their mind before creating a headline.

an unfamiliar murderAn Unfamiliar Murder was my working title for book one. I admit I never intended it to stick. When I asked my agent why he was so keen for me to keep it he said, ‘Because it’s original.’

Maybe there is something in that? Do an Amazon search and you only come up with one An Unfamiliar Murder. Yet, with no copyright in titles, many authors write successful books with similar or same titles. Perhaps I should call my next book 40 Shades of Grey, or 60? It would certainly boost sales!

Some schools of thought argue that you should analyse the story and come up with something short and snappy that sums the novel up and identifies the genre. Online marketing companies suggest, as a new writer, you should check the key words people use to search for a novel in your genre and incorporate these.

I considered some of my favourites: Catch 22 immediately poses a question, the contradiction of The Lovely Bones draws a reader’s attention, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is intriguing.

The challenge is to come up with something short, catchy and unique; something that poses a question, pulling a prospective reader in, urging them to read on; a heading that also sums up your story. Achieve that, and potential readers will never be disappointed.

Jane Isaac was runner up ‘Writer of the Year 2013’ with The Writers Bureau. She lives in rural Northamptonshire, UK with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo.

Jane’s short stories have appeared in several crime fiction anthologies. Her debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was released in February 2012 by Rainstorm Press and has been nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards’.

Visit www.janeisaac.co.uk to learn more about Jane, read a snippet from her book, peruse her blog, or contact her.

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