Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Do Titles Matter?

When I attended agent Laura Rennert's class at Storymakers, she mentioned almost in passing that you really need to have a great title when you submit.

I've had titles come to me as the original spark for a story, and stories that I couldn't come up with a title for, and ending up hating the title I chose, even though that's what they were published as. I'm talking short stories here. My first novel has been through numerous title changes over the years (I wrote it twelve years ago, and set it aside for ten years). It's currently called Defenders of the Covenant.. Not bad, but I'm still not quite sure if it's right. The novel I'm working on has a title I think is pretty good, The Ransomed Returning, and I have no plans to change it.

One of my most favorite titles is A Thousand Words for Stranger (by Julie E. Czerneda). I think it's so evocative. One of my least favorite titles is Cars. I love the movie, but really, that was that the best title they could come up with? It tells you absolutely nothing.

What are your favorite book titles? How do you come up with titles? What makes a great title? I'm curious. Titles can be so tricky.

Speaking of titles, head over to Shallee McArthur's blog and enter her "Books you say you'd never read" contest. Pitch a book based on a Facebook security phrase. It's hilarious. Today (May 20) is the last day to enter, so hurry over.


Aubrie said...

I'm glad you talked about this today because I just changed my title of my WIP from Desert Nomad to Paradise 21. It fits the story more, and I thought it was a little more sci fi.

I like "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" that is a great title.

"Boneshaker" is another awesome title.

Cars is a bad title, your right!

Kaylie said...

Titles can be hard. You'd think if I could write a big ol' novel, coming up with a 1-6 word title wouldn't be that hard, but sometimes it is.

Amanda said...

I DO judge a book by its cover, so the title and cover art really matter to me. That is why I can only hope for a nice book cover when I finally get published.

KM said...

I totally agree with Aubrie - THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES are such good titles!!! I also love Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER and LINGER. To me, there's something intriguing about a one-word title. I wish I could come up with a good one.

Although I love the books, I really hate The Luxe Books' titles: THE LUXE, RUMORS, ENVY, and SPLENDOR. Bad version of one-word titles.

tiffany said...

my new blog address is tiffs life as we know it i choose it becuse its about me changeing and this is my life as we know it now and will now it later

Lisa said...

A friend of mine wrote a book and after I read it he gave me a list of six titles he was considering. I laughed my way through five of them because they sounded like either the title to a Lifetime Movie or a SciFi flick.

It is important to get input because we can't always see past the story in our head.

Thanks for the great post!

Theresa Milstein said...

I do think titles are extremely important.

Some good ones:

My Nose and Other Calamities
Hush, Hush
Accidental Tourist
Interpreter of Maladies
The Paradox of Choice

And I love all of my manuscript titles, of course.

AstonWest said...

Titles definitely matter. In a former life, my first book had a title that no one could remember exactly. This time around, people tend to get it and the title sticks in their head. That's rather important when people are telling others about your novel.

Angie said...

Aubrie, I love Paradise 21. That's a great title! You've all shared some really good examples. Tiff, I like the title for your new blog. I like the titles of your books too, Todd. Thanks everyone for the comments.

Lindsey Duncan said...

Oy, titles drive me nuts! For short stories, I find I tend to fall back on phrases / sayings that have double meanings in context of the story: City Limits, Diminishing Returns, etc.

Of my novels, my favorite of my own titles is probably Journal of the Dead. I realize Scylla and Charybdis is going to confuse the cheese out of people because it's SF, not fantasy ... but deal. It's appropriate. ;-)

I vote "Doppelgangster" as a serious contender for the top ten list of best one word titles.

Michelle H. said...

Titles are important, but I absolutely hate coming up with them for my works. I always change them eight times, reverting to the original title at the end - yet still disliking it.

lotusgirl said...

Titles are tricky, but they are so important. I love one word titles like


(Not that I've read them, but I like the titles.)

clever word combos are great too though or ones that will make me laugh.

Elana Johnson said...

I do think titles are super-important. I can't think of any right now that I just thought were brilliant, but I can think of some that don't make sense. And I really hate that -- titles that don't match the story inside.

Jackee said...

Titles come so easy for me that I'm always worried they come TOO easy, you know? As in they're not original or the best one I could have come up with. But so far it's worked... we'll see if it stays that way.


And I do love your titles! One of my favorites: The Lovely Bones--it draws me right in even if the story isn't my cup of tea.

elizabeth mueller said...

Angie! I love creating Titles. I feel that titles are extremely important--they should be just as attractive and catchy as the book cover.

The title is a hook.

How do I come up with titles? I love thought provoking titles, opposite clashing kind of titles. a few that I've made up (some may already be published but here's my stab at it) that make me think of stories in the making, are: Midnight Sun, Knight in Rusted Armor, Darkspell, Tragic Innocence. Devil's Angel, or Angel's Devil, The Frog Kisser, Heartsong, Mermaid's Curse. lol. some of those are books that I've already written. ;)

T. Anne said...

Wow it's good to know that agents actually feel it's important to come up with a good title. I always thought they were meh about them. I feel empowered now. ;) I'm ready to think of a title for my new WIP. I always look to poetry.

Joanne said...

I do think titles are important, and love the way they can capture the content of a book in just a few words. Almost like a micro-synopsis.

Anonymous said...

The same way a book cover can catch my attention, the title makes me equally curious.

I carefully think of titles for my manuscripts. It could be the theme of my manuscript or a quote from it, but I want it to be both evocative and meaningful.

Danyelle said...

I love looking at book titles, but they're hard to come up with if you're looking for brilliant. I love titles that can catch an entire story in a word or two. :)

Shallee said...

Thanks for the mention, Angie! Great post on titles, too. I talk about my title process at

And thanks too for being my first follower on my blogger pages! :)

ali said...

I like the Ransomed Returning a LOT. Cool name :) One of my faves is The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and it's follow up The Dead Tossed Waves is pretty dang cool too. I need to have a good working title or, for some dumb reason, I can't get into the writing of the book. Weird, eh? ♥

Mary Campbell said...

I think a title is very important, unfortunately I'm not that great at coming up with them. I read that you hurt your leg - hope your doing better.

Bethany Wiggins said...

LOL! Great minds think alike... I posted about the same thing!

Julie Dao said...

I really like titles! Sometimes it's the book title that first catches my eye and not the cover. Have you noticed a trend with titles getting longer, especially for YA or MG books? I noticed it at Barnes and Noble! Maybe it's the "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" trend still alive and kicking. I see a lot of "First-name Last-name and the Important Plot Point." I feel sort of ambivalent about them because I like short and sweet titles. I like the word "Twilight."

Angie said...

Thanks for all your thoughts on titles, all. I personally love titles that have some sort of emotional resonance. Thanks again for the comments everybody!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Great post, Angie! I was talking about this with my crit partner yesterday. As a man who likes man books, he admitted to being completely in the dark about why certain titles appeal to the titles just selected for my novels. :-) That's what I love about the mystery of titles: it's all about audience.

My favorite recent title in historical romance is She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell. It's intriguing and lyrical.