Do You Judge a Book by its Title?
© Cheryl Wright –
All Rights Reserved
As writers, we ensure that we use a great
opening, that the content is spectacular, and each scene (in fiction) ends
with a cliff-hanger. In short, we spend the majority of time tweaking our
story. And of course, that’s the way it should be.
But how much time do we devote to titles?
It appears to be very little.
I recently did an unofficial survey of
both published and unpublished writers, and here’s what I found:
The title was unimportant
If the editor didn’t like it, she would
Makes no difference to the book
People would buy the book no matter the
It was something to think about later… if
the book sold
They couldn’t be any further from the
truth if they tried.
Titles are extremely important to your
story. So important, they will often mean the difference between selling or
It’s okay to have a weak or unrelated
‘working title’ – but that’s as far as it should go. The minute you have an
appropriate catchy title, change it. Not only on your ms, but also in your
When I wrote Saving Emma, it had a horrid
working title. "Undercover Love" was never a favourite of mine, but it would
do until I could find something better. As I wrote the second last chapter,
part of the dialogue talked about the main protagonist ‘saving Emma’ from
certain death. In that unforgettable moment, the title jumped off the pages
and into my brain.
Not only did my whole outlook on this book
change, but it also changed in the minds of editors and publishers.
As "Undercover Love" I’d submitted the
book to several publishers and had nothing but rejections. And not even
personal rejections; I got form letter ‘dear writer’ rejections.
When the title changed, the responses also
changed. I began to get bites and requests. Despite the fact that the story
itself was unaltered, editors became interested.
All this because of a title change?
Well, yes. Titles are extremely important.
To get an idea of how much difference a
title really can make, take a look at these examples of title changes:
Tomorrow is Another Day – Gone with
John Thomas & Lady Jane – Lady
Something that Happened – Of Mice and
Blossom and the Flower – Peyton Place
Sometimes it’s just a matter of tweaking
your title slightly. For instance, one of my works-in-progress was called
"Into the Arms of a Stranger" I hated the title, despised it in fact, until
I shortened it. "Arms of a Stranger" is a much better title, and has more
appeal than the longer version.
Following are just a handful of titles
I’ve started with, and then changed for the better:
Poison Ivy – The Rubber Ducky Killer
The Flight – The First Flight
The Gym – Mystery at Joe’s Gym
First Person Point of View – Me,
Myself & I: Writing First Person POV
Finding Ideas – Today I Witnessed a
The title of your story, book, or article,
should portray something of the content, as well as standing out from the
Just as a great looking cover will sell
your book, so will an outstanding title.
author: Cheryl Wright
is an award-winning Australian author and freelance journalist. In addition
to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the Writer2Writer.com
website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for writers. Her
publications include novels, non-fiction books, short stories, and articles.
To keep up to date with her publications and new releases, visit Cheryl’s website