How Well Titled Is Your Manuscript?


Hello, my name is Jeannette DiLouie, and I hate coming up with book titles. Except in my fantasy series, for some reason.

Not So Human, To Err Is Faerie, Up in the Air, Wing and Dagger and the due-out-in-2018 Flights of Fancy just seem like utterly perfect titles for books filled with snark, faeries, action and adventure.

Though, come to think of it, I guess I really struggled over Not So Human’s name for years, changing it maybe five times before I officially published the thing. Back when it was a first-draft manuscript, I called it "The Tinker Bell Beginning."

Thanks to plenty of conversations I’ve had with fellow writers, I know I’m not alone in my overall book title coming-up-with angst. If you’re with me there, check this out.

As for all you obnoxious writers who are good at such things, I guess you can tag along too. Who knows, you might still learn something from today’s Writing Challenge of the Week.

Create a truly tremendous title.

What’s in a title? Will a book by any other name read as sweet?

Probably. But it might have fewer readers that way. So here’s what to keep in mind...

A title is a decently big deal that needs to be tailored to your ideal reader. Is this person a horticulturalist? Then Your Epic Guide to Growing Rose Bushes might be perfect. Is he or she a sci-fi fan? Then Rigel Five’s Revenge could lure him or her right in. It all depends.

It depends on what age group, what gender, and/or what race your ideal reader is, as well as what interests, what political affiliations and what genres they prefer. Does that sound prejudiced? It isn’t.

What it is… That would be realistic. You’re not telling non-ideal readers that they can’t enjoy your book; you’re simply acknowledging that certain types of people are more likely to pick it up.

And then you’re welcoming that type right in.

For example, the genre that my fantasy series falls into traditionally attracts white men between the ages of 13 and 35. Moreover, they’re probably into the idea of chivalry, clear-cut good vs. evil fights, and acts of battlefield bravery that get rewarded.

While the fantasy genre has expanded significantly since its founding to include lots of little teen and tween girls interested in magic-fueled romances, those books are still found in the Young Adult section of the bookstore. So they’re a different story.

If you’re writing one of those, your ideal reader looks a lot different. Yet either way, you do want to wonder what word or words will capture his or her attention.

Not So HumanAdmittedly, there are plenty of other ways to come up with a suitable name for your book. For instance, didn’t factor in any of the above information as far as I remember. When I came up with that particular book title, I was a naive little thing who was only focused on being catchy and descriptive.

My line of reasoning therefore went something like this:

My manuscript is about a young woman who thinks she’s human, only to find out she’s a Scottish faerie princess in hiding from the evil Human Preservation and Advancement Committee.

That’s a pretty shocking discovery: learning that you’re not what you always thought you were.

If I saw a book title that implied the main character was not so human, I’d want to know more.

But that was my thought process for that particular book title. When you break it all down, there are dozens upon dozens of ways to take your quest for the perfect book title.

If you’re curious about whether yours works or not, wing it my way for an honest (free) opinion.

Oh, and make sure to read tomorrow’s Writing Rule. Whether you’re writing a fantasy series or a horticulture manuscript, you, your book title and your ideal reader are bound to benefit.

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