How Important Is Your Book Title Really?


How important is your book title? For real…

Well, like we covered earlier this week, these things do matter. If you’re unpublished, your book title is going to either intrigue or turn off literary agents and publishing companies. And if you’re already published, it’s going to either intrigue or turn off potential readers.

I demonstrated that in Tuesday’s writing Definition by listing the top book titles on The New York Times Best Seller’s list as of December 4, 2017. In the Combined Print & E-Book Fiction category, they were:

  1. The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson

  2. The Midnight Line by Lee Child

  3. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

  4. Origin by Dan Brown

  5. Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich

And the Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction category went like this:

  1. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

  2. Obama by Pete Souza

  3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

  4. Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

  5. Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

Looking at those book titles, every single potential reader is going to form an automatic opinion. Even if they don’t know the authors or can ignore them, they’re still going to react either positively or negatively.

To me, The People vs. Alex Cross sounds interesting, The Midnight Line sounds mildly interesting, The Rooster Bar strikes me as an utter snoozefest, and Origin could be interesting but it’s not anything that will stick in my mind if I walk away.

As for Hardcore Twenty-Four, I simply can’t separate the book title from the author because it’s so very specific. Janet Evanovich has a series that starts out with One for the Money. And then it’s Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly and so on.

The series started out utterly hysterical but proceeded to employ the same major plot points in every single subsequent novel (at least that I read). That gets old. And tacky. And unprofessional. And boring.

Really, I have even stronger objections to James Patterson, who is a rape-exploiting hack. And I do know that Alex Cross is one of his best-seller creations. But I still found it less difficult to objectively analyze The People vs. Alex Cross than Hardcore Twenty-Four.

As for the listed non-fiction, Leonardo da Vinci seems like something I could flip through. And Astrophysics for People in a Hurry looks utterly awesome! But I can’t ever see myself reading Obama, Sisters First or Promise Me, Dad for reasons I explained on Tuesday.

Believe it or not, this all does bring me around to Writing Rule #47, which cautions that:

Titles are important. But they’re not the be-all and end-all of generating

interest in your book.

It’s true that a bad title will turn readers off. And a good title will intrigue them.

But, sadly, we’re more visually oriented then intellectually stimulated these days. So a book’s initial sales success depends on a lot more than a title.

Like the author.

While I won’t buy a Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, Dan Brown or John Grisham book because I don’t respect their names one bit, it’s those very names that landed them on The New Times Best Sellers List this week.

After writing so many books, they’re well-recognized authors. Household names, even. People notice their offerings for the simple reason that they’re familiar.

Even I notice their books for that reason. And I can’t stand them.

It’s the same thing with the non-fiction category. No matter how much we like to think ourselves the rebels, we’re drawn to the familiar.

We’re also drawn to book covers. The whole reason why I picked up a Janet Evanovich work way back when was the very colorful front cover. It jumps right out at potential readers, saying, "Pick me! Pick me!"

Without it, One for the Money wouldn’t be very catchy. At least not to me.

That’s why we’re going to look at book covers starting next Tuesday. Though if you’re still fretting about your book title, remember that my email is always open!

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