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How To Write A Great Book Title

Choosing a clever title can be as hard as writing the book itself. Some writers say their title comes to them first, and the story develops from there, while other writers have folders of documents like, “Untitled, fantasy time travel book, name TBD.”

Your title should do three things: Attract readers you want, distinguish your book from others in its genre, and leave a lasting impression on the reader. Here are Lulu’s tips for giving your masterpiece a great name.

  1. Avoid clich├ęd nouns like “chronicles,” “tale” and “adventure.” Sure, some of the great classics use them – The Chronicles of Narnia, The Handmaid’s Tale and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn come immediately to mind – but usually these descriptors are unnecessary and over-used. Distinguish your book with an original title, even if it is a chronicle, a tale, or an adventure. John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War could easily be described as a chronicle, but doesn’t rely on that descriptor to be memorable and powerful.
  2. How to choose a clever title? Consider an important object, character or idea from the book and start brainstorming. Perhaps a line from the book during a critical scene would make a good title. Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, for example, takes its title from a character’s description of time travel to a child – creating a “wrinkle” in the fabric of time to get to and fro easily. The relevancy of the title may not be immediately apparent, but when the reader finally figures it out within the text, the realization can be just as satisfying as finishing the book.
  3. If your book is non-fiction, consider a subtitle to clarify your clever main title. Readers of non-fiction want to know up-front what they’re going to get from your book. Before it becomes a nationally-known best-seller, a vague title like What Color is Your Parachute? needs a descriptive subtitle (A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers) to appeal to the job-hunters who might need the help this book can provide. The combination of title and subtitle of Deborah Frye and Tracy Mercier’s Our Father Who Aren’t In Heaven: A True Story of a Career Criminal does a great job of telling the reader the subject and tone of the book. (Don’t worry; if you’re using Lulu’s cover design services, we can handle a subtitle, a sub-subtitle and all the authors, illustrators, editors and contributors you want to include on the cover!)
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