|Never doubt the power of a good title|
Even in an era of boring book titles, some authors made theirs stand out. When Edgar Allan Poe published a short story with a very new and innovative style, he gave it an innovative name, The Murders in the Rue Morgue. If he had named it Dupin, after the main character, would it have caught the eye? I doubt it. This title gives us plenty of information in six words, and we know immediately if we want to read it. This story's popularity in effect defined the detective genre, but credit needs to be offered to those six words that drew people to reading the story in the first place.
When we write our story, we should think about what we want to offer the reader at the very beginning. Do we offer a sense of humor and whimsy? Do we suggest the genre? Is the title a question that draws the potential reader in to find the answer? Or is it just odd enough to make someone browsing through Amazon stop and give it a second look? The proposed title for one of my favorite books was, An Inquiry into Values. Did that spark your interest? Didn't think so. However, the novel ended up with the more curious name, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An inquiry into Values. That made a difference, as it soon hit the New York Times' Bestseller List.
Some genres sell themselves, so the title does not need to appeal to whether it is sci-fi, fiction-fantasy, contemporary. or whatever. At that point, what is the real selling point? Mood and intensity usually come to mind. In sci-fi, things can go in many directions, so if the reader gets a feel for what area they'll be walking into, they'll be more comfortable. Space opera is one thing, dystopian sci-fi is another, and of course there is the tongue-in-cheek talk of how the future will still have very human themes. Think about Douglas Adams' defining work of humor and science-fiction, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Before this was published, or was even a radio show, the proposal was called, The Ends of the Earth. Something about the title didn't match the tone, and the reworks began. The final product gave curious people everything they wanted to know - novelty, sci-fi, and an appeal to the off-beat. Millions of copies later, it looks like Mr. Adams made the right decision.
Does every story need to have the big sell right in the title? Maybe it does, maybe it's not important. The next book I will be reading is Tom Hernandez' The Acorn Wars. It's an exploration into the family dynamic, and maybe a title saying that would've scared readers away. However, a perfect name such as The Acorn Wars is intriguing enough to draw interest, and that's why I will be reading it. (And it's on Kindle soon.)
When you set down and write your next masterpiece, just give a thought to those words that appear on the cover or at the top of the page. Think about what they could do for you. Maybe something amazing pops out, maybe not. The important part is that it's an opportunity, and we should never pass them up.