Book Title Formulas
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jan 31 2012
i read the section on “titles” and you mentioned there is a “formula” for suspense, thrillers and the like. what is the formula?
I don’t think there’s a formula like in algebra, plug in this and you’ll get this, but if you look at a shelf full of thrillers or suspense titles, I think you’ll soon begin to see a pattern of titles like: Bad Blood, The Cold Room, Still Missing, Edge, Skin, Torn Apart….
In other words, simple, chilling, and kind of scary. There’s nothing too descriptive in a thriller or suspense title (typically).
When you choose a title, choose one that represents the tone or voice of your book. In other words, does your title itself convey a mood, or tell a bit of a story to the reader?
How much will agents (though I know you can only speak for you) help the author on a title? Say the author comes up with something, but it isn't that good. Will the agent help brainstorm a better one?
Titles can be tricky, especially since the author usually has little say in the final choice. At the same time, a good title can catch the eye of an agent or editor. And for a self-published book, the title is very important.
Not to toot my own horn, but I did put together some good advice about how to choose a title on my blog a while back. Here's the url, if anyone is interested.
Titles can also be numbers like Janet Evanovich or letters like Sue Grafton.
I've recently run into an issue with my novel's title. It's titled CURSES! A F***ed Up Fairy Tale, which I love, but I've recently had an interview with a newspaper cancelled because of the 'inappropriateness' of the title. So my question is, am I harming the series by it's being branded as A F***ed Up Fairy Tale? Any ideas of ways to circumvent this issue in the future?
@j.a. kazimer: I think this is the perfect example of finding a title that conveys the right tone to your reader. From your title, I'm assuming your fairy tale is a bit quirky, tries to subvert some tropes, and probably has a bit of humor and language, definitely aimed for adults. If so, then that title sounds perfect–but, given it, may cause more mainstream outlets to be a bit hesitant about it unless it picks up a lot of good word-of-mouth and sales. My guess is you might do better if you could get some publicity through less mainstream avenues and things with a quirky bent. I can't see it being a total failure of a title, though; the same formula helped GO THE F*** TO SLEEP last year. But it did cause controversy, and that helped sales because people were curious.
Aack! The title of my thriller is The Compass Master, with no words like blood or missing or secret codes in sight. Most of the time I think my title is cool and relevant to the story, but in moments of insecurity I fret that it sounds more like a video game. Or a fantasy miniseries like Game of Thrones.
That's a great idea. I will look to less mainstream media.
I usually name each chapter in a book so that by the time I am done with forty chapters, I have forty titles from which to choose. I find it a lot easier picking a title this way than sitting down and pondering (which in my case leads to daydreaming),