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HOW IMPORTANT IS YOUR BOOK TITLE?

December 22, 2021

            The original article came out in early 2013 and was titled “Does Your Title Have Anything To Do With Your Book?” The second version came out in 2019 and was simply called “Titles.”

            As long as Fred Central has been around, it was inevitable that this subject come around again. Now here it is, the third time.

            Why?

            As much as I read, write and observe, I’ve about seen it all, and since then, more and more examples have popped up.

THE IMPORTANCE OF A TITLE

            The original article was a sequel to a previous article. I’d talked about how not to punish your reader with words. To be exact, make your prose succinct and to the point. Don’t drone on and on. In that same vein, how about making the title somehow correspond to the subject matter?

            That thought still applies today, almost nine years later.

            The inspiration for the original title article came from an Amazon review I did of the book that inspired that previous article. Though the title played some part in the book, that was hardly the focus of events. I had to stretch to tie it in. My guess was that the author had to slap some title onto his lecture, because that’s ultimately what this tome turned out to be, a lecture on British occupation of the Sudan with a quest for treasure thrown in. Thinking back on it now, I avoid this author like the plague. I’d just as soon read a college textbook than his subsequent titles. While classified as fiction, they were quite a drudge to get through. To this day, all these years later, he still puts out an occasional book, so he has his fans. Good for him.

            To me, the title came off as a poor choice. It was an underlying theme, I guess, a common thread, but the majority of the story was about something else entirely. I could’ve thought of a hundred different titles, (some of them not so complimentary), but let’s not get off the track.

            Also, since then, and more to the point here, I’ve run across multiple examples of a title that had nothing at all to do with the story. If it did, I could not recall it…at all.

GETTING TO THE POINT/MARKETING & TRUTH IN ADVERTISING

            When I title my stories, I like to make sure the title has something to do with the actual story, something significant to do with the story, not just a minor thread to tie it all together. I suppose, given the original example and using the authors logic, the title DID tie it all together, but maybe it was because I wasn’t really happy with so much of the book that the title didn’t ring true.

            That still brings up my point about being careful to title your story. There have been plenty of cases of titles that didn’t fit (some glaringly so).

            What’s the purpose of the title anyway? It’s a form of recognition, a way for people to identify with what you wrote, a marketing tool. At the same time, that title should have something to do with what’s between the pages and not just a minor part, but a significant part. In the case of the book that inspired the original article, the beginning mentioned it, with an occasional reference here and there, and the very end in the author’s notes, which mind you, were just as droning and endless as the narrative! I guess that’s better than some others I’ve run across, but still a poor choice, in my opinion because the actual subject matter had nothing to do with that title.

            Now, sometimes the title is a pun, a cutesy play on words, a metaphor. What’s wrong with that?

            Part of the reason for a title is to have some significant connection with what the story is about. At least it should. It’s just like the back cover blurb. There’s another sore spot for me. Truth in advertising. The back blurb is designed to draw the reader in. However, it shouldn’t be there to drag in a reader under false pretenses. The blurb should describe something that’s actually in the book. It should not just be “click bait.”

SOME PEOPLE DON’T CARE

            Regardless to content or writing quality, when it comes to misleading titles, that just adds insult to injury. Then again, back in the seventies, I remember plenty of the goofy psychedelic-era tomes with nonsensical titles that didn’t have a thing to do with the content. They’re out there, and some of them are probably considered classics.

            The title is extremely important. It sets the whole premise for the book. If the title is called Horse and the book is about bank robbers who use VW Beetles and a horse is only mentioned once as a side comment somewhere in the middle, that’s a crummy title. If the book is called All The Boatmen yet the book is about a lumber mill, and the only reference to boats are two lovers in the story going on a canoe trip one weekend, that’s a misleading title.

            Those two examples I completely made up, so don’t think I took them from real examples. If they happen to be real books, that’s pure coincidence. If so, that really makes my point!

            I’ve seen more real examples but don’t want to disparage any authors directly, so I won’t go there. There are plenty of books titled after some off-hand comment, some zinger of a line that’s uttered by a character that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. Some of them are classics, many are not.

HOWEVER…

            If it’s a catchy, nonsensical title, and the story’s great, it still might just work. There are examples out there with that wonky title attached to a great story. It does happen. Nothing in this world is absolute. If a catchy title draws in readers, regardless if it’s relevant to the story, more power to you. However, I still go back to the truth in advertising thing. Most people like to know what they’re getting up front. Honesty works better most of the time.

            Please do your readers justice and give them an accurate title!

            After a few recent experiences, I thought this was worth repeating.

            Happy writing.

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