Sunday, March 17, 2013


Titles are an important tool for marketing and selling books. Make yours work for you.

Titles should give you a clue about the book. But they should not give anything away.

A short snappy title is easy to remember and will attract readers.  

A great source for titles are quotations or sayings (you'll find lots on the internet). When I read the English counting rhyme that starts "One crow for sorrow . . . ",  I knew that the last line ". . . never to be told" was the perfect title for my juvenile novel, a book about family secrets.

Titles can come from a word, a phrase or a snippet of dialogue in your story. In the second book of my pioneer series about Ellie and Max, I wrote the line "Papa said the Indians called November the Freezing Moon." The Freezing Moon was the perfect title for my story about Ellie's family trying to survive in the harsh Canadian winter.

Titles can come from a strong image in the story. My novel Whiteout begins and ends with severe winter blizzards.

Sometimes I know the title right from the beginning; other times I choose a "working title" that I change later. I love the quotation by Plato "Courage is a kind of salvation" and A Kind of Salvation was the working title for my teen novel (coming out October 2013!). But my editor and I both agreed it is a bit obscure for a kids book and we came up with If Only instead.  

I write for ages six to fourteen. For my younger readers, I choose titles that are simple and easy to understand, for example Sam's Ride and Jeremy and the Enchanted Theater. For my older readers, I like a title that is more suggestive eg After The Fire and Missing.

An editor or publisher might want you to change your title. It often pays to listen. I called my second book David and the City Slicker. My editor at Scholastic urged me to change it to School Campout, maintaining that the word "school" in a title will help sell books. We changed it and School Campout has been one of my best selling books!

There is no copyright on titles, however it is a good idea to google your proposed title and make sure it hasn't been used too often.

Some advice from James Smith in The Writer's Little Helper . . .

No matter how you cut it,  a great title is of no value without a great story behind it.


Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
This is the first book in a delightful fantasy series. It has a colourful cast of characters: spunky Charlie who can hear voices in photographs,  his faithful friend Benjamin, a dog called Runner Bean, Uncle Paton who can smash light bulbs by looking at them,  nasty Grandma Bone and three wicked great aunts.  There are eight books in the series.


What if . . .  you are endowed with a special gift (like Charlie Bone). What would it be? What would you do with your gift?

 Next week:  The First Draft

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