Title track

Earlier this summer I posted about titles – and my difficulty in coming up with a good one. I’ve had an ongoing e-conversation with friend Susan about titles, and I’ve been tossing a few her way for feedback. In our last “chat,” Susan pointed me to a great post on the Publisher’s Weekly blog, ShelfTalker by way of Augusta Scattergood. (Congratulations once more to Augusta for winning a Crystal Kite for Glory Be!)

I won’t reblog the whole article – and you really should give it a look – but here’s the heart of the post:

The best kinds of titles seem to be:

  • Titles that are very clear about their subject matter — The Boyfriend List, The Candy Shop War,Fablehaven, Wereworld, The House with the Clock in its Walls, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Evil Genius
  • Titles that work in concert with the cover art to paint an inviting idea of what the story is about — My Side of the Mountain, Chasing Vermeer, Charlotte’s Web, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,The Sea of Trolls
  • Titles with words that appeal to kids, like “spy,” “clue,” “game,” “secret,” puzzle,” “ghost,” etc. —11 Birthdays, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Westing Game, Harriet the Spy, The Golden Compass, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Lightning Thief
  • Titles that intrigue — From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, A Mango-Shaped Space, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears, Inkheart, The House of Scorpions, The Game of Sunken Places, A Great and Terrible Beauty
  • Titles that delight or surprise or amuse — The True Meaning of Smekday, Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, Whales on Stilts, Toad Rage, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda  
  • Titles that are pleasing to the ear, even if they don’t immediately reveal too much about the story — Alabama MoonGrave MercyJourney to the River SeaThe Star of Kazan, Artemis Fowl, The Starry River of the Sky, The Amulet of Samarkand

(“Does the Title Fit?” Elizabeth Bluemle, ShelfTalker, June 6, 2013.)

Great points – even if some curmudgeons will point out that a title’s beauty is in the ear of the beholder. If you’re still stuck on titles like me, or just want a shot of fun in your writing day, check out the Lulu Titlescorer (also courtesy of Susan). Susan did point out that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone only scored about 40%, so you can make your own judgments as to its accuracy, wink, wink.

What’s your favorite title?





7 thoughts on “Title track

  1. I definitely agree that the title and cover art need to state, as clearly as possible, what the story’s about and possibly it’s voice. I know that it’s that combo that will either attract and intrigue me—or not. If it does, I pick it up from the shelf to take a look 🙂

    As far as a favorite? I never thought about it and I have so many titles drifting about the water-logged recesses of my mind, it’s hard to think of them all. For me, the Harry Potter titles are all favorites, simply because those books hold such a special place in my reader’s/writer’s heart, but they are also very clear in what they focus on. A few titles came to mind when I read your question, then I took a quick look at some of my books, so here’s a bit of a list, to name a few:

    The King’s Speech: I love that “speech” has a double meaning; both his stuttering and the address he gives at the end of the movie. I have the book it was based on, but have barely read it 😦

    The Hunger Games
    The Underneath
    The Adventures of Captain Underpants
    Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls, or Does It?
    A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
    The Mysterious Benedict Society
    The Tales of Beedle the Bard

    Green Eggs and Ham
    The Monstore
    Crankee Doodle
    The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
    Dirt on My Shirt
    Let’s Do Nothing!
    Chicken Big
    I Want My Hat Back

    Oh, Boy, You’re Having a Girl
    The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank

    So, there’s a bit of a variety, and only a few. There are plenty more on the bookstore and library shelves that aren’t coming to mind : /

    I hope you think of a good one, Leslie! 🙂

      1. Donna’s list was great! I’ve noticed the fad (?) in one word titles – Delirium, Bumped, Matched… which I suppose fits under stating what the book is about and sounding pleasing to the ear. But there’s more to it – presence? punch?

      2. Good point, Lauri! Any thoughts about picture book titles? Do they follow similar guidelines to you?

  2. Hey, gals 🙂 Glad you liked my little list there 🙂 I, too, noticed the many one-word titles in YA. It’s a trend that I think is mostly along the lines of brevity/conciseness and “punch” as you say, which together = immediate recognition with simplicity, almost like a logo. Think of the one-name stars: Cher, Prince, etc. The shorter the better, and it fits into conversation and in marketing that much easier, too. We often abbreviate longer titles in conversation, etc., too, like saying “Phoenix” for “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

    I think Picture Books tend to have longer titles more so than YA. Some MG titles are on the longer side, too. I think the older the crowd, the less “direct” or “explanatory” the titles are. They’re often metaphorical, etc., I think, right?

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