Young Adult Dark Urban Fantasy Author ~

How important is the Title?

What role does a title play in the overall feel of a book? Does it pull at your heart-strings, begging you to pick it up or is the cover more important as a draw?

Since I am now in the position of weighing my options in regard to changing my title (or clinging to it with both hands), I’ve given the whole process quite a bit of thought.

There are a good amount of book titles out there that have little or no relevance to story content. Good books. Books that I’m sure had original titles, titles that fit and worked, only to be changed in order to draw more readers.

In the YA fantasy/paranormal genre they seem more prevalent. So here’s the question: Should the title represent the story? Or should the aim of a title be to draw more readers regardless of its relevance to the book?

Example: Twilight. Stephenie Meyer intended the first book of this series to be titled FORKS. It represented the town obviously, but it also represented where Bella was in her life. Stuck at various cross-roads, trying to do the right thing, make the right decisions. Put aside the fact the we are all comfortable, and there for biased to the Twilight title, and ask yourself if it really works. Does it have any real relevance to the story? It makes a great sounding book. It fits the cover nicely. It sold millions of copies.

How about Beautiful Creatures (Darkness and Chaos), a favorite series of mine, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. These books are magical and dark and delicious. They also have a different title. The original one. SIXTEEN MOONS (and Seventeen and Eighteen). Titles that fit beautifully with the storyline. But those titles aren’t the ones we see.

How about JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Pretty clear that her titles (and covers) could not be more perfectly matched to the story.

Michael Scott‘s The Alchemist? The Magician? All the titles in this incredible series are also wonderfully in sync with both story line and book covers.

That all being said, I am assuming it’s the romantic paranormal side of YA that tends to fall to luring titles, regardless of story content. Pretty covers sell. Put a catchy title on that pretty cover and you just increased your odds of selling a book.

So, what do you think? Choose the title that fits the storyline and hope it appeals to your readers? Choose the title that grips you as the writer from the start? Or choose a title (and cover) that targets your genre regardless of relevance to the book?

I know, I know. Be savvy enough to meld them all (EXCEPT relevance, I can’t move past that). Just answer the question;) 

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7 responses

  1. I like for the title to grab my imagination, but if it doesn’t relate to the book somehow, it bugs me. I love that moment when you’re reading along and see “OH- there’s the title” and it all ties together. Nothing overt is necessary, like using a verbatim phrase or name from the book, but they should connect, IMHO.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    • Thank you for your insight. I agree that a title needs to trigger some type of response and grab my attention. When there seems to be no real connection to the story, it bothers me too. Glad you commented today;)

      November 22, 2011 at 8:30 am

  2. my personal feelings are that the title should do all the above. If you really think about Twilight for expamle, the title does fit the story. Twilight is the prelude to night, darkness and its symbloc starting over and endings. Which is where Bella is in her life during the story. A good title should have some meaning with the rest of the book, even if it’s a profound one.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    • I’m very sorry for such poor spelling and grammer. I shoudn’t type and post under the influance of pain meds.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    • I definitely see where you are coming from with the Twilight title and its meaning. My issue with it is that it wasn’t Meyer’s first gut instinct. Her publisher told her to change it. She said it was really hard for her because she felt a connection to the Forks title. She agreed that Twilight wasn’t a perfect fit for the book. Maybe Forks wasn’t either, but it resonated with her during the entire writing process and I think that should count for something. Where is the line drawn between creativity and marketability? Just my own questioning thoughts really as I ponder changing my own title from a gut feeling to something else…

      Hope you’re feeling better and glad to see you back up on the blog;)

      November 22, 2011 at 8:44 am

  3. Like Adsimons, I think the title should do all of those things. However, I feel like trying to force a title onto the book in the early stages is a death wish to your creativity; if you pigeonhole your WIP from day one, you will never allow the true breadth of the story to evolve. I feel that a concrete title is like a vice and it forces all of your work to fit between it, otherwise it may seem like the story is going off at tangents.

    Ignore the pressure, and let the title come to you. I really like it when you’re reading and then you have the “ah ha!” moment when you realise where the title came from. That is one of the good bits in the book.

    November 26, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    • I agree. Trying to title your WIP too soon will cause you to feel like you have to stick with what the title tells about the story. I never try to title my WIP before the end of the 1st draft. I either tag it “Untitled” or name it after the main charactor, like Jamie. The main charactor way helps me keep my multiple WIP’s organized while leaving the title open for later on.

      November 26, 2011 at 11:30 pm

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