Blogger: Mary Keeley
Location: Books & Such Midwest Office, Illinois
A killer title for your book can make the difference between an editor taking a serious look at your proposal or not at all. It’s the all-important first impression. If your title can capture agent and editor attention, the perception is that the first pages of your manuscript might deliver on the title’s promise. Here are a few suggestions to help you zero in on a great title.
- Promise Something (for nonfiction projects)
- One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life
- One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
- Intriguing One or Two Words
- Moneyball (about how the Oakland Athletics built a successful team with one of the smallest payrolls in baseball). Michael Lewis brilliantly combined the subject of the book (the Oakland Athletics) with the specific topic (building a lucrative team from minimal resources) using a familiar game idea for the title.
- Blink (how instincts work in your mind) – Malcolm Gladwell found a perfect word that describes how instantaneously our gut-level hunches come to mind and the importance of paying attention to them.
- A Potent Phrase or Place
- The Devil in the White City (how an architect and a serial killer were linked by the World’s Fair of 1893). A powerful descriptor of the psychopath in contrast to Chicago, the city filled with new hope, employment, and preparations for the World’s Fair.
- Adapt a Familiar Phrase or Scripture
- In the Still of the Night (about the strange death of Ronda Reynolds and her mother’s tireless search for the truth). True-crime author Ann Rule paints the picture of what really happened on the night Ronda Reynolds supposedly committed suicide.
- Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God. Mark Batterson used a familiar phrase, “wild goose chase” that also has another meaning. Wild Goose is his name for the Holy Spirit, and the name hints at mystery…and adventure. Perfect.
- Incongruous Words or Phrases
- Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. Francis Chan contrasted the “crazy” thought that the God of the universe loves us with a relentless love in a powerful, two-word title.
- In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. How we think we’ve been in the wrong places at the wrong times might actually have been the right places at the right times according to God’s positioning. Mark Batterson thought of a great word picture to describe this contrast.
- A Key Phrase from within the Story
- Pearl in the Sand (the fictional story of Rahab). The phrase doesn’t appear until the last part of the story. But in so doing, the reader not only finally understands where the title came from but also gains deeper meaning into the imagery of finding a beautiful pearl in commonplace sandy surroundings.
In what ways do these tips and examples prompt ideas for your WIP? What additional tips can you offer that have been successful for you in coming up with killer titles? Or tell us what titles you’ve seen that you consider stellar.