Blogger: Etta Wilson
Location: Books & Such Office, Nashville
Weather: Hot and windy
How many words should a title have? Well, that depends on a lot of things, but subtitles often carry the freight of conveying the content while the title conveys the tone and style. The length of a title also depends on the age group of the audience. The board book is one format we can count on to have a short title with subtitles seldom used. Probably the tastes of the publisher’s staff will affect the length of a book’s title.
Publishers try to avoid a title being used on another book currently being sold, which means it helps for an author to have done some title research before submitting. There are slips, of course. I notice two new works with the title Home, one by Marilynne Robinson (a novel) and one by Julie Andrews (a memoir). Both of these books would gain a ready audience, and neither publisher would care to have a potential reader confused.
Every once in a while, a book with a really long title gains a big following, such as All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, and the juvenile title The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Note that these long titles start with the letter “A,” which would place them near the top of alphabetical lists and ordering forms. Anybody think of other well-known longish titles?
A short book title might be valuable if a movie adaptation is contemplated. I notice that movies rarely have long titles, probably because of the marquee space limitations and small type used in print ads for multi-plex theaters. Sometimes the recognition factor is too important to overlook. Can you imagine a movie of The Shack being called anything else?
Here’s a tip from our client and novelist Gayle Roper: Whether long or short, use the title of your book(s) at every opportunity. Amen to that!