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A Title for My Novel
By Alex Shapiro

Have you ever had a great idea for your novel but no clue about how to name your story, your book? It did happen to me, more than once, regardless of whether or not I was working on a novel or a short story, or even a poem. It stands true for nonfiction books and articles. 

Very few writers work on their manuscripts as "untitled." People tend to name almost everything-- other people, pets, and cars. Why not writing? 

Most of the time, writers create what is called a "working title," eventually changed later on in the publishing and marketing process. It is advisable not to get too attached by your working title because it may change.

But, what's in a title? What's so important about it?

A lot! 

Titles sell books. A title is the first thing that draws a potential reader, buyer, to your book. 

Although titles cannot be copyrighted, it is not advisable to use a well-known title for your novel. Check your titles with "Books in Print," for example, available at your library or online.

What makes a "hot" title?

First of all, it has to be catchy - "Moonlight Becomes You," by Mary Higgins Clark, and easy to pronounce - "The Ranch" by Danielle Steel, or "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham. Some titles contain meaning that triggers deeper emotions and readers may buy the book solely because of that reason. "Misery," by Stephen King, can be such an example, "Beloved," by Tony Morrison, "Hope," or "Signals," both by Joel Rothschild. 

A shorter title is better than a long one because it is easier to remember. Sometimes, a long title is necessary. Then you may consider using a subtitle, as an explanation to your title, like "Hope - A Story of Triumph," or "Signals - An Inspiring Story of Life After Life," by Joel Rothschild. 

Some authors make their books recognizable by using special words or characters in the title. Most of James Patterson's novels-- his thriller series-- are easily recognizable by the use of numbers in their titles - "1st to Die," "2nd Chance." 

A great title can have more than one meaning - "Vital Signs" by Robin Cook or "The Maze" by Catherine Coulter.

It is not a bad idea to keep an open mind and consider more than one possible title for your manuscript... and listen to your friends' opinions, too.

Titles need to come from within, rather than without. The name of a main character, or key words or expressions from your manuscript can be excellent options. The Bible, poetry, or famous quotes are also great sources of inspiration. Other choices are a twisted cliché or foreign words. As a note of advice-- using foreign words as titles may be risky, especially for first-time writers. But each book is different and the same goes for your title. Do your research first. 

Titles have to match the kind of book you are writing. Therefore, first study the titles of books in your genre, check out "Publishers Weekly," or browse the local bookstores for new titles and books. You may get inspired.

The title of your novel is important. It is the beginning of your story. It spells marketing and sells your book. Treat it with consideration.

Copyright 2003 Alex Shapiro

Alex Shapiro is a freelance writer and photographer with works published online and in print. She presently lives in New Jersey.



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