In looking around for a new book to sink my teeth into (in a manner of speaking), I started to ponder the many free new novels on Amazon and what made me choose one and reject the next. So I thought I’d write up a few blog posts explaining (for myself as much as anyone else) my thought processes when I’m trawling Amazon. This is the first of what will probably be four or five blog posts over the next two weeks.
There are three things about a book’s title that will give me serious reservations as to whether I even begin to read it:
- Generic, means-nothing titles that are usually clichés, like (and I’m just making these up now): “Blind Justice”, “Presumed Guilty” or “First Love” (the last is a book by Turgenev. He did it over a hundred years ago, and in his native Russian, so he got away with it.) Famous writers do sometimes phone-in titles – John Grisham, I’m thinking of you, mate. In general, I will overlook a pretty vague-and-ordinary title from a writer I trust, but won’t from a writer I have never heard of.
- TITLES IN ALL CAPS. STOP SHOUTING AT ME, PLEASE.
- Titles that include a postscript explaining how great the book apparently is. I see this quite often and really, it comes across as “telling, not showing” at best, and authorial arrogance at worst.
In short, I will probably not want to pick up your book if the title looks like this: “THE WRONG KIND OF GUY – a sexy and intriguing new novel by Naomi Barton.”
I love naming my own works, but it’s a niche talent and I know it’s a major pain for a lot of writers. If you’re one of those people who don’t spend hours making up names for things you haven’t even written yet, it’s perfectly OK to ask around for inspiration. Ask your editor or beta. Ask Twitter. Ask a random person at the bus stop. Ask your mother. (No, really. You don’t necessarily need to be a writer to have a gift for coming up a compelling title.)
Two of the best books I’ve read this year have unusual titles. The first won a Pulitzer: Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. The other is underrated and little known: Colin Mulhern’s The Boy Who Buried Dead Things. That last one is one I picked up almost entirely because of the title. I’m so glad I did.
Am I way off here? Too harsh and picky? Let me know what you think. I won’t bite 🙂