Novel Hooks

Strong Titles Sell Novels and Books

I’ve been thinking a lot about titles for novels, or really any book, trying to give them stronger hooks.

Titles are essentially sales tools: for you to sell to the publisher and for the publisher to sell to the public. After you have several books out and start to build a reputation, then your NAME becomes the hook as much as anything. But at first, it’s the title.

What makes a good title?

Catchy. Unusual, interesting, lyrical — anything that lifts the title above average. Alliteration, metaphors, coined words, and rhyme are things to try as you play with possible titles.

Emotional Appeal. Legendary editor Sol Stein says, “Fiction evokes emotion; nonfiction imparts information.” With more creative nonfiction today, we might amend that to say, “Nonfiction imparts information in an emotional way.” The title should emphasize the emotional hook. Names of characters often help add emotional appeal – if you’ve named the character well.

Pop Culture Reference. If you can work in some pop culture reference, all the better.

Sound Bite. Remember that the salesman has only 10 seconds to sell your book. A sound bite is a succinct way of describing your story and will help the sales happen.

Unique to YOUR Story. And you want the title to be uniquely fitted to your story, not generic in any way. No other story could be described accurately by the title.

As an example, here is a series of titles an author went through on a book:

  • The Parts Nobody Knows
  • To Love and Write Well
  • How Different It Was
  • With Due Respect
  • The Eye and the Ear. (Ernest Hemingway’s last choice for his book)
  • And the last choice, the one used when it was published was chosen by his wife, Mary: The Moveable Feast.
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