Selecting A Winning Title

by Todd Rogers
(Sacramento, CA, USA)

Question: Just like this question is titled, "Selecting A Winning Title", I realize before really asking my question that some titles are just a matter of creating the premise for a subject and then just asking the question.

But blog writing not being quite equal to novel writing, it begs the question:

How does one appropriately title the book that does justice to the story within?

In November 1986, when I was but a teenager of 17, I started writing my epic sci-fi story. I called it "My Father's Invention".

The invention was a multi-functional suit made out of a form of newly discovered pseudo-matter consisting of primarily of photonic energy called "Sucleonic Energy".

This work is copyrighted, by the way, 1986-2013 mainly because I wrote a goodly portion of the story in episodic format and then let it simmer for 26 years without touching it."

But I digress.

It occurred to me that "My Father's Invention" might just be a working title until a more suitable permanent title could be selected because let's face it..the title doesn't really tell you anything about the story's premise nor is it really awe-inspiring, nor particularly memorable.

For a book designed to be published and read by people all over the world, title, I realize, must be a winner otherwise my dream of writing the next big epic adventure on par with Harry Potter, Star Wars or Star Trek will have been for naught.

Is there agreement here?

Please help!

Answer: A working title is all you really need until you get a publishing contract. After that, the publisher's marketing department will have the final word on the title, if they don't simply write it themselves (though with your input and approval, one hopes).

That said, you are correct that a good title will select the audience (that is, it will attract readers who enjoy the genre it is in. For example, "Harry Potter" by itself would have been a poor title. It's the second part, "...and the Philosopher's Stone" ("Sorcerer's Stone" in the U.S.), that tells the reader it is a fantasy story. The word "Star," on the other hand, instantly selects readers interested in science fiction.

Of course, you also don't want a title that sounds cliched either. For that reason, a unique phrase from the book often works as a title.

It's a tricky balance, and finding the right title will take time and a lot of brainstorming..

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