Friday, August 24, 2012

Can a title sell a book?

A few weeks ago, I picked up a library book I had placed on reserve. Our library has a self-serve system that shelves the books in order by the first two letters of the patron’s last name, followed by the first two letters of the first name, and then the title. 

When I picked it up, I couldn’t help but notice the title of the book NEXT to mine. “The Drunk Diet. How I lost 40 lbs. … Wasted” by Luc Carl. I actually laughed out loud. Of course, I reserved it as soon as I got home. 

Former literary journal editor Teddy Norris told my writers group that titles are the first place you market your piece. “Make it something interesting,” she said. “Titles have to do something quickly for the reader.” She told us that in some poetry collection competitions, judges begin with the table of contents. If the titles are interesting, they read it. If nothing catches their eye, they move on. 

A great title can mean the difference between someone selecting your book off the shelf, or the one next to it. A title that sums up the topic and is clever or intriguing will bring readers to your work.      

Oh, and the name of the first book I placed on reserve? I can’t remember.  

Write soon,


  1. I've been attracted to many books based on the title alone. The kids' book "No More Dead Dogs" is one I remember well. The title caught my eye, I was intrigued, and I bought it.

    Yes, the title is crucial. It's the first impression. It's the first hook to bait the reader, and if they like it, they'll check out the first line, and if they like that, they've swallowed the bait, resulting in a sale.

  2. I agree 100% with your post. Titles are the icing of the cake, if the icing looks good - we buy the cake. One of the best titles I can think of is my favorite child-hood book "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendack. From the title alone, I checked out the book in elementary school and of course loved it. Without the excellent picture on the front of Max and the words wild things, I probably would have missed out. Thanks for discussing titles.

  3. Mary, you are so right. If the title hooks me, I'll read the blurb.

  4. Hi Mary,
    How funny! It is so true what you have written about titles. I remember Teddy's talk and took note about what she said about the importance of a good title.