If you are looking for a traditional publishing deal, as I’m sure you appreciate, the first few minutes when agents and publishers are assessing your work are crucial.
So the more you can do to create a positive impact the better and having a strong title is one way of doing just that.
An engaging title is also likely to make a significant difference to how your book is perceived by your readers and in the marketplace generally.
Assessing projects as a publisher
When I was working in-house as a publisher responsible for making decisions on new projects for publication, my approach was to start the assessment process by making initial decisions quite quickly.
Following a fairly brief scan of the material, my intuition along with my experienced eye led to projects being split into two piles: one for rejects and the other for material to review in more detail later.
Naturally, as part of this initial assessment, certain components had the potential to catch my eye and encourage me to spend more time reading the submission in detail.
The title – and for non-fiction books, the sub-title also – played a significant role in this process.
So if you are able to come up with an original title which contributes to inspiring the agent or publisher to spend time reading your work properly, you will have successfully crossed the first threshold.
The professionals’ view
Having said all of that, agents and publishers often have their own views about titles because there are so many factors that have to be considered when selecting the right title for any book.
For example, will the title be understandable and reflect enough of the book’s contents if it is just read as a listing in a distributor’s catalogue alongside hundreds of other titles?
Cryptic titles can, and indeed do, work very successfully sometimes but this is not a decision that any publisher will take lightly.
So you may find that your efforts at coming up with a great title for your book help to attract attention but don’t be surprised if the final version differs from your original idea.
The ‘perfect’ title
It is also important, however, not to feel stuck if you are struggling to find what you consider to be the perfect title for your book.
When all of the other material is ready, it is absolutely possible to send your book proposal or synopsis out with what you consider to be a ‘working title’.
In this case I would recommend that you mention this point briefly in your covering letter and make an even more concerted effort to ensure that the rest of your submission package is ‘top notch’!
Finally, I’d like to add just a brief word for non-fiction writers about sub-titles.
Usually, the job of the sub-title for non-fiction books is to explain to the reader exactly what the book is about and potentially what results they will get from reading the book.
This is especially important if you have a title which could be interpreted in more than one way.
Here’s an example: Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss – perhaps one of the most surprising non-fiction bestsellers of recent years – has the subtitle, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
The title alone could be quite confusing and yet the subtitle clarifies the content absolutely.
At the end of the day, of course you will want to aim for the most powerful title you can come up with.
Yet the definition of what is the ‘right’ title for your book may need discussion with the professionals you end up working with.
Have fun playing with ideas to find a title and sub-title for your book!