Sunday, February 15, 2009

Think of a Good Title

Good advice, isn’t it? Whether it’s a book, a work of art, or a blog, if it’s worth creating it’s worth putting some effort into the title. Since my children’s books usually have some nonfiction content, the key word is usually somewhere in the title. If possible, it’s the first word. Case in point, Measuring Penny, which is about... measuring. It’s a pity for a book to have a vague title like Jamie’s Exciting Day when it could’ve been Jamie Finds a Pterodactyl, you know?

Keep in mind how the title sounds out loud, as well as how it looks in writing. Some word combinations are tough to say, such as Rory’s Rural Romp. And in these digital days you may want to have a identical domain name, so that’s another consideration. A long title may not work well as a web site addy: is a tad long.

What about naming artwork? While some artists have taken the easy road by calling everything Untitled #X, an appropriate title can add something special to the viewer’s appreciation of a work. If all else fails, try opening up a dictionary or thesaurus with your eyes closed, or try this fun random word generator.

For a book it’s important to avoid a title that’s the same or too similar to an existing one. A few years ago there were three books with the title Amazing Grace, which led to a lot of confusion. Once I have some title ideas, off to Amazon I go to see if it’s already been used. I’ve saved myself a lot of hassle by doing this.

In fact, yesterday provided an especially ridiculous example... early last week my husband Andy and I had dinner with one of my editors (in town for a sales meeting.) In the course of the evening she asked us if we had any ideas for a new children’s picture book, and one scenario cracked us all up. (Andy had just thought of it the day before.) By the end of the week, the publisher had offered us a contract. Wow! But when I looked up the title online, not only had it already been used for a recent kid’s movie, it had the SAME animal characters and the SAME plot! It wasn’t a big movie or we would have heard of it, but people would naturally think we copied it. Another disaster averted. I would be more specific about the name, but we’ve rethought the whole thing and hopefully the publisher will like our new concept. I’ll let you know!

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