Friday, 25 May 2012

"Left wing vicar in sex scandal!"

Any newspaper knows that to sell itself to its target audience it has to grab their attention and it only has a couple of seconds to do it in. The headline above may be a bit over the top, but it incorporates the three topics we're always told to avoid in conversation (Politics, Religion and Sex), however put together as a headline its guaranteed to make you read on! I know...I wrote it  and even I want to find out more!

How similar then is a a book title and cover design to a newspaper headline? Does the title sell the book by grabbing the potential reader's attention in the same way? Of course it does. Some authors even have a small stock of carefully crafted titles ready for use when the appropriate story evolves...and may never use them. Others finish a novel and take weeks creating the right title. Others slap too long a title on their books and end up putting a shortened version as an addition! Take Charles Darwin who wrote a book on evolution with a title so long it almost warranted a whole page to itself. It became Origin of Species and was a winner.

Saying, or aphorisms are favourites. Agatha Christie had Ten Green Bottles (initially a far less PC title and subsequently changed twice), while Terry Pratchett has Thief of Time and Monstrous Regiment (both totally appropriate to the book content and plot. Titles like that resonate with familiarity. My own Leap of Faith is another example. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt, it's a friend and comforting. Over-familiarity breeds contempt.

An agent friend of mine told me that the title is the most important part of a book, until the author's name is printed larger than the title, at which point the writer's reputation from past releases sells the book as much as the title will. I suppose that's when an author knows he moving up the fame ranks when his, or her name increases in size. Time for the measuring tape!

Other titles speak for themselves because they incorporate the name of the hero in a series of books, "Harry Potter and the....", "Sharpe's....", "William and the....", "Famous Five....." all sell in a series of books, and it's also true that almost without exception none are out of print. New readers will always be joining the ranks of past fans.

Fortunately no one can copyright a title, so when I chose Leap of Faith for my first book in the Temporal Detective Agency series I found there were 19 books with the same title, so it's gratifying to see that it's ranked number 2 with books of that title and only beaten by Danielle Steel. Still, there's always tomorrow.
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