Tips for choosing your novel’s title

I have written before about how important your cover is but even more important is the title you give your masterpiece. Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover. Your title is part of the overall impression about the book. It sets the tone and creates an expectation.

In other words, the title is VERY important and you shouldn’t just pick the first title you can think of. You need to spend a lot of time making sure you have the best title. Remember the title is a sales tool. It allows the reader to know something about your book. Your title needs to paint a picture for your prospective reader. 

Now some people know their titles when they begin writing, but others wait to complete their work before deciding on a title. Either way works as long as the title is appropriate.

Here are a few tips about selecting a title.

Length – choose a short title – preferably six words or less. It might help to pretend the title will be on a billboard. Would a driver going 65+ miles per hour be able to glance over and comfortably read it? Besides not taking up a lot of room on the cover, short titles are easier to remember.

Make it easy to pronounce – Shy away from foreign or made-up words because these don’t give the person picking up your book any idea of what it is about. A title won’t tug at the reader if they can’t pronounce or understand the words.

Make it relevant – Ensure that your book title actually has something to do with what’s between the covers. Readers don’t like to be tricked.

See how popular the title is – Go onto Amazon and type in your title. See how many other books come up with that same title. Yes, I know you can’t necessarily have a name that no one has used before but if tons of books come up with the same name, you may want to consider something a little more unique. There are lots of books called The Search, but I went ahead and named my short story this because it fit the book so well.

SummonedFINALI will say that when I wrote my first book, I had plans to call it The Elemental. But when I finished it and realized the story would become a trilogy, I switched the title to the name of the whole trilogy. It didn’t take me long to decide Summoned was a good title. Hey, it is short, easy to pronounce, very relevant and when searched on Amazon, there were not many books with just the world Summoned.

So when deciding on your title – take your time and choose one that will help you sell your book. If you want more tips on how to select your title, check out this website.

Choosing an excerpt for #SampleSunday or #TeaserTuesday

Recently, I wrote a list of hastags for authors. I wanted to write a little more in depth about two of them – #SampleSunday and #TeaserTuesday – and how to go about picking an excerpt to feature.

#SampleSunday is a weekly twitter event for authors to share reading samples with readers. You provide a link to an excerpt of your writing (either on your website or one where your work has been featured). Readers can peruse the samples and read any that interest them – and hopefully retweet those they like. It is a quick and easy way for authors to spread the word about their work and perhaps find those looking for something new to read.

#TeaserTuesday is similar. You quote a favorite line or two from your book or manuscript and offer a link where the reader can read more or simply list book title and author so the reader can check it out. I prefer to provide a link to a further excerpt (and of course a buy link after the excerpt.)

Choosing an excerpt

Open bookAn excerpt is designed to give the reader a sample of your writing style and a bit of the story to entice them to want to keep reading and buy the book. When selecting an excerpt, keep it short – a few pages at most.

It needs to be interesting. Don’t pick something with page-long description but rather something with dialogue and action or conflict. And it should end with a cliffhanger or a dramatic moment that makes the reader want to read more.

Many people choose to use the first scene or chapter of their book as their excerpt as it should meet the requirements listed above. And while this a perfectly acceptable thing to do, I don’t like using the first few pages of my novel as those can easily be found on Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes and Noble. (The exception to this is my short story, The Search, in which I have only the opening scene as a sample because there is not another scene that could stand alone without confusing the reader.)

Usually, I choose a different scene than the opening to reward the reader with something they can’t find elsewhere (unless they buy my book). Think of a movie trailer – many times they do not start with the beginning of the story but the first irrevocable step into the new and perilous situation. They show you the action and drama. Just note that if you pick a scene other than the beginning of your book, make sure that the scene won’t be confusing for the reader.

And most importantly, after your excerpt make sure there is purchase information – preferably a direct link to several online stores so the interested reader can select their preferred electronic format.

And in case you want to check out an excerpt of my stories….

Excerpt of The Search (Opening Scene)

Excerpt of Summoned (Prison scene – two-thirds of the way through the book – this scene is kind of long but I have used a shorter version of it on other websites)

Should you use a Pen Name?

Actors and musicians often don’t use their given names. Some authors also decide to publish under a pseudonym or pen name. 

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masciline name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he won’t think you have been writing on the job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Authors with Pen Names

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens). Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • George Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel)
  • Anne Rice (real name Howard Allen Frances O’Brien)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty (in the UK).

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier work, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brain Coffey.  

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Whichever way you decide on a name, make sure it is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check to make sure there isn’t already an author by that name by using Amazon. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. Between these searches, you should be able to determine if your pen name is unique or not.

My Story

I was in college when I began writing Summoned (then called The Elemental). I was engaged at the time and told my husband-to-be that when I published it, I would do so under my maiden name. Several years went by, and I received my share of rejection letters. I sent my book to family and friends to read and made some changes. After some more rejections from traditional publishers, I put away Summoned and began working on its sequel, Quietus.

By the time I decided to forgo the tradition publishing route and self-publish, I was on Facebook and using both my maiden and married name. All of a sudden, I was nervous about letting my friends (many who didn’t know I was a writer) know about my book. I recalled the feedback I had received from friends in the past. It was always good, but that was the problem. I didn’t feel it was honest feedback. I wanted what was bad as well as what worked. So even though I believed what I wrote was good, I worried about friends who would only read it and “like” it because I wrote it. I also didn’t want people constantly asking me how sales were or about my current work in progress. So I decided to go with a pen name.

To come up with my pen name, I decided to use my middle name as my first name and my first name as my middle name. I had my mom give me a list of last names from her genealogy program. I paired them up with Susan and picked out a few I liked. I looked them up on the Internet and then let family members vote on which one they liked best. And that is how I came up with Susan Leigh Noble.

So now I am two people. I write, blog, interact and am Susan Leigh Noble. Only family members know that I am an author. None of my friends know when I am rushing off to my house after dropping off the kids it is to write. They don’t know that as I walk to and from school that my mind is whirling with details of my latest WIP. And I like it that way.