Writing: Titles & Covers

I’ve sloughed off a bit on writing, tweeting, and connecting this week.  Tyler came home from Bloomington & took over the upstairs from Monday night to Friday night before he had to head back to I.U.  We don’t get to see him that often, so everything got jostled out of his way.  Holly and Nate came to see him a lot.  (Holly’s my daughter, but she has a small, two bedroom apartment, so Ty stays here and lets his mom and brother come to us.  It works for everyone).  There was a lot of cooking, eating, laughing, and visiting.  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  The business of writing got pushed aside.  But when I finally got back to my writing table, I found a note from one of my critique buddies at the top of the manuscript she looked at for me.  “How attached are you to this title?  Maybe change?”

For me, titles are a slippery slope.  Not so easy to summon.  I tend to think of them as metaphors for the story I’m telling.  When that fails, I try to think of something evocative that hints at the subject and tone of the novel.  Or if I’m desperate, I simply state what the story’s about.  Fallen Angels tells the story of two angels cast from heaven–Caleb because he wanted to join Lucifer, Enoch because he wrestled Caleb to the ground and wouldn’t let him.  I admire those writers who can think of a gimmick to make their book titles click with readers.  Sue Grafton used the alphabet–A is for Alibi, C is for Corpse, etc.  Martha Grimes named her novels after British pubs.  Lillian Jackson Braun started her titles with “The Cat Who…..”   Some authors use one, recurring word, like Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series:  Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, etc.  The minute a reader sees their titles, they think of their series.  Clever.  I didn’t think that far ahead.

My same writer friend recently redid all of her book covers, and her novels started selling better.  Just like my book titles, I like my covers to give a sense and tone of the stories they represent, but I recently read a blog post from Book Bub, http://unbound.bookbub.com/ , which listed the 8 best things to have on covers to sell books.  Number one was a cute animal, especially dogs.  Okay, I wouldn’t have guessed that.  Seasonal themes and shirtless men ranked high on the list, too.   Shirtless men I suspected, since cover after cover feature them on the romance and fantasy shelves.  A lot of urban fantasy covers display a woman who looks like she could kick ass.  Some wear tattoos.  A lot of them wear black leather.  There’s usually some skin involved.  Sometimes a weapon or a motorcycle.  I should have done more research.  I failed at those too:)

It takes a lot of time to write a good book, and sometimes, we choose our titles and covers as extensions of the mood, tone, or language of our stories.  But we should also stop and think of them as marketing tools.  Does your book title imply the type of genre you write?  Have you glanced at the types of covers most authors use in your genre?  Do covers with dark backgrounds seem to sell better than light colors?  It’s all worth thinking about.

Do you have some favorite titles?  Some favorite covers?  What drew you to them?  Both are sells tools.  Choose wisely.



4 thoughts on “Writing: Titles & Covers

  1. I completely agree, Judith. I think the cover is one of the most important parts of positioning any piece of writing and, probably, one of the toughest I’ve had to take on… My artistic skills are limited! From studying what the professional houses were doing, I spotted one extra pointer that also might be worth considering: Look and feel – I’ve tried to maintain a common theme with identical typefaces and layout and let the image and background colour hint toward the content differences. Rationale: I’d like readers to be able to spot my other books amongst the virtual e-book shelves and, if they liked one, pick up another. Cheers for the great posts! AB


  2. That’s one of the first things my agent told me when she asked for cover ideas. She wanted a look for my covers that would be similar, so readers could find my books if they liked them. And your covers are awesome, by the way.


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