Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Pick-up lines - Karen Bush

     I think we are probably all in agreement that it's important to get cover images right.
     But we all know that words are important too.
     So it's just as essential to get the title of your book right. It can be the hook which makes the difference between someone passing over your book and pausing, picking it up (or of course, clicking on it in the case of ebooks) and taking a peek inside - and then, hopefully, buying it. It has to grab the attention of the reader you are trying to attract: be memorable: piquing the curiosity perhaps ...

Does what it says on the cover
     With factual books, having the right words in the title can also, of course, help readers looking for a specific subject to find just what they are looking for. You might think that choosing a good title for a factual book is easier than for a fictional one, but it's far from the case. Do a search for 'worst book titles' and although you'll find a few fictional delights such as Pooh gets Stuck, Scouts in Bondage and Fellow Fags, they are far outnumbered by the non-fiction titles. One of my favourites is 'Still Stripping after 25 Years'. See how easy it is to get it wrong? If you thought you were going to get a book about senior citizens taking their clothes off, you'll be bitterly disappointed. Possibly not so if you enjoy quilting.


     Something else you need to take into account is where certain words in your title may have different connotations in different countries - for example 'Games you can play with your pussy', which is a handbook for cat owners. The way in which you arrange and punctuate the words in your title may also give the wrong impression to casual browsers - such as 'Who cares about elderly people?'

Not for nerds
Perfect
     So while choosing a title for your non-fiction masterpiece that follows the 'does what it says on the tin' principle seems obvious, it can be all too easy to trip up. 'The Principles of Teaching Riding', 'The Difficult Horse', and '101 Riding Exercises' all seemed pretty self-explanatory. So did 'The Hacking Handbook', until I realised that I needed to retitle it 'The Horse Rider's Hacking Handbook' if I wanted to avoid misinformed purchases and complaints from computer nerds. 'Dog-friendly Gardening' also seemed quite straightforward: but beware of the unnecessary hyphen which means it doesn't pop up so frequently in online searches as sites with the same name but with no punctuation.

Arg! Pesky hyphen!
But please buy me as profits go to charity!
     And then of course, there is the decision as to whether you want a sub-title or to include a strapline on the cover too ...

Anyone got any gems of titles you'd like to share?



8 comments:

Lee said...

I had to laugh - or weep - when I saw the cover of 'Dog-friendly gardening', since our grand old lady, Gypsy, has taken to sleeping on i.e. crushing the perennial border I just managed to replant this spring. Maybe I need to read the book to her.

madwippitt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madwippitt said...

Yes, good idea Lee! Do buy it - every single penny of the profits from it go to charity!

Nick Green said...

Karen, I want my money back. I rode out yesterday on my bay hunter armed with my Macbook and a copy of 'The Horse Rider's Hacking Handbook' expecting to be instructed on how to crack MI5's firewall from a bridlepath with excellent WiFi. The title is still very misleading.

Lee said...

Nick, are you sure you're not undercover here?

Still laughing...

Lydia Bennet said...

Great fun, Karen, some lovely examples, and an enjoyable way of making serious points - many people don't know about hyphens and searches, and I can see that if horses are your whole life, 'hacking' has pretty much only one meaning! As some of the lists of bad titles show, publishers have fallen into these traps as well. I think 'Scouting for Boys' falls into the category of written in innocent (at least linguistically) times.

madwippitt said...

Nick, you must have been on the wrong bridlepath ...

madwippitt said...

Nick, you must have been on the wrong bridlepath ...