Friday, August 07, 2009

Book Titles

Would you pay someone to come up with a title for your book?

Brett Peterson is hoping you would. He’s started a company called Novel Title. While in college at George Washington University, his professors seemed to think his papers had good titles. So Peterson started helping fellow students give catchy titles to their papers. That led him to think he could start a business helping authors, literary agents and publishers come up with titles that would sell books.
People always said don’t judge a book by its cover, but obviously people always have. But now that people buy their books on Amazon or they’re searching on Google, they don’t see the cover anymore-- they see the title. So the title becomes really key in whether the consumer is going to purchase the book.
Here are a couple of examples of titles he came up with for college papers:
Sour Grapes: The Trials and Tribulations of the Global Wine Market
Hunt for the Real October: The Truth and Myths About the 1917 Russian Revolution

He describes it as both art and science:
The art is trying to create a title that stands out and catches eyes, but the science is to have those keywords in there that are so crucial when you’re searching on Amazon or Google, so that it will pop up in your search. Also I’d say that it has to be a buzzworthy title, something that’s not too long, so that if you’re in a book club or something it’s easy to remember and not too much of a mouthful.
So, how much does he charge for this talent of titling? Here’s what he said in the Observer article:
I have been contacted by aspiring authors trying to break in and trying to have something that’s going to catch a publisher’s eye or a literary agent’s eye. Those have been at $150. With a publishing company I would hope to have a retention, and when they’d have books come up that they find hard to position in the market that I’d just be at their service and title it for them. It’d be a monthly rate.
What do you think? Would his service be worth $150 to you?
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  1. In I love coming up with my titles! That's the fun bit :)

  2. I think that while it might work for non-fiction, in the case of fiction I think it is more complicated and the author should give the title, because that is part of the creative process and represents the author.

    I would never pay anyone to give me titles. As Tabitha said, it's one of the fun parts of writing.

  3. I love coming up with my own titles. But right now I have a series title and a book title to come up with and I'm feeling a little panicky. :) I'll keep working on it, though...$150 is a lot of moo-lah.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. I don't know about this.

    Speaking as a writer, I'd like to come up with my own titles, rather than let some guy, who probably hasn't read the book, come up with a title based on how well keyword searches will work.

    I wonder if you get your money back if the title he picks is changed by the publisher. Which happens quite a bit.

  5. Uh, don't think I'd pay for the service. A good title is important, but, seems like it's something that should be within the scope of my abilities. If not, I'm sure my publisher will fix it for free.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  6. It seems to me that in order for him to make a good living at this, he'd have to have more than authors paying him to name their books. He'd have to be on retainer with publishers. And I have a feeling publishers have done enough titles over the years that they feel pretty creative on their own.

  7. This sounds like an interesting talent. But yes, I think publishers probably make the call about inventing/changing a title they prefer. At my publisher, my novel was the only title they didn't change in their history. Also, I read through about 50 query submissions on the Miss Snark's First Victim blog query contest. The agent who evaluated made several comments about which titles she did and didn't like, but added that it wouldn't prevent her from requesting a partial...which she did at the end of the contest. :)

  8. No, I don't think I'd pay for this for all the reasons listed above.
    I think for him to succeed, he'll need to provide a bit more of a service for that fee.

  9. No. I would not pay to have anyone come up with a title for my book. I WILL listen to my editor and/or publisher if they suggest a title they think might be better than my working title on the ms, but pay $150? No way. I'm plenty creative enough to handle it myself.

    Now maybe if it came with a money back guarantee - like say if the book doesn't sell a million copies the first year or something, then just maybe ... ;)

    The Old Silly

  10. Hmm. Money back guarantee, huh? Sounds good to me, Marvin. Especially if that money back included the money you lost on possible sales!

  11. It seems every one wants a piece of you, aspiring authors. Watch out!

    Bargain with the Devil

  12. I go along with the crowd - it's one service I wouldn't pay for. I also like coming up with my own titles.

  13. For every good book title out there, I can name three or four poor choices. I've picked up book before based on the title and promptly replaced it on the shelf because the title seemed unrelated to the story. Well, I put it back because the story didn't interest me. But many times I've caught myself thinking "That title belongs to another book."

    I try to keep my titles in line with the subject matter.

    "Dinner with the Devil" - A man's dining companion is constantly possessed.

    "Fried Green Zombies" - southern zombies.

    "Dead Man's Blues" - A Dead Guy. With the Blues. Hanging out with blues musicians.

    "Demoness - a Story of Amputees, Treasure Hunting, and Hard Luck Love" - pretty self-explanatory.

    I'm with everyone else. I like titling my own stuff.

  14. No, but I swear it can be frustrating when you can't come up with one. I have a great idea but the title just won't come to me. Sometimes the titles are there when you first get the idea...but sometimes you just can't seem to find one that captures it appropriately.

  15. I think when you put your own title up there, at least initially, it give the publisher and idea of what you see as the theme. Sometimes they keep your title, sometimes they modify it, or totally change it.

    There are times they will suggest it needs to change and give you the opportunity to come up with a list of alternates.

    I wouldn't pay someone to do that, no. I have plenty of friends I can run ideas by.

    Helen, I missed quite of few of your blogs. At least I was able to go back and read a few of them. I needed a Helen fix this morning. I've been up to my eyeballs with contractors. But my house roof is almost done, the barn has totally been repaired and new roof--I barely recognize it. But when this type of major repairs are happening, you have to be so hands on. Driving me nuts!

  16. I would think this service has more of a market on the non-fiction side of things.

    I love coming up with my titles. Several times I have gone through a myriad of them before I hit on the right one. My thought is (selfish as it may be) "My story - my title".

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  18. I would not pay for someone to generate a title for my book. Like so many others have already said, I like coming up with my own titles. Half the fun of my latest WIP is coming up with chapter titles and subtitles. For example:
    Or, How Much Do I Love You? Let me Count the Pasta

    That chapter's about the time my 12-year-old son stole a pan of lasagna from the freezer to have lunch with a girl at the pool.

  19. Maryann and John, both of you are clearly good at coming up with titles.

    Elspeth, you are probably right. This seems like a service more suited to nonfiction.

    Sia, good gracious, it's amazing you're still sane, considering all you're having to manage. I've never had a roof replaced. I assume it's quite noisy, plus there's the people trooping here and there.

  20. Seriously? In this economy? I wonder if he'll really make a go of it.

    Publishers reserve the right to change titles, and I'd hate to pay money for THE HUNT FOR REAL LOVE just to see it changed to SALLY'S DALLIES. Besides, while the right title CAN attract attention, it'd be impossible to prove his service was worthwhile.

    Publishers are in the business of knowing if a title has "Grab" appeal. I'd rather take my pub's advice--free. I've done so before and am grateful for what I learned.


  21. I'm just tagging along with the crowd here.
    I love coming up with titles but even when it's tricky, I would never hand that responsibility to anyone else.
    Isn't that all part of writing? And if you can't name a book, how on earth did you write it? (Does someone else come up with character names too?...)

  22. Well, I think we are typical of writers, so I don't see how this guy will stay in business, frankly.

  23. I'd heard the publisher rarely keeps the title you give them anyway. Is that true? If so, maybe he should be selling his services to publishers.

  24. He's trying to do that, as well, Sheila. His hope is publishers will put him on retainer to come up with best-selling titles.

  25. Sounds like he has talent, but I have other free connections who help me when I get bogged down with a title.

    Morgan Mandel

  26. You can't beat "free." Titles can be time-consuming, but they can also be fun to brainstorm

  27. Oooh no, I like to struggle with my own titles. I will keep my money thanks.
    Interesting post, thanks.


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