- Fizzy Thoughts: Let’s talk titles

Let’s talk titles

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Remember when I asked y’all to ask me questions about my unreviewed books? I know, it’s been awhile, and I still have a pile of books and questions to tackle. Good thing it’s a long weekend…I’m hoping to put another dent in the list.

In the meantime, I want to talk about an interesting question that was left on that post by an author.

Jennie Nash is the author of The Last Beach Bungalow and The Only True Genius in the Family. She has written other books as well, but I mention these two because I read them both last month while I was on vacation, and I enjoyed them both. Unfortunately, they are still on the list of books to be reviewed.

So Jennie (and please, excuse the familiarity, but once you leave a comment I consider us to be on a first name basis ;-)) asked this question…

I'm the author of TWO books on your list, and I want to know how TITLE plays a role in helping you chose which one you'll read. I'm trying to title my novel in progress, so this is a burning question :)

Since it’s taken me awhile to get around to answering, this may not be a burning question anymore, but I’ll still take a stab at it.

How important is a title when I’m thinking about what to read? Not very, I’m afraid. I’m a cover gal, myself. I love cover art, and if I’m browsing in a bookstore, that’s what will draw me to a book. And then the blurb is what will ultimately sell it. Which isn’t to say I’ve never read a book because the title made me laugh. Years ago, I bought It’s My F---ing Birthday for that very reason (and please don’t judge me for it). Except that book turned out to be a big disappointment. So I’m not very trusting of titles. Or maybe I should say my taste in titles.

Also (and keep in mind that I still loved the book), I’m getting a little perturbed by the sudden preponderance of long-ass titles. Case in point…The Only True Genius in the Family. Other examples include That Potato Peel Book, T.S. Spivet and The Absolutely True Diary, blah, blah, blah. All of these are awesome books, but you’ll notice I didn’t even bother to type out the entire title. Because I’m lazy like that. Also, I tend to forget or mix up the words. In fact, after reading both of Jennie’s books, I have a hard time not referring to one of them as The Last True Genius in the Family.

So I guess what I’m saying is keep the title short. Don’t restrict yourself to one word, but please, don’t let the title be a novel all by itself.

But that’s just me. Let’s ask some other bloggers. What do you say, folks? Would you like to tell Jennie how influential you feel a title is when it comes to choosing a book?

25 comment(s):

Lexie said...

hmm how important is a title?

About on par with a cover for me. It depends on what I see first. For instance with 'An Accidental Goddess' by Linnea Sinclair I saw the title first, the cover second. But for 'Cry Wolf' by Patricia Briggs I saw the cover first and the title second. I picked up both almost immediately based on those superficial indicators of enjoyment.

If a friend hands me a list of titles to choose from, I'll normally go for the one that is the most outrageous sounding. I mean in a choice between 'The Opposite of Fate', 'Darkchild' and 'The Way of Shadows' I would go with 'The Way of Shadows' because I'm interested to know what exactly that means.

Eva said...

Titles don't usually influence whether I read a book, although they might make me laugh! But if I'm doing a search for a certain type of book and that word is in the title, I'm more likely to discover it (I think that's more of a nonfic than fiction thing). I'm with you on the ridiculously long titles though! If the classics don't need them, neither do contemporary books. ;)

Amy said...

Thanks for the laugh!!

Anyway, yes title is very important. I guess I don't like long, but I don't like boring either.

I like clever but I also like titles that fit the book.

Veens said...

Well seriously while browsing a book store, looking at random books, i seriously don't read titles [ not until i m looking for a particular one] i read author names [yes!] and the see the book covers!
And then the blurb on the back side, and if it is anything i like - i buy it!

Title seriously does nothing for me :)

Except of course ;) for reading challenges :D

heidenkind said...

Hrm, I think it depends. If I'm browsing in a store, I don't bother much with the title. Also there are some books where the title is completely incidental--romance novels, for example.

If I'm looking for something specific, though, then the title is a deal breaker.

I totally agree with you on the length of the titles. Nooo long titles. I've actually considered not writing about books because I didn't want to keep typing out the damn title--that's how lazy I am. ;)

violetcrush said...

Definitely. When browsing a bookstore all you can see is the spine. How do I decide which one to pull out for a closer look? The title ofcourse. Although it's not the only thing to consider while buying a book, but it's something that attracts me to the book.

Besides a unique title stays in my mind for years to come.

I just did a post on this some time back and reading people's reactions confirmed that I wasn't alone :)

bermudaonion said...

I do like a good title, but like you, the cover means more than the title to me.

raych said...

Longer titles make me feel nerdy and awesome when I reference them, but only if they flow smoothly like if on a winter's night a traveler or A Short History of Nearly Everything.

I am a zealous recommender of books and I balk at recommending superhellagood ones like the Potato Peel one or the Oscar Wao one that won the Pulitzer or that Kavalier and Clay book I love so damn much because I feel stupid saying them out loud.

Only very rarely will I opt to pick up a book based on the title (ok, only with The Forest of Hands and Teeth that I can think of, because EAUGHHHH!) and, like most people, recommendations or blurbs are far more important to me.

If I were you (Jennie Nash, not softdrink), I would throw out some potential titles and then get people to vote. Ultimately it's your choice, but sometimes popular feedback can help steer you when you're lost.

Vasilly said...

A great title and cover are the edge needed for me to buy a book. I hate it when a great book has a horrible cover or title. I don't mind a long title as long as it goes great with the story. Right now I'm reading a book with a long title and just finished a book that could have had a better title.

wordlily said...

I find titles can be very important. (I'm very much a word person, although I'm certainly swayed by covers as well.) Using a few of the examples already mentioned, I couldn't type/think/recall all the words in the Guernsey Literary book title until after I read the book. It's quite long, yes, and silly, true, but I think the title fits the book. And once you know the story, it fits. I've actually found myself drawn to some of the recent long-titled books, The Absolutely True Diary one included (although I haven't picked that one up yet). But I've also noticed an affinity for very short, succinct titles! Yeah, that probably doesn't help. The Only True Genius in the Family didn't seem like that long of a title to me.

Valerie said...

The long title of "Guernsey etc" actually kept me from picking it up right away and when I finally did, I loved the book.

Glancing at my bookcases, it seems like the average number of words in the title is about 3-4 words.

Also, what if I need help looking for a long-titled book in a bookstore or library? I think I would feel silly reciting it (if I could remember exactly how it went, that is) to the clerk.

I like Raych's idea of having the author conducting a poll for the title of her next book.

Lisa said...

I totally judge a book by it's title, and cover. There are so many free ARC reviews going around of books that I don't even read the review because the cover looks "cheap" (my objective opinion) or the title is silly or sometimes even the author's name is silly. I have the Potato one, and haven't read it in part because the title is a turn off. Also, character names. I don't mind unusual names, but I have a hard time with stupid or silly- like The Hunger Games, the names are silly to me. I WANT to read it, but her name jumps out at me every time I see it.

Also, I am feverish so I may not make sense. Feel free to delete as I am not proofreading!

Ti said...

I must get my eyes checked soon. I am not even going to tell you what I thought the title of this post was when I first looked at it.

BTW... the cover always catches me before the title does but I really don't like long titles like Guernsey.

Chele by the Sea said...

I'm kinda torn between the whole Title vs. Cover thing. I guess for me it just depends. Sometimes the Cover/picture can be so captivating that you wonder what story is hiding in the book. Personally, I like long titles. I too have a difficult time remembering them, but I think the Title should "fit" the story. Some titles I find that there is no connection, and I love when the title is an important piece of the story. My favorite example is the book "I Know This Much Is True" by Wally Lamb. It's a long title to match a long story :) but he did an amazing job with the way the title was connected within the story. I think I just appreciate a great title and a great cover, but I guess not every book can hit the mark perfectly everytime.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

The Guernsey whatever whatever also turned me off. And some covers do too. But a good cover can draw me in. I think a nice combination is needed.

Lit and Life said...

The cover grabs my attention but the title will cause me to want to look into the book. I'm with everyone who doesn't like long titles for the reason that they are so hard to remember if you want to recommend them.

Nymeth said...

Titles don't matter all that much to me. They sometimes grab my attention, but they're never a decisive factor. Covers, though, are another story. I am easily lured by a shiny, pretty cover.

M Denise C said...

I think title is extremely important, even more than the cover, and I think they should be shorter rather than longer. Covers change through different editions and printings, but the title is forever. Also, I figure authors don't have as much input on covers as they do titles.

Jenners said...

I agree that titles that are too long can be problematic. I think the combination of the title and the cover art give me the first impression of the book so they definitely matter but I wouldn't NOT read a book because of the title. And the cover art probably counts for more than the title. Also, titles that are too generic or too similar to other ones might cause a problem too.

Michelle said...

Title Schmitle!

For me it's the story. If the blurb on the jacket doesn't drw me in then a book could be called "I'll Give You a Million Buck To Read This" and I still wouldn't. Having said that, I do believe a title should relate to the story in some way and shouldn't be so metaphorical that a reasonable person still doesn't understand it's meaning and relationship. A title should be straight-forward, relate to the story, and be of reasonable length.

Fyrefly said...

On average, titles matter less than covers, and WAY less than blurbs, but on the other hand, a good, funny, or intriguing title is often enough to make me pick up the book and *read* the blurb. I can't think of any cases where I've bought - or not bought - a book solely based on the title.

I don't really mind long titles, as long as the author doesn't mind me shortening them when I refer to them... I don't think I've typed out the full title of my favorite Michael Chabon book ever! Instead it's just Kavalier or K&C. :)

Joanne said...

A lot of the time I pick up a book because it has an interesting or unusual name.

My only complaint about titles is when they are long, I tend to mix them up in my head.

Case in point - On Sunday I went to bookstore to pick up "The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-time Indian" and I arrived home with "The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao."

Not all bad considering I want to read both those books, but it annoyed me anyhow.

Callista said...

Ooh good question. I get a bit annoyed with long titles because I can forget how they go. However I don't think "The Only True Genius in the Family" is too long, but no longer for sure. The "potato peel" one is too long.

What's more annoying is LONG subtitles. I never know whether to include them in my blog post title or not. It looks weird with three lines for a post title but otherwise you often can't tell what the book is about.

Care said...

I must have missed this post due to the Independence Day Holiday - glad I found it! This made me laugh.

Jennie Nash said...

I somehow missed this post until now...but I LOVE it!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Thank you all for this generous outpouring of wisdom. Ok, so SHORT and easy to SAY. That's the thing for titles, clearly. Can I throw one out, Jill? Please? What say you to....The Threadbare Heart. And while I'm asking...it's a modern love story in which the 80-year-old mom who find true love, so who would be your dream blurb-er...and do you have their phone number???!!!!

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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