What’s in a Name?


When it comes to sending proposals to publishers, the title you assign to your work can make a world of difference to an editor. This is true even though the title on a book proposal almost never ends up being the final title of the book. However, the title and subtitle set the tone for everything that follows. As an editor, I can’t tell you how many books I have dismissed out of hand as a result of a bad or pedestrian title that sounded like every other title or worse.

But, you may ask, isn’t that judging a book by its cover? Indeed it is, and it is the way the publishing world works. Editors judge proposals on titles,  publisher’s book reps do the same, as do booksellers and eventually the consumer of the book. A great “package” (e.g. title, subtitle, jacket design, etc.) is one of the real keys to getting your book published.

One other question I often get is this: if the title on the proposal is not going to be the final title on the book, why does it matter? It matters in the same way a resume helps one to get a job. A resume gets a job candidate an interview, not a job. The same is true with the title and subtitle. They must be good enough to get your foot in the door. After that, the quality of the idea, credentials of the author (i.e. platform), a market analysis, etc. must carry the day. 

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some people write great books but come up with awful titles.  A good literary agent can really help here. And do not put much stock in what your mother-in-law, barber or gardener thinks. There is really an art to titling that almost always involves consulting with someone who has many years of experience in the field.


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