Book titles: choosing the right one – and pitfalls to avoid

I checked a lot of advice when I was choosing the title for my book – but still had some problems. Here’s how it went:

The first point, I thought, was obviously to choose something striking and thought-provoking. I doubted I’d come up with anything as sensationally striking as, say, Who Moved My Cheese? the best-selling motivational book by Spencer Johnson but I was aiming for something that would attract attention and curiosity – and at the same time convey my book’s content. It’s a non-fiction book but the principles around title-choosing are, I think, applicable to both fiction and non-fiction. Mine is about horses in film – covering all sorts of films, from silent movies through Westerns to the present day and War Horse. It deals with how these films are made, eg how the stunts are done, mistakes in filming, special effects, even make-up for horses. Anyway, you get the idea. After a lot of thought, I came up with “Lights! Camera! Gallop!”. That had it all, or so I thought. The reader knows and expects “Lights! Camera! Action!” and will immediately understand that this book will be about film – and horses.

I was, I confess, even a little smug. Lights! Camera! Gallop! – the exclamation marks make it sound exciting too. I was soon pretty much committed to the title. I’d sent out the book proposal all over the place and I’d been working on it for a couple of years. But then, when like so many writers these days, I realised I’d be going down the self-publishing route, I began researching the marketing and publicity side. That’s when I started to learn about search engines, search terms and metatags. Big problem. All the advice pointed to having key words in the title. But of course no-one looking for a book about horses or films would enter search terms such as Lights, Camera or Gallop (even without the exclamation marks.

The solution was to add a sub-title. Who Moved My Cheese? has An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. I decided on The Story of the Horse in Film. Off I went, into production. So far so good. Until I looked up my book on Amazon only to find that there are a lot of book titles beginning with Lights! Camera!.:

Lights, Camera…

Lights, Camera . . . Cats!

Lights Camera… Travel!

Lights, Camera, Soundtracks

Lights, Camera, Capture

Lights, Camera, Girl Power!

Lights! Camera! Murder!

Lights, Camera . . . Zombies!

Lights Camera Masala

Lights, Camera… Nude!

Lights, Camera, Sex

There are more – but you can see the problem. And no prizes for guessing that the last two will show up more often than mine…..

Lessons learnt (but a little late for me…):

  • think through the options for your title at an early stage
  • ensure your title – or subtitle – includes key search terms if possible (vital for non-fiction, helpful for fiction)
  • try your title out by searching for it with Google or Amazon

 Good luck! 


About lesleylodge

Lesley Lodge now lives on a smallholding bafflingly close to Luton, England, but grew up in the New Forest and has worked for a racing stable, a palomino stud farm and a horse trainer. Her long-time ride is Freddie, a hairy bay cob mare with a long moustache. Lesley has had several short stories published. Blues to Orange, a story about a farmer ruined by the foot and mouth outbreak, was a Luton Literary Prize Winner and published in Junction 10, a collection of short stories. She has twice been a runner-up prize winner in the annual British National Short Screenplay Competition and was the Time Out and Jim Beam Bourbon Cult Film Buff of the Year some years ago. Lesley is always looking for new stories about horses in film or TV

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