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Attention-Grabbing, Gob-Smacking Titles

Attention-Grabbing, Gob-Smacking Titles

A catchy title spells Marketing Success in big fat letters. A fun title suggests a fun read. A side-splitting title says: Belly laughs this-a-way.

A book buyer’s attention will be snagged by a clever title well before your opening sentence has a chance to do its stuff. Remember: browsers aren’t just people in bookshops – they’re busy librarians with computer lists, time-poor teachers with publishers’ catalogues and children with Book Club order forms.
It stands to reason then, that a stand-out title will make an editor really want to like your manuscript.

Here’s a few tips for creating memorable titles:
• Ring a bell
Choose a phrase that sounds familiar with the reader. Jack be Nimble (Nigel Williams) comes from a nursery rhyme; The Squeaky Cleaners (Vivian French) is cleverly adapted from a common expression as is The Other facts of Life (Morris Gleitzman)

• Create an image.
Who wouldn’t look twice at the YA novel entitled: Get your tongue out of my mouth, I’m kissing you good-bye’(Cynthia Heimel)? Or Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman (Dav Pilkey)?

• Rhyme and Rhythm
For younger readers, there is much appeal in rhyming or alliterative titles: Anna the Goanna (Jill McDougall), Relax Max (Brian Caswell), Ghost on Toast (Margaret Clark), Fuzz the Fly (Emily Rodda).
• Word play
Word play also works well with younger readers. Nora Bone and the Tooth Fairy (Brough Girling) features police dog Nora Bone; Cocky Colin (Richard Tulloch) is a clever story about a cockroach with attitude.

• Shock tactics
Use incongruous combinations: The Revolting Wedding (Mary Hooper); Felix Smith has every right to be a crocodile (Jackie French).

• Emotional impact
Incorporate kids’ names: Dreadful David (Sally Odgers); Awful Annie and the Squeaking Chop (JB Simpson). A bookshop manager says that relatives will often buy a book because it bears the child’s name. Sad but true!

• Mirror the genre
Choose evocative language suggestive of the genre: Words such as zapper. blast, warp, zone and chill will attract a child looking for a little sci-fi action. D C Green’s recently released Erasmus James and the Galactic Zapp Machine is bound to capture attention.
A fabulous title carries enormous weight. So much so, that some writers create the title, then the story. (My chapter book One Scary Knight began this way.)
So when you’ve polished up that mss so hard it glares back at you, don’t consider the job finished until you’ve headed it up with a You-Beaut, Attention-Grabbing, Gob-Smacking title!

© Jill McDougall 2007
Jill has written over ninety books for children. You can find more writing tips at http://www.jillmcdougall.com.au


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