Saturday, October 22, 2016

How Important Are Titles?

Cover images and story titles are what readers see first so they act as the first agent to attract readers. I think the two work together instantaneously on a reader’s perception, so I imagine most authors spend time considering a title. This can be a futile effort, for a publisher might change it to fit a particular line or sub-genre in which they want to publish the story. This shows titles are tied to sales. Still, it gives the author some control for attracting an audience.

Titles (along with the cover image) give the reader an indication of the genre, mood and theme, era, and possible storyline of the novel. They certainly attract my attention when I am selecting books. I have fairly specific genres I read, and while they vary greatly, the titles are what catch me, leading to me stopping to read the blurbs.

My book titles tend to be very short, three words or less. I’m satisfied with them. For me, longer titles tend to indicate quirky storylines aimed at children, chic lit, or humor.

Titles for my stories often come during the writing process as an indication of the main character or the plot’s purpose, popping into my mind. The longer they stay there, the stronger they become—I think that might be good but not necessarily well thought out. I expect other authors do the same.

In a Balance website article, “Can a Book Title be Copyrighted?” it says titles cannot be copyrighted. According to the August 2016 article’s author, Jean Murray, “The U. S. Copyright Office does not typically allow someone to copyright a book title because titles are not considered intellectual property, but are only 'short slogans,' which are not eligible to be copyrighted.” The writing itself is copyrighted from the moment you write the words. Greater protection comes with filing it with the copyright office. However, I wouldn’t think anyone could get away with using any Harry Potter title other than J. K. Rowling. Some titles are too well known to be used again, and some like Harry Potter, can be copyrighted or even trademarked due to the fact they are tied to other products such as movies and toys.

Then there are the generic type tiles my books hold. Nope, can’t be protected, and I cannot be held liable for infringing on another writer’s identical title. The interesting thing I discovered was I could trademark my name. Do I really want that
© after my name? Right now it kind of makes me uncomfortable.

Writing this post has given me some pause because perhaps I should pay more attention to the title and spend more time thinking about the proposed title after the initial concept. I’m not sure I would, for once my mind is tied to a title, I tend to be obstinate.

Check these sites to see what other authors have to say on this topic: