What makes YOU take a book from the shelf?

It’s a question that every bookshop, publisher and agent ponders. It’s a question that every writer should ponder too, if they want to make a living from writing. Covers matter, and titles matter. And I'll be talking about covers in a while But when it comes to titles, there are some rules (with their exceptions):

The Tale of… is a guaranteed way to title a book that won’t get published (except for the curiously similar The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time)
• Single word titles are masculine (apart from Perfume and Chocolat, of course)
• The + verb is for horror (The Shining etc)
• Oppositions work – as in War and Peace, From Here to Eternity, To Have and Have Not, Crime and Punishment

The main thing to remember is that a title needs to be memorable! And the second, nearly as important thing to remember, is that you the writer will have become familiar with your working title and so it will ‘feel’ good to you. An agent or publisher will come to it cold, and it may not ‘feel’ nearly so good to them. So which do you want - a perfect title or a published piece of work?

Right, I'm sure we agree it's the latter (don't we?) so if your publisher/editor/agent isn’t keen on your title, brainstorm until you come up with a shortlist of six or so and try them out – you may discover that one of them is actually much better than your original.

All of which sounds great, and as if I know what I’m doing, so why am I completely blank when it comes to thinking up alternative titles for my current novel …

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