Getting the title right

This week I submitted a story, deciding to change the title at the last minute. This often happens. Sometimes it’s because of a change in direction but, more often, it’s about creating attention. Editors are inundated with manuscripts. Faced with one that has a bland, unoriginal title and one that sounds different they’re more likely to pick the later. If they’re persuaded to publish then you have to convince the readers.

Good covers used to attract buyers. Today an online list is often the starting point. I wanted to call my book about the Jack the Ripper suspects Mad, Bad and Innocent. Including Jack the Ripper in the title configured it for search engines. My PhD with the academic title of Cultural Connotations of the Man-Eating Wolf became Howls of Imagination, to appeal to a non-academic audience.

What makes a good title? As usual there’s no one answer. It has to sound intriguing and it has to be relevant for the people you want to publish and read your work.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper suspects.

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