Book titles are crucial to attract a reader’s attention. More than I’d realised.
I was using the computer in my local library one day, and overhead a chat between the two librarians and two readers who were each borrowing an armful of books. One lady commented that she always chooses books solely by how intriguing their title is—whereupon, her friend and the librarians agreed with her—I almost fell off my chair, shocked at how shallow their selection criterion was. Not to dismiss such an illuminating revelation, I’ve since chosen what I hope are eye-catching, provocative and memorable titles. I don’t think that having an effective title guarantees a book’s success, but having a terrible title will certainly hold it back.
It’s common practice for a novelist to insert their book title somewhere in the story. The same thing happens in other art forms, such as poetry, song lyrics and film scripts.
I did so with my first Cornish Detective novel, Who Kills A Nudist?—which is what my protagonist detective wonders to himself at the end of Chapter 2, after an initial examination of a naked corpse found on a windswept beach in winter.
Book 2 is called The Perfect Murderer, a term that a supposedly respectable retired policeman uses to describe a serial killer who leaves no clues. It’s a deliberate piece of misdirection, for he’s used his status as a detective to conceal a campaign of killing one hardened criminal a year for 40 years. Never suspected of involvement, he’s really the perfect murderer.
The third novel’s title, An Elegant Murder, wasn’t referenced until three chapters from The End when my detective commented that a cunning killer had found an elegant way to transfer the blame for the slaying of an innocent.
Book 4, Sin Killers, features married ex-secret agents, zealots who’ve mounted a campaign of slaughter against sinners who’ve transgressed their pagan religious beliefs. The husband is a Druid bard who performs readings of old texts in which sinners are killed.
The fifth story is called The Dead Need Nobody, a title that appears early on in the story when a forensic pathologist says it as a passing comment after an autopsy of a murder victim. My detective is reminded of her observation when interviewing a suspect, a manipulative art dealer, a needy narcissist who comments that dying is a great career move for a painter.
Do you, as a reader, look out for the title appearing in the text?
Do you, as an author, reference your chosen title somewhere in the story?