Saturday, December 27, 2008


Tantalizing Titles, Bodacious Book Covers, and Marvelous Marketing

by LuAnn Schindler

As a writer, you want readers to focus their attention on your book when they are perusing choices in bookstores and libraries. A tantalizing title, bodacious book cover, and marvelous marketing campaign certainly help sales!

A title that recently caught my attention features this oxymoron: Good Christian Bitches by Dallas native Kim Gatlin. (Brown Books, 2008)

As a writer, I appreciate a good oxymoron. The contradiction of terms catches the reader's attention and arouses curiosity. And Gatlin's novel certainly piques my curiosity.

Which came first: the title of this juicy chick lit tale or the storyline? In Gatlin's case, the title.

The author says that while going through a divorce, she talked to a friend about some of the comments people from her community were making about her and her situation.

"I was shocked that some women in the community couldn't wait to tell my story and ad lib some of it they weren't sure about," says Gatlin. "I told her I was floored and appalled by some of the behavior of these good Christian women. My friend turned and said, 'You mean good Christian bitches.' I busted out laughing."

And a title was born.

Gatlin says that in her book, vicious gossip and the ladies who spread the words undermine the main character's life, and she knew she needed a title that would intrigue readers.

"I knew I couldn't name it Good Christian Sinners. It would sit on the shelf, and people who need to read it won't read it," stresses Gatlin. "The term identifies that kind of behavior, kind of like the 'bridezilla' label explains how a bride might act."

Gatlin reports that she's only received a couple negative comments about her debut novel's title, and she believes that those negative remarks came from people who just didn't get what the book is about.

"One thing I've noticed is that the book and its title have made the nasty people nastier and the lovely people lovelier. Some people make assumptions of what it's about. Most people laugh because most understand the concept immediately," remarks Gatlin.

The book's cover certainly draws attention; it even received a mention in Newsweek and buzz in Hollywood. Gatlin reports that in her corner of the world - the greater Dallas metro area - some women dress like the woman on the cover.

"I've dressed like that. I have friends, Christian women, who dress like that: the big crosses, the big cleavage. It's not all about who they are, but they will wear outfits like it on occasion."

The original cover design was dark with red letters and red lipstick. Gatlin feels it had too sinister of look and sent it back to the drawing board for a makeover.

"I wanted it to be lighter, funnier, prettier. I went with the pink tones, the blonde woman with the diamond cross pendant and earrings, and the raised foil lettering." The clever cover draws as much speculation about the storyline as the title. And that, Gatlin says, will draw interest.

The font on the cover features a heavenly script of gold and silver with symbols of the good (halo) and evil (devil's fork). The choice of font is significant because it resembles heavily artistic fonts used in church documents during the Renaissance. It adds one more hook in the total marketing package.

Remove the book jacket and find one more marketing tool: the novel resembles a hymnal.

Gatlin says that the final product incorporates her intent as an author and embraces her vision for taking a light-hearted look at the frailty of human nature by addressing gossip and rumors.

"You can't lead a campaign for Christ and a hate campaign about someone else at the same time," says Gatlin.

Reading, talking about literature, and generating a reaction through discussion is what reading is all about. Gatlin says that when you use a topic people can relate to as the basis of a novel, people are going to talk about it.

"At the end of the day, I don't care who you are or how beloved you are, you've been gossiped about one time or other or you've gossiped about someone."

True. And you can also title a book with a juicy oxymoron and add a sizzling hot book jacket to generate buzz and sales.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008


Title Practice

by LuAnn Schindler

Sometimes, coming up with a clever title can be a daunting task. For a straight news story, an inventive title can come across as corny, or in some instances, misleading. Feature stories and personal profiles may draw a reader in with a witty title splashed above the story. But still, there are times when the obvious lead-in fails to pop into my mind.

Once, I wrote about the local economic development group that gave each graduating high school senior a mailbox with the hopes that one day, they would return to this county and establish a residence. I can't even remember what pitiful title I submitted to my editor. I imagine he gasped in horror and thought, 'Well, she's having a stressful day. Better luck next time.'

To my delight, the headline combined my editor's brilliance with a short overview of the article and said 'You've Got Mail: Seniors Receive Gift for Future Use." It worked, and my story and headline received supportive comments.

Since then, I've practiced sharpening my headline writing skills. First, I'll read newspaper or magazine articles and then rewrite the headline. I've discovered that it makes me look at each word I use and make sure it counts.

Another game I enjoy playing is to create headlines or titles about my life. I'll use these categories:
  • Personality profile
  • Sports feature
  • Business feature
  • YA novel
  • Historical fiction
  • Reality show
  • Chick Flick
  • Documentary
  • Poetry
  • Science Fiction

Add your own categories and work on fine-tuning your headline and title writing skills. You'll be amazed at how this stretches your creativity!

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Friday, December 28, 2007


Titles: A Rose by Any Other Name

For some writers, when it comes to choosing a title, the perfect title either rings out loud and true like a single gunshot, or the various possibilities give off faint snaps, crackles, and pops like a bowlful of milk-wet Rice Krispies.

No matter how the idea comes to you, you can never underestimate the power of a title. Think of the book "Gone wIth the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell. Would the title have been as epic and metaphorical and perfectly suited to the book if it were "Those Damn Yankees," "Plantation Blues," "That Man is Making Me Nuts," "Georgia Lost," or any other conceivable title? Of course not. The title and the tone of the content should be in harmony.

Titling a book is not a science. Unfortunately, there is no exact formula that will result in the perfect title for your book. For me, it's visceral, driven completely by a feeling. My titles are born in the exact moment the book idea is formed. For other writers I know, the book can be completed, revised, edited, and ready for publication, and still no title has made itself known.

When that happens, there are a few tips to help the process along. Start by brainstorming any and every idea that seems to fit your story. Consider the characters in your story. Is your book about "The Godfather," "The Time Traveler's Wife," "The Joy Luck Club"? Think of the metaphor in your story. Is your book about taking life "Bird by Bird," or the path not taken in "A Thousand Country Roads"? Examine your plot. Is your story about "The Hot Zone," "The Caine Mutiny"? Is there a particular line of dialogue or narrative that stands out in the story? "Catch-22" anyone?

If you belong to a critique group or an online discussion board, run your list of book title ideas by the members and ask for additional suggestions. Narrow your list down to the top five and then approach your local librarians and book store employees for their opinions. This process may not cure your book title indecision, but it may help bring you closer to the perfect title.

In the end, it is still like naming a child. And you should choose the name wisely for that is how your book will be known.

Now, just for fun, I've added a list that was forwarded to me in an email of "Children's Book Titles That Never Made The Cut":

1. You Are Different and That's Bad
2. The Boy Who Died From Eating All His Vegetables
3. Dad's New Wife Robert
4. Fun four-letter Words to Know and Share
5. Hammers, Screwdrivers and Scissors: An I-Can-Do-It Book
6. The Kids' Guide to Hitchhiking
7. Kathy Was So Bad Her Mom Stopped Loving Her
8. Curious George and the High-Voltage Fence
9. All Cats Go to Hell
10. The Little Sissy Who Snitched
11. Some Kittens Can Fly
12. That's it, I'm Putting You Up for Adoption
14. The Magic World Inside the Abandoned Refrigerator
15. Garfield Gets Feline Leukemia
16. The Pop-Up Book of Human Anatomy
17. Strangers Have the Best Candy
18. Whining, Kicking and Crying to Get Your Way
19. You Were an Accident
20. Things Rich Kids Have, But You Never Will
21. Pop! Goes The Hamster...And Other Great Microwave Games
22. The Man in the Moon Is Actually Satan
23. Your Nightmares Are Real
25. Eggs, Toilet Paper, and Your School
26. Why Can't Mr. Fork and Ms. Electrical Outlet Be Friends?
27. Places Where Mommy and Daddy Hide Neat Things
28. Daddy Drinks Because You Cry

Of course, those silly titles are all intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but any of them could actually be a good title for a humor book.

So, tell me, how do you choose your titles? Is it easy or difficult?