Titles and Blurbs

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

The following is a quick bullet-point list of tips for choosing a title and writing a blurb -- these are essentially the notes from a live Writers Chat I did, compiled here for easy review!


TITLES


  • First of all, THE TITLE MATTERS! (Let’s just get that out of the way.)

  • Know your audience (“straightforward” Wattpad title v. literary title for academics/high-brow readers)

  • A good title won’t make your book do well, but a bad one WILL keep it from doing well

  • The title is the first thing the readers see, and gives them their first impression of your book.  It is like the first test you must pass – title, cover, and blurb all work together to help a reader decide whether to buy, but the title (or the cover WITH the title) are what they see first

  • The title is a MARKETING decision, and needs to be treated like one (choose with head, not heart)

  • Elements of a strong title:

  1. Grabs attention

  2. Easy to remember

  3. Gives an idea what the book is about

  4. Easy to say/write/type

  5. Comfortable to say to others or share with friends (not awkward to say in public or at a party)

  • Clarity over cleverness

  • Only use a sub-title if it’s needed to clarify the title’s context (i.e., The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape The 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join The New Rich).  This is not usually needed with fiction titles.

  • Know your goals before crafting the title (will you need a title that can work within a series and all the titles tie together?  Do you want to craft a certain persona as an author with the mood/humor of your title?  Will you be printing it on shirts, etc. later and need it to be something brief and eye-catching?  Etc.)

  • Possible goals for a title:

  1. SELL YOUR BOOK

  2. Start a line of books

  3. Brand yourself/your style of writing (you will have this in your future bio, will have to reference it a lot at future events, etc.)

  4. Look good on a cover/catch attention

  5. Look good on promotional materials

  • Ideas for coming up with titles:

  1. A quote from the book

  2. A quote from a famous work/poem that describes the theme or otherwise relates to your book

  3. Start with a description of the book and then trim it down until it’s 5 words or less

  4.  Use metaphors or symbols associated with the themes in your book

  • Come up with as many titles as you can think of, then narrow it down – get feedback!  You can do a poll, ask in forums, etc.  (You can also use Adwords to test a title – I haven’t tried it but instructions are here: http://itrevolution.com/phoenix-project-google-adwords-title-subtitle-testing/)

  • Main title should be short – no more than 5 words

  • For self-publishing, the words in the title matter A TON for visibility.  Think “what would someone type in the search bar if looking for this type of book?”

  • Title should pare down the book to its deepest essence – it should communicate the mood & style of the book AND give a hint what it’s about

  • It must fit the genre of the book in style, word choice, etc.

  • It should make readers curious to read the blurb (and then the blurb should make them curious to read the book – more on that later!)

  • Only use clichés if you are reversing them or using them in an ironic/unusual way

  • DO RESEARCH to be sure your chosen title isn’t already in use before moving forward

  • A good novel title should reflect the contents of the book in a way that creates an emotional reaction and a curiosity

  • A title is a promise to the reader – it should match what you intend to deliver (in some way, even if in an unexpected way)

  • Research titles that have sold well for your genre – don’t copy them, but try to learn from them

 

BLURBS


  • We are talking about FICTION blurbs (non-fiction blurbs take a slightly different approach, though the structure is similar)

  • A blurb is basically a sales pitch on the back cover/online description of your book – its job is to convince readers that they NEED TO BUY YOUR BOOK

  • Book Blurb is NOT the same as a synopsis, review, or detailed summary of the book.   Those all serve different purposes.

  • Keep it short (or people probably won’t read it – too much text is overwhelming).  3-5 sentences (no more than 250 words max).

  • Hit the highlights of your premise (but don’t include subplots or too much detail)

  • Write in present tense, 3rd person (even if your book is in a different tense/POV).  You might be able to get away with 1st person in a blurb IF your book is in 1st person, as long as you are careful that the blurb still achieves all its goals and isn’t confusing or misleading.

  • Use “power words,” emotionally-charged words

  • Write as the publisher, not the author – SELLING the book is your concern (separate your feelings)

  • Use testimonials and reviews if you have them (they go WITH the blurb, not in place of it)

  • Give the reader a sense what’s inside the book but leave them curious (no spoilers; not too much detail)

  • YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR WORK WITH CLARITY to do this well – characters, premise, theme, tone, emotional impact, etc.

  • You CAN use a well-known comparison if one applies (ex: Harry Potter meets Hamilton in this historical wizard fiction).  [NOTE:  that example is made up; I’m pretty sure that book does not exist – Pandacorn, write it if you want!]    But DO NOT compare yourself to something as though you are the “next” of that – i.e. “The next Harry Potter” or “The modern Tolkien” … these are likely to backfire and make readers more critical of your work because it comes across as arrogant.  (If SOMEONE ELSE says that about you in a review, that’s great!  But don’t say it about yourself or your own work.)

**Update: Apparently Harry Potter/Hamilton fan fiction IS already a thing!  My bad.**


Blurb structure: Different approaches

  • hook (get attention), content (what it’s about), reason to care

OR

  • context, characters, conflict (only the initial conflict – no spoilers!)

OR

  • Situation, Problem, Hopeful Possibility for overcoming the problem, Mood

OR

  • introduce the main character/s, introduce the secondary characters/events that the main character must encounter, summarize the style/main themes

OR

  • Main Character, Desire (goals), What’s Stopping Him? (conflict), The Struggle (effort he must put in), The Consequences (desired result and/or stakes if he fails).

All of these are basically different ways of saying the same thing.

Ex: Harry Potter blurb


“Till now there’s been no magic for Harry Potter. He lives with the miserable Dursleys and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny closet beneath the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But then a mysterious letter arrives by owl messeng