Anyone who knows me personally or knows my work also knows that I’ve been writing nonfiction for over thirty years. I started my career as a health and medical writer. After moving into medical communication and working as an academic and consultant, my writing focused on communications. I occasionally was able to mesh health and communication in my writing. Some of you still use my textbooks – I know this because I still get royalty cheques!
Now, as a recovering academic, I spend the bulk of my writing time writing fiction. Today, I launch my latest novel, “The Inscrutable Life of Frannie Phillips.”
I never really intended to write this book. In fact, when I finished The Year I Made 12 Dresses that launched six months into the pandemic, I thought I was finished with the main character, Charlotte (Charlie) Hudson. Not so much. Have you ever had a character whisper into your ear? Keep talking in your head? Generally, bug you until you had to write about her again? That’s where Kat’s Kosmic Blues came in. But it seemed she wasn’t finished there.
So, today, I launch The Inscrutable Life of Frannie Phillips and here’s my little launch party where I tell you about writing this book…
And here’s more info…
I’ll now return to my usual blogging: sharing my writing tips, advice and general journey. You might even enjoy reading this book.
Care about people’s approval, and you will be their prisoner.
What is the one thing that all forms of writing―any fiction genre, nonfiction trade books, academic and professional books, magazine articles, newspaper stories, blog posts―have in common besides, of course, the fact that they all contain words? They all have titles. And those titles are essential for you as a writer if you expect anyone to read what you’ve written.
My question is this: how do you choose a title for an individual piece of your writing? How does any writer? There’s no easy answer to this because writers are inspired by various factors when choosing titles. But those titles are, arguably, the most important promotional tool you have in your toolbox.
After spending almost three decades in the academic world, reading (and writing) academic papers), I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen more hideous titles than you can ever hope to see in your life. Academics are the absolute worst. They seem to think that complicated, densely worded, erudite-sounding titles make them sound smart. They do not. However, this problem of wanting to sound clever isn’t confined to academics. Anyone who writes for a living―or even a hobby―would do themselves a favour by reconsidering the titles they place on their work for readers’ consumption.
This week I have five tips that I’ve picked up through thirty years of writing to help you choose better titles. Here is the summary. For the complete discussion, click on the WRITE.FIX.REPEAT. video.
Your title should be unique. How can you figure this out? Search for it. For books, try Amazon. For blog pieces, plug a few things into a search engine.
Your title should reflect what the book/blog/article is really about. Trying to be cute or smart or something else just to be clever without really reflecting the content is just wrong.
Your title should be easy to remember. Wouldn’t you like readers to be able to tell their friends the name of the book/blog/article? If it’s long and complicated, they’ll forget it. Or their eyes will glaze over (I’m talking to you academically-oriented writers).
Don’t pack it with keywords. (Sometimes referred to as keyword stuffing.) This includes things such as repeating words, adding words out of context, adding irrelevant words. It’s not necessary and makes for crappy titles.
Try to incorporate a hook without being overly clever. How can you know if your title is a hook? Maybe it’s easier to examine those that aren’t. For example, one-word titles, or the label title, don’t really grab readers. (Jaws notwithstanding.) What if I’d called this blog piece simply “Titles?” Would you have been as interested? If I called “Better Titles,” that would have been marginally better. But specificity that focuses on the potential reader is the best.
Believe it or not, there are online assistants for finding titles, but they are generated by AI and usually have issues. But they might intrigue you all the same.
The site Tweakyourbiz.com generates titles. It’s a bit odd, but fun, nonetheless.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good book trailer. And by “good,” I don’t mean expensive. By “good,” I mean a book trailer that concisely captures my imagination for fiction or beckons me to learn more when it comes to nonfiction. In both cases, it has to be tight and visually stimulating.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that book trailers can accomplish a few things, despite the lack of hard evidence that they increase book sales in any significant way. But a great book trailer can be your book’s calling card to book bloggers, reviewers, agents and yes, even to some readers. But it has to be good.
Here are my five tips for better book trailers:
Make sure you set out a specific goal for your book trailer. Trailers without purpose are not focused. Your goal should say what you want to realistically accomplish with these marketing tools and precisely who you want to reach. What and who are essential drivers for what you will put in that book trailer. See tip #2.
Write a script. I cannot tell you how soul-sucking it is to see a book trailer that is clearly unscripted. These pieces of crap are meandering commercials that appear to have been crafted by children. (Scratch that: children these days can generally do better with an iPhone and iMovie.)
Plan the visuals. You know what a script like this ought to look like, don’t you? Your script should resemble a documentary script more closely than a script for a movie. This kind of script layout means that you have two columns: the voice-over (if you’re using one―which I recommend) on one side and a column for visuals opposite it. The visuals should be carefully connected to the voice-over or on-screen titles or the script’s visual direction.
Avoid anything campy or kitschy unless that’s what your book is. Too many writers (and their book trailer makers) seem to think that the more gimmicks they put in, the better. Not so. It can be very off-putting to viewers or even misleading if that approach doesn’t represent the book’s genre, story, voice and message.
Keep it the right length. So, how long should a book trailer be? There are no hard and fast rules about this, but in my experience, I’ve found a kind of sweet spot. A 20-second trailer isn’t a trailer―it’s a teaser. A 4-minute trailer is bordering on a movie.
I suppose the cardinal rule for book trailers is the same as the cardinal rule for writing: never bore your readers (or, in this case, your viewers).
If you’re no expert in video production and editing, find someone who is. The final edit is what we’ll see and what we’ll use to judge your book― and you. Make a good first impression!