Great Book Titles

by | Jun 15, 2010 | Book Marketing Basics

Reading Time: ( Word Count: )

What are the most important one to five words that you can write before, during or after you have completed your magnum opus?

Cover of

Cover of M*A*S*H (Widescreen Edition)

The book title. Those are the words on your billboard (jacket) that first stare the reader in the face. Can a book title make a difference? Yes, up to a point. The title can entice the reader to look further, the flaps or the copy on the back of a trade paperback and, Lord willing, even inside the book itself.

All good titles should imply some kind of question, such as what is this book about? One of my favorites was THE TUESDAY EROTICA CLUB. EROTIC, hot word. EROTICA CLUB, getting hotter. And they meet once a week. Yummy. Book was eventually published in at least 20 countries. The word “erotica” is hot from the North to the South Pole and everywhere in between.

Often though titles are born, not made, which is to say they become famous and even iconic after the book is published and it generates universal attention and even becomes a household word(s).

Such was the case with MASH. When I published it, I received a call from the movie producer who wanted to know what the hell did the word MASH mean. I told him it stood for a Kentucky whiskey. But it also was the acronym for a surgical hospital in Korea. Besides, I said we would not change the title because the publisher had spent $375 for the creation of the jacket. Understandably the movie producer thought I was mad. Not far off the mark. However, the movie guys had the brilliant idea of putting asterisks after each letter. Despite the title, which was in itself meaningless to the casual observer, everybody including those with a seeing eye dog would recognize it because the book, the movie, a big sleeper, and then the TV series took on lives of their own. The book by the way was initially turned down by 32 publishers as well as by a bunch of directors before Altman signed on.

But do take the time to think of a catchy title. It is worth an effort, BIG TIME.

Tip submitted by Hillel Black, free lance editor of over 20 NY Times best sellers and member of the Consulting Editors Alliance. Visit

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