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ABC Checklist 6


Titles | The ABC Checklist for New Writers

This the fifth and last extract from The ABC Checklist for New Writers: How to Open Doors and Get Noticed the First Time Around by Lorraine Mace and Maureen Vincent-Northam, published by Orana Publishing at £10.99. This useful book gives succinct answers to the many problems writers face, making it an indispensable reference for the budding writer.



It’s a truism that first impressions count. This is why choosing a good title is so important. The title of your work is the first thing the editor will read and, if it doesn’t grab her attention, she may put down your submission in favour of one more intriguingly titled.



Not only does the title need to spark her interest, but it must also be a fair indication of what your non-fiction article is about. Your readers – and remember, the editor is your first reader and the one you need to impress – will have certain expectations based on what you’ve called your piece. A title should aim to sum up the point of your article, while tempting the reader to read on.

Your market research will have told you the sort of titles used by the publication you intend submitting to. Most magazines prefer fairly short ones, believing overly wordy titles turn readers off. Some editors like a witty play on words, while others want titles to be more straightforward and descriptive.

Whatever you do, don’t be boring or unoriginal. What I Did on My Holiday in Wales isn’t going to stir any editor on a wet Monday morning and Wales: Land of My Fathers has been so overused that it’s probably appeared on every editor’s desk at some time or other.

Even after thinking up something you believe is perfect, a title is still subject to editorial change. The editor might want a different title for a number of reasons: she thinks her choice would better suit your article or the magazine’s style, they’ve recently run an article with a similar title, or perhaps she just doesn’t like it.

Because the editor may choose an alternative, many writers consider their title to be nothing more than a ‘working title’. Don’t be too precious about it, but, at the same time, don’t leave it solely to the editorial staff to come up with something suitable. Make sure your title piques the editor’s interest sufficiently to ensure she reads your work in the first place.



In the case of a short story, the editor may change your original title because she feels yours is too obscure. It may have some deep, or cryptic, meaning to you, but would pass over the heads of most readers. Or perhaps your title gives too much of the plot away, as in Joan Marries her Childhood Sweetheart – hardly worth reading on really, we already know what happens.



The choice of title for a book is even more important and, along with the book jacket, acts as a hook to ensnare potential buyers. Pick something distinctive, but easy to remember. Be aware of words that can be spelled a number of different ways, as potential buyers or booksellers may not easily find your book in catalogue listings.

Although the main title should carry the weight, subtitles are useful marketing tools for non-fiction books. The subtitle gives added information and explains how the book will help the reader. Book titles are also subject to editorial change, although the final choice is likely to be a mutual decision between you and your publisher.

To summarise:


  • A title should sum up the point of your article
  • Most magazines prefer fairly short titles
  • Don’t be boring or unoriginal in your choice
  • Titles are subject to editorial change
  • Some story titles give away too much of the plot
  • Make sure your title piques interest

This extract is published by kind permission of Orana Publishing.

© Lorraine Mace and Maureen Vincent-Northam

The ABC Checklist For New Writers

1: Agents - when and how to approach them
2: Editors - who they are and what they do
3: Keeping Records
5: Professionalism
6: Titles

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