Title, Title, Title.

The title of the film says it all - Apollo 13 poster.
The title of the film says it all.

In today’s competitive market an indie writer needs to keep her eye on at least two targets – writing skills and marketing, and it all starts with the title.

The belief that all a good writer has to do is keep writing—that recognition will come knocking on his door in due course, is optimistic. For every writer that succeeds many others don’t. The truth is that wide-spread recognition, if it comes at all, has to be actively pursued, coaxed, grown.

Entering competitions, doing readings of your work, building a large online presence, giving guest lectures at book clubs and colleges, can help—but start by grabbing your potential reader’s attention through a great title followed by a captivating logline or blurb.

I have discussed loglines and blurbs elsewhere on my blog. Today I want to look at the importance of a story’s title.

“Not only does a title hint at what your story is about, it is an indispensable marketing tool, too.”

I asked a friend of mine, an avid reviewer of kindle books, how she picks which story to read first amongst the many others she receives each day. She told me she lets the title and book cover do that for her.

When I worked for Elmo de Witt Films, one of my tasks was to look out for promising screenplays. There were always dozens of them in a pile on my desk waiting to be read. The ones that caught my eye first were always screenplays with great titles.

The story title as a marketing tool

A great title ticks one or more of the following boxes:

It points to a genre.
It hints at the story behind it.
It has emotional content.
It is not the name of a character.
It sets up a question, hints at a puzzle, intrigues one in some way.

Titles such as, Apollo 13, Rich and FamousGladiatorThe Madness of King George, and Alien leave us in no doubt as to what the story is about. Others, such as Blade Runner, sound so cool and compelling they make us want to know more.

But titles such as K-PaxThe Island, August Rush?

Not so good.

The title, Emma, may have worked for Jane Austen over two hundred yeas ago, but names of (unknown) people don’t generally make for good titles.

I typically come up with ten or more titles for a new book or screenplay and ask family, friends, and students to pick their favourite from the list, before making my final choice. I consider it time well spent.


Choosing a compelling, eye-catching title for your story is the first small step in getting your novel or screenplay noticed.


If you enjoyed this post, or have a suggestion for a future one, kindly leave a comment and let’s get chatting.

One thought on “Title, Title, Title.

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Remember the Golden age of Hollywood – the late 80’s and early 90’s
    High concept was king , where you take two contradicting words and a rap song that explains the plot.
    The Prime example being Space Jam. The title suggest that the film is about a rock concert or rap battle that takes place in space – It’s actually a very poor title because it feels out of place with the actual plot. The title does not tell me that this film involves the Loony tunes , Aliens and basket ball.

    Home Alone is a much better title and so is Good Fellas ( both films released in 1990). Home Alone implies that the main character is on his own and what makes it such a great title is the fact that the plot involves a little boy who must protect his home from buglers. Good Fellas is a screen adaptation of a biography titled Wise Guys. Why not stay with the original title ? : Because the viewer gets to know the characters in such a personal way we find them likable despite the fact that they are criminals – that’s the whole plot of the film : these people are criminals but it’s all they have known there whole lives – they don’t see themselves as bad guys and in weird way neither do we.

    In short : The title needs to be born from the plot.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *