Monday, June 27, 2016

What's in a Picture Book Title? ~By Suzy Leopold

What do you consider to be the most important elements of a children’s picture book?
  • A fantastic first line that hooks the reader.
  • An outstanding plot with a problem that needs solving.
  • Main characters that are likable or touch a reader with emotion.
  • A story ending that is unexpected or satisfying.
Yes, these and more are important to a well crafted manuscript. 

What about the element of a title? 
Writers don’t always give much thought to a title. Titles are sometimes overlooked. An outstanding title adds and enhances a well written manuscript.

Editor Richard Jackson said, “Next to finding a jacket artist, I think titling is the hardest thing to do in children’s books.”

We all know the clichĂ©, “Never judge a book by its cover”. Yet many books are chosen by a reader based on the title.
The title is the first thing a reader, an editor, a librarian and a buyer see. A title is like an advertisement for a book and it better be good. It needs to capture the reader’s attention. A title is a selling point.

Catchy titles determine if the book comes off the library shelf for checkout or purchased from a bookstore.

Since titles are usually short . . . They should be easy to write.

The title of a book is an important element. At what point the title is selected is not important.

Perhaps you wrote the title first as it was your inspiration for your story. Does a title come together as your story idea evolves?  Maybe you chose a title once your manuscript is in the final stages. 

A title of a book should:
  • be catchy
  • express mood
  • be engaging
  • be fun
  • give hints 
  • introduce a character
  • be clear
  • be easily remembered
  • be snappy
  • tease
  • be concise
  • be unique
  • create suspense
 Titles that give a hint of what’s to come without giving away the ending offer intrigue.

Some titles are one word titles. Some titles are longer. There are even subtitles for books.

Since titles are not copyrighted, you can choose a title for your story that someone else may have selected. Before you choose a title for your book make sure there aren’t hundreds of others like yours. Think about a reader who is searching through numerous titles that are exactly like or similar to yours . . . A reader may give up on the search before coming to your title and your book is overlooked.

Take time to consider a title for your story. After all, you took time, weeks and even years, to write your manuscript, revise, and polish. 

Good writers study picture books as mentor texts. Study recently published picture books and focus on the titles. Write down several titles. Study them some more. What do you notice? Are the titles kid appealing? 
Now it’s time for you to write down several titles. Play with the language. Use alliteration. How about rhythm and rhyme? Does the title give a sense of intrigue? The shorter the better.

When giving and receiving critiques, do not overlook the title of a manuscript. Give it some thought. Is the current title working and enhancing the story?

Titles are important and readers do judge a book by its cover. Think about enticing the reader with a winning title. Is it the best it can be? Spend some time with your title and get it just right.


  1. I'll definitely be printing that one out, Suzy. A good overview of how to structure a titillating title.

    1. May you think of tantalizing titles, Sherri.

  2. Great post Suzy! I enjoy coming up with titles, but never thought of them as "sellers".

    1. Thank you, Darlene. Continue to enjoy creating titles that advertise and sell.

  3. Thank you, Suzy, for this great post about titles-so difficult to do!

    1. Hopefully, these thoughts make creating titles easier for you, Charlotte.

  4. Thanks for the reminder about titles, Suzy! It does seem like the smaller something is, the harder it is to write!

    1. So very true, Tina. Not only can a title be challenging to write it makes a big impact in just a few words.

  5. Very true! :D Titles play an amazingly important spot with the initial impression of the reader.

  6. Good points to consider, Suzy . . .thanks!

    1. My pleasure, Jarm. Thank you for always reading and supporting the GROG Blog.