A Million Dollar Title

| March 12, 2012 | 62 Comments

Comics is a tough business.  There are SO many things you need to get right in order to have a chance at having a successful book.  Like it or not, the TITLE of your book is one of the most important decisions you’ll make.

You’ve simply GOT to have a great title.  

Your title is your brand.  It’s the shorthand for the work itself, and in many cases will become shorthand for YOU.  So it’s something that you REALLY need to think long and hard about. (Yes, Michael Scott, that’s what she said.  The Office…great title.)

Sometimes, coming up with the title is easy. Often, the title is the FIRST thing that you come up with.  I’m in the process of building a story around a great title right now.  I came up with the genre and type of story I wanted to tell first, and the name of the story second.  I let that mull in my head for a few days, before coming up with an interesting hook, and am now working my way through the spine of a story.  A great title will do that for you.  If you can envision the book on the shelf, with that perfect title on the cover…sometimes that can be enough to keep you motivated to do all the necessary work to bring it to life.

However, sometimes the title is the LAST thing to come along.  You know the story you want to tell, you’ve written plenty of scripts, you may have even had pages drawn for it.  And sure, you’ve been calling it something during this process.  Projects do need names…even if they’re just placeholders.  But a “placeholder” title simply isn’t good enough.  Until you’ve got your blockbuster title, you’re not ready to release it.

I would encourage all of you to push hard to attach a “million dollar title” to everything you do.  What do I mean by a million dollar title?  I mean literally that…a title so good, you could envision it supporting a million dollar media property.

Mark Millar does this for all of his work.  Whether you love or hate his work, you’ve got to admit his titles are great.  Wanted, Kick-Ass, Nemesis, Secret Service, War Heroes, American Jesus, Super Crooks…it’s not hard to imagine those as the titles of a comic, novel, tv series, movie, or video game.  And in Millar’s case, he pursues an all-of-the-above strategy for all of his titles…to the tune of millions of dollars.

What Makes a Great Title?

Naming a book is a creative endeavor.  All creative endeavors lend themselves to a certain measure of subjectivity, and surely you and I could disagree  on the strength of any given title.  However, I will argue that there ARE some general rules of thumb that make some titles objectively better than others.  I’m going to discuss those rules now, and then I’ll analyze the titles of some recent new comics to see how they stack up.

Your Million Dollar Title Checklist

1.) Is it Ironic?

Irony is one of those concepts I always sort of got, but often struggled to explain.  (And I’ve got the high school English papers to prove it.)  Then Alanis had to go and make that song and fill it with examples that weren’t really irony…just kind of crappy things to happen to people.  But I digress.  A great title often has an element of irony to it, and by that I mean, there’s something about it that causes the reader to expect something, but he/she actually gets something else.  People like twists, and irony is a surefire way to catch people’s interest.  Your pitch or hook MUST contain an element of irony, but it’s even better if your title does, too.

Examples:

The Walking Dead – (Bu-wha?! The dead aren’t supposed to walk! What’s going on here?)

High Moon – (Wait, I was expecting “High Noon”…but High Moon…and is that a werewolf with a ten gallon hat? Color me intrigued…)

Kick-Ass – (Wait, can that nutty Scottsman ACTUALLY get away with titling a book Kick-Ass?!)

2.) Does it Say What Your Story Is?

Of course, irony will only get you so far.  In his brilliant book Save the Cat, Blake Snyder writes, “a great title must have irony and tell the tale.”  I was reviewing some pitch information from a creator the other day who was in the home stretch of getting a new book out.  He had an ironic title, but unfortunately, it did nothing to say what the story was about, and rather would lead readers to believe the story was about something different.  That’s a no no.  Million dollar titles, in one or a few words, clue the reader in on what they’re going to be getting if they plunk down their hard earned greenbacks for a copy.  In the case of comics, and in Superhero comics in particularly, this is most simply achieved by naming the title after the main character.  Sometimes the direct route is the best one.

Examples

Batman – (It’s a story about a guy who dresses up like a bat.  What more do you need to know?)

Invincible – (It’s the story of a guy named Invincible, who pretty much is.)

Pride of Baghdad – (War story of a pride of lions taking place in war-torn Iraq.)

3.) Can it be Shorter?

I like one word titles.  I like short titles.  There are a number of reasons for this.  First, the shorter the title, the bigger the font of the logo, and the more easily read your title will be on the racks.  Don’t underestimate that.  Second, communication in many areas is being reduced to short hand.  Short blog posts are more likely to be read.  Short Tweets retweeted, etc.  Having a big long title doesn’t lend itself well to repeating.

Singer Fiona Apple just released a new album called (and I sh*t you not), “The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do.”  That’s a 23-word title.  That’s ridiculous.  (Of course, it’s SO ridiculous, she got a decent amount of press for it and I’m talking about it, so chew on that.  But in general, you don’t want to pull a Fiona.  (Worth noting…the song Fiona is most known for was just one word, simply titled “Criminal.”)

In general, the longer the title, the more likely it gets butchered by Bleeding Cool, or not passed on. Yes, there will always be exceptions, but think hard about making your book one of them.

4.) Does it Pass the Internet Test?

You can’t copyright titles.  (You can trademark them, but this isn’t a lawyer column.)  The fact is, you can pretty much title your book whatever you want.  However that doesn’t mean you should.  Before you lock in a title, I want you to run this internet diagnostic:

- Google it! - Google the title, and the title + “comic” and see what comes up.  The less the better.  Sometimes you’ll find your title is already being used.  If that’s the case, you need to decide whether or not you’re willing and able to do what it takes to push your book ahead of whose in front of you.  If not, you’re going to probably want to switch it up.

- Amazon search it! – What are people who want to buy your book going to find when they look for it on the place where the most books in the world are sold?  Better to find this out now than later, right?

- Domain name test it!- Can you get the domain name “your title”.com or something close?  If not, again, you might want to call an audible on the title.

Let’s Look at Some Recent Titles and See How They Hold Up?

With the above rules in mind, I’m going to give you my take on the strengths and weakness of some recent new titles that have come out.  Now, most of these are going to be Image comics, because, let’s face it, Image is most visible publisher putting out new ideas in comics.  I won’t be including any old licensed properties, but would rather focus on the recent. Also note, I won’t be making any judgement on the books themselves, this is simply a title evaluation.

Peter Panzerfaust – This title by writer Kurtis Wiebe scores very well.  Is it Ironic?  Sure…Peter Pan…zerfaust!  Weren’t expecting the German were you!  While most readers probably wouldn’t put together exactly what this story is without out getting a bit more, when they hear that this is a World War II retelling of Peter Pan, they get it.  Whenever people can GET your title, this is a good thing.  The only drawback to this title is that I’ve heard people absolutely butcher the name “Pazerfaust”…”Peter Panzertwist”, “Peter Panzerface”, “Peter Pantywaist”…there’s not much you can do about this.

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode – Okay, I’ll be honest.  I hated this title…at first.  It seems to fly in the face of my above recommendations.  It’s way too long.  There’s nothing ironic about it.  And it’s not really clear what the “talent” is that they’re talking about.  It’s sort of a superhero book, but I’ve rarely heard the word “talent” used as a synonym for power.  It’s a weak one at best.  “But, Tyler,” you’re saying, “Luther Strode is a BRILLIANT book and a huge indie hit. So, all this talk about the importance of a title is hogwash!” (Yeah, that’s right, you used the word “hogwash.”) And to that I would counter, YOU are right… “Luther Strode” is actually a GREAT name.  See, when talking about the book, virtually NO ONE calls it “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode.”  They call it Luther Strode.  And there, Justin Jordan did a great job of picking a very unique name that does phenomenal on the Google test.  (Bonus writing pro-tip: When naming your characters, seldom-used verbs, like strode, are great last names. They just do.)  And then when I heard that Jordan envisions Luther Strode as a trilogy, with sequels perhaps titled, “The Legend of Luther Strode” and “The Legacy of Luther Strode“, it hit me that the guy did his homework.  He wasn’t building a title here…he was building a franchaise.  Well played, Mr. Jordan.  Well played.

SCAM – What about ComixTribe‘s own title, SCAM?  It’s certainly short enough, that’s for sure!  When you hear a book called SCAM, your mind immediately thinks of con artists, money, tricks, double crosses, and the like, all of which figure prominently in Joe Mulvey’s book. You know what this book is about before you open it up. What doesn’t come across in this title is the super-powered angle.  But getting that across probably would have ventured into the land of cheese- “Super Scam”?  Barf-worthy.  The superpowered element is downplayed in the book, so downplaying it in the title works.  SCAM definitely is a million-dollar title, and could easily work across a wide range of genres.

Green Wake – I think Kurtis Wiebe learned his lesson.  As good a title as Peter Panzerfaust is, Green Wake is not. (It didn’t help that Image released a title called Blue Estate at about the same time…also an obtuse name for a book.)  While it likely does fine on the internet test, I beg any of you who haven’t read this series to tell me what a comic called Green Wake is about?  Hell, I read the first issue, and I still can’t tell you what the comic is about.  This book built a nice cult following, but in today’s comic market, a cult following might not be enough.  I do think part of the reason this book had to end it’s run at issue #10 (still a commendable feat) was that it was a title that was too obscure for the casual fan to take a flyer on.

Thief of Thieves – Kirkman gets it.  There’s a reason he’s living the dream right now.  This title is both ironic and tells what the book is (it’s a book about a great thief who steals from other thieves…it’s all right there in the title.)  There’s not much more to say about this one. It’s perfect.

Superbia – This is a home run title.  Without seeing anything else (art, log-line, pitch, etc.) I could tell you EXACTLY what this new Image title is about.  Superbia…clearly it’s “Desperate Housewives” meets “The X-men.”  It’s ironic in a “Wow, those words fit together perfectly! Why didn’t I think of that!” And there is NO greater compliment you can get on your pitch than “Why didn’t I think of that.”  This title is a license to print money.  Bravo, Grace Randolf.

One thing you may have noticed is that, on the whole, I’ve liked most of these titles.  That’s not a coincidence. The fact is, books with lousy titles either don’t get made or don’t get talked about.    So don’t pitch your book until you’ve got a title as good or better than some of the ones above.

Alright, there you have it.  My humble opinion about what makes a million dollar title.  In the comments this week, I’m willing to workshop some titles with you.  Post your title and your title only and  I’ll give you my thoughts.

***

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, and educator residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of superhero murder mystery maxi-series THE RED TEN EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and Tears of the Dragon, a swords and sorcery fantasy. His past work includes OVER, a romantic comedy graphic novel, and Super Seed, the story of the world’s first super powered fertility clinic. His work has been published by DC and Arcana comics.

Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, a new website empowering creators to help each other make better comics.

Contact Tyler via email ([email protected]), visit his website TylerJamesComics.com, follow him on Twitter, or check him out on Facebook

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Category: Comix Counsel

About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at [email protected]

Comments (62)

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  1. John Lees says:

    I still think the title of my Proving Grounds script, “HARD AS FUCK”, has set the benchmark. ;)

    • Tyler James says:

      Yes, HAF has its charms, Mr. Lees. It is both ironic and says what the story is, to an extent.

      My objections with the title all had to do with the ramifications of dropping an F-Bomb in the title of your book. Would that fact alone relegate your book to the MATURE/ADULT section of the shop next to the polybagged porn comics? Or would it not get your book carried at all? Would you be at a convetion with a big Hard As Fuck banner and be asked to take it down by the show organizer because “Look, there are families here.”

      These are all things that would give me pause.

    • Jules Rivera says:

      @John The title Hard as Fuck might also be a bit confusing. I see that and I honestly expect it to be a porno. There’s nothing wrong with that, but folks who frequent LCS may take your title can be taken the wrong way if it contains that kind of language. And then people get the wrong idea about your book, and you will be forever explaining to people that “No, sir/madame, Hard as Fuck is not in fact an erotica story about a particularly endowed individual.”

      Probably a good piece of advice for everyone: make sure your title doesn’t contain any double entendres (unless that’s your intention; in which case go nuts).

  2. Okay. I’ll play.

    Keys
    Shadow Acres

    • Tyler James says:

      KEYS – In general, I like it. Love me a good four-letter title… (SCAM, EPIC, OVER…almost a ComixTribe signature.) Now, the word “key” has a number of meanings and connotations: an item that unlocks doors or treasures, the most important or crucial piece, something that assures control or power, and of course, musical scales. If the writer can incorporate ALL of these “key” elements and connotations of the work “keys” into one story, then he’s done his job, and the word “Keys” is the perfect title. Also, “Keys” does surprisingly well on the internet test. Now, anyone searching for the book on Google would have to type in “Keys Comic” or “Keys Graphic Novel” but that’s okay.

      Shadow Acres – When I hear this title, I’m expecting something dark, either a horror, suspense, or supernatural story, perhaps set at a resort, farm or even a retirement home of some sort. This is what comes to mind when I hear the title…so if it’s a light-hearted comedy, it might be off. Shadow Acres doesn’t fair as well on the internet test. Turns out there IS a Shadow Acres farm in real life, and a couple not well publicized novels by that name. That probably wouldn’t be enough to discourage me from using it, though.

    • Tyler James says:

      Mascherata – So, the first thing I have to say is that in order to analyze this title, I need to first Google it. That’s a bit of a red flag to me. I (and your readers) may be thinking “Huh? Is that Spanish? Italian? Hmm…it’s certainly not American English…is this a foreign language book?” It conjures the word “masquerade” in my mind, so without doing that Google look up, I’m going to expect fancy constumes, intrigue, mystery and murder. Also, a beautiful woman/femme fatale at the heart of the story.

      Now, of course, your more cultured comic book reader will know that the mascherata is a 16th century Italian dance, and expect it to have something to do with that.

      My recommendation if you are sticking with this title would be to have a bold, clear, memorable tagline that you could associate with it.

      “Dance is Death”…Mascherata, an original graphic novel by Yannick Morin. Or something like that.

      • “Mascherata” is in fact the title of my short comic that’s going to appear in Noel’s JOURNEYMEN anthology next month.

        I’ll let you read the script when it’s up in this weeks’s TPG so you can see how close or far to the mark you were. ;)

        But indeed, the foreign-sounding name constitues an obstacle to hooking readers in. However, I was thinking of going on writing shorts using the same setting so “Mascherata” could well become the name of an actual book. I’ll probably follow your advice and call it: “MASCHERATA: Become the Mask”. I was also thinking that each of the shorts might reuse the main title as a subtitle. For example: “The Thousand Secrets: A Tale of Mascherata”.

        By the way, it’s Italian for “masquerade”.

  3. Conner MacDonald says:

    “Walter Gross, The Brain Damaged Detective”
    “Happy Hippo”
    “Gnarly Yarns”

    • Tyler James says:

      Walter Gross, The Brain Damaged Detective – This title screams “lark” to me. A story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it seems more like a title for a ‘toon, black and white zine, or mini-comic. I wouldn’t expect high production values or something very serious here. In general, I don’t love punctuation marks in titles. The title is a bit “goofy” and maybe even a bit old-fashioned, and I don’t think “goofy” is a big seller in today’s comic market. If I were to conjecture further, this title makes me think of “Monk” a bit. But there’s a far cry between a “neurotic” Detective and a “Brain Damaged” one. “Brain Damaged” doesn’t sound nearly as fun. Now, if it were me, and I was angling for a million dollar title that would play in the comic market, I’d change the tile to simply: “GROSS.” Have it be about a slightly off detective who only takes on the nastiest of nasty cases. I’d check out that book.

      Happy Hippo – I think of Hungry, Hungry Hippos, my favorite game as a three year old. Then I smile. If it’s bright, cheery, and all ages, it’s probably on point.

      Gnarly Yarns – Sounds like a decent title for an anthology. The word “Gnarly” sort of got co-opted by Bill & Ted back in the day, but I don’t know how important that is. I haven’t ever seen those two words placed next to one another, and they actually flow quite nicely.

    • Tyler James says:

      Immaculate – Great title for the right book. Obviously, conjures Christian/religious connotations. Expect there to be a beautiful female lead at the core and have a bright color palette. Word of caution…the art on this title MUST be beautiful.

      That’s another point I’ll make…don’t let your title lead to easy negative puns and such from critics. “The book is called “Immaculate” but the art is anything but…yuk, yuk, yuk.”

      The book “Fairest” just came out from the “Fables” guys…a book called that about the prettiest Princesses in fairy tales simply HAS to be beautifully illustrated. (Hence the Adam Hughes cover.)

  4. John Lees says:

    I’ll be contrarian and say that I’m a sucker for long titles. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is one of my all-time favourite film titles, and I always insist on saying the full title whenever discussing the movie.

    • Tyler James says:

      And I will counter that with the fact that “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, despite some critical acclaim and I believe an Oscar nomination or two, the film grossed only 15 million dollars worldwide, with a budget of 30 million.

      One might even go so far as to call that a “Negative Fifteen Million Dollar Title.”

      • John Lees says:

        It was also hampered by being a Western that came out within a month or so of both No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

  5. John Lees says:

    Perhaps the best example of an unfortunate title was a film that screened at the Glasgow Frightfest a couple of weeks back. It was actually a good film, a tense affair about an alien being landing on Earth and being interrogated in a secret facility. But it was lumbered with this humdinger of a title:

    Wang’s Arrival

    • Conner MacDonald says:

      “Wang’s Arrival” makes me think of “Midnight Meat Train.”

    • Tyler James says:

      IDW’s THE CAPE, a tremendous book, also got hit with the awful timing bug, as the shortlived awful NBC TV show of the same name released at the same time.

      • John Lees says:

        Yes. I actually never picked up THE CAPE until its reprint shortly before the release of the miniseries, because I thought it was a spinoff of the TV show.

    • Jules Rivera says:

      This is exactly what I’m talking about with the unintentional double entendre title. Seriously, nobody making that movie thought to point out to the producers that the title might need to be readdressed?

      The only thing worse would be calling it “Wang’s Coming”

      • John Lees says:

        It’s a quite epic tale. It’s an Italian film, and in Italy apparently the word “Wang” isn’t necessarily dirty. The alien speaks Mandarin Chinese, and goes by the name “Wang”. In Italy the film is called something like, “L’Arrival Du Wang”, and for the English-speaking market they just went for a direct translation. But the filmmakers were at the screening, and said they’re looking for suggestions for a better title in time for the films’ English-language release in theaters later this year.

        Given the alien’s tentacled features, my suggeston was, “Squid Pro Quo”.

  6. Jonathan Sawyer says:

    “Randall”
    “Call Us When Things Get Weird”
    “Jack Fowl”

    • Tyler James says:

      “Randall” – One name titles are tough calls. Now, they’re great for things like bio-pics. “Ali”, “Nixon”, “JFK”…or for intense character studies of very unique people (ex. “Nell.”) Now, Randall is not a terribly common name, so that’s one in the win column for you. On the flip side, it’s not a terribly interesting name, either. I’m on the fence on this one.

      “Call Us When Things Get Weird” – This sounds more like a tag-line than a title. It would have been a mistake if the flick was called “Who Ya Gonna Call?” instead of “Ghostbusters.” Who are the “Us” in question? Because THEY need a really cool name. And I’m betting whatever that cool name is, it’ll be a better title for the book itself than your six word title.

      “Jack Fowl” – Well, it’s a great name for a hard-nosed Duck Detective. Good symmetry (four letter word, four letter word…if he curses a lot, even better!) Now, I don’t know how big the market is for Duck Detective Noir, which is what I’m envisioning, but as far as that goes, I like the name and title. The Google Test suggests some folks like it as well.

      • Jonathan Sawyer says:

        The people in “Call Us” that it’s referring to are a group called “The Extraordinaires” which I feel is kind of a boring title for a book.

        You nailed it on Jack Fowl. Did you guess that or did you realize it after the Google test?

        • I remember seeing something called The Extraordinaires on Digital Webbing. I wouldn’t call it boring, but I’d call it generic. It isn’t something that I would seek out unless the premise was extremely good and the art and writing were extraordinary.

        • Tyler James says:

          Nope, the Jack Fowl title screamed Duck Detective to me prior to Google testing.

  7. John Lees says:

    I’ll also throw in a couple of titles of stories I’ve written or am developing, to see what Tyler’s thoughts are:

    Black Leaf
    The Hollow Men
    Hangnail
    Dark Avenue

    • Tyler James says:

      Black Leaf – Don’t quite know what to make on this title. On the one hand, the word “Black” has a ton of connotations, and suggests material that is dark, spooky, edgy in tone. That’s good…That stuff always has some appeal to the core demographic that reads comic books. Leaf on the other hand, is a pretty weak word for me. It’s a leaf. There’s nothing scary or particularly interesting about leaves to me. Now, a “Black Leaf” would suggest something omnimous, occult, or un/super-natural. So, if that’s the sort of story we’re telling here, you might be okay.

      The Hollow Men – I like it. It’s spooky. The Google test reveals some instances, the highest ranking one relating to a T.S. Eliot poem. Also the potential for some confusion with the Hallow Man/Invisible Man movie starring Kevin Bacon. Worth being aware of.

      Hangnail – Now, this one is intriguing. Common enough word, but loaded with tasty imagery. Not going to spend too much time on this one, but I with the right pitch, this could be a blockbuster.

      Dark Avenue – On the flipside, this one is a bit too generic for my taste. Is it interchangeable with “Black Boulevard” or “Dark Street”? It might be. Without knowing a thing about the story, my inclination is that you can do better.

  8. I feel like this would be a great game for the forum! You know… if people posted on the forum lol.

    Hangnail sounds like horror movie. Maybe a slasher.

    How about-

    The Return (super generic right?)
    Out of Beat

    • Tyler James says:

      Connor…I hear you on the forum. Don’t worry, it’s on our agenda to address and improve.

      The Return – Yeah, too generic. It’s the kind of title that a big name author could get away with no problem. STEVEN KING’s (GIANT LETTERS) “The Return” would be a million dollar seller. Conner MacDonald, however, might have a tougher time getting traction with it.

      Out of Beat – Hmmm…don’t love it. “Off Beat” has meaning to me. “Out of Beat” just makes me scratch my head.

  9. One more for the road:

    Hack

    • Tyler James says:

      Hack – Steven told me the pitch for this one, and Hack is in fact the perfect title for the story he wants to tell. Underused, flexible verbs like “Hack” make for great titles. It’s another four letter title, so it must be a ComixTribe book!

      • As soon as I noticed that it was also four letters, I knew that you were going to say that. (I didn’t notice we had that many four letter titles.)

        • John Lees says:

          I don’t know if I’m off-base, but “Hack” immediately makes me think of a conspiracy thriller set within the sleazy world of newspaper journalism. But that could be context speaking, given how dominant a story newspaper corruption has been in the British news lately.

  10. I’ll play this game :)

    The first two tittles are for comics I’m working on and the second two for films:

    SNOWBLOOD
    HYPNOTIC STATES
    HARD TO SWALLOW
    CUT SPLIT LOOP

    Be cool to see what people think each is about from the tittles alone :D

    I will give you a clue for the films, they are both in the horror genre.

    • Tyler James says:

      I definitely picked up a horror/or dark vibe from these titles, Adam.

      SNOWBLOOD – This one may provoke some early 90′s prejudice, as it’s joked that all creators were doing was adding the word Blood to a title and it was suddenly edgy and testosterone filled. Of course, the 90′s was 20 years ago.(Damn, I’m getting old.) Anyway, from a visual standpoint, Red on white almost ALWAYS looks good…take a look at the Oxymoron character designs from THE RED TEN universe…clearly I’m a fan. So the word “Snowblood” conjures vivid imagery. Vampire tale set in Alaska? “The Thing” type story in a blizzard? These things come to mind.

      Hypnotic States – Good title, even better if it works on multiple levels. For example, if it’s a “trippy road trip” movie, then you’ve got the irony factor down pat. This is the least “horror” sounding of the titles above…could easily be a bad Adam Sandler flick, too.

      Hard to Swallow – Heh…this sounds like a movie that a geriatric Steven Segal would star in. Zing! Again, could work on multiple levels.

      Cut Split Loop – This one is a little hard to remember. It doesn’t flow. You’ve got three words seldom paired with one another. While I’d imagine it fairs well on the Google test, I don’t know what it means. And aren’t cut and split synonyms? Why do you need them both? “Split Loop” sounds better.

      • Thanks, some food for thought there.

        You got the irony in the “Hypnotic States” tittle spot on, although in a different context.

        I’ll bite to try and explain the last one though…

        Cut Split Loop is a dark humoured slasher film about a DJ who gets her big break when she accidently kills a rival, taking his spot. She then procedes in this manour, cutting her way through the competition.

        Irony in the title was supposed to be that cut, split and loop are all techniques in dance music mixing & production as well as being verbs for a slasher killing, and then repeating the process.

        I guess if it needs this much explaining it might need a re-think though :)

  11. DonU says:

    I’m working my way through a script right now. Could you give me an opinion on the title, Tyler?

    Transcend

    • Tyler James says:

      Transcend – So, this is one is a bit tough for me. Now, it could be the perfect title for what you’ve got going. On the flip side, as a verb, the word “Transcend” is very amorphous and new-agey. It could be anything from a delicate, auto-biographical character study to a sci-fi thriller. Now, it is short and does pretty well on the internet tests. Million dollar title…maybe, maybe not.

  12. Tyler James says:

    Okay, since I’ve been passing judgement on all of your titles, I suppose it’s only fair for me to throw three lambs for the slaughter that I’m working on at you. So here goes…what is your first impression of these titles:

    - The Killionaires

    - Capes & Robbers

    - Knock Down Drag Out

    • The Killionaires. I don’t find that it rolls very well when I say it out loud. But the idea I get from it, is action comedy, about high priced hit men? Very playful, but balls to the wall action. Maybe something like ‘Smoking Aces.’

      Capes & Robbers. Super heroes, they fight crime, such as robbery. I like the title. Makes me think there will be some line blurring maybe? Since ‘cops and robbers’ has always been very clear cut. Good guys, bad guys. White Hats, black hats. I imagine from the title that it’ll show both sides equally.

      Knock Down Drag Out. I love the this one. First thought was Hockey, which I don’t think this is about at all. But my second thought was ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Blood Sport’. I’m thinking gritty underground fighting. Where you get knocked down, and dragged out.

  13. I also have a part in the upcoming Journeymen anthology. I wrote the piece very quickly and it was based on my kids. The hardest part was a title.

    I have a huge storyline planned out and want to do a series for kids. The characters will all be a part of the Junior Hero Alliance (JHA). I wanted to include that in the title, but it didn’t work. Instead I called the piece Little Sister and gave the older brother a JHA shirt so that I could tie it into an eventual series.

    Is ‘Junior Hero Alliance’ an exceptable name? Or should I use the JHA acronym? Maybe JHA Chronicles as the series will be tales of many different little heroes and scenarios?

    Just thought I’d throw it out, seeing as titles are the topic.

    • Tyler James says:

      Don,

      I don’t love “Junior Hero Alliance” as the name of the book. While it sounds like the name of a super group kids might come up with, it doesn’t really sound like the name of a book kids are going to buy.

      “JHA Chronicles” is worse.

      I’d keep brainstorming.

  14. Trevor Charles says:

    I am writing three stories right now, I don’t know if its cheating to say the first two are indirectly connected each of the working titles are:

    Nightshade

    Great Capers

    Last Shuttle to Sea Breeze Lane

    • Tyler James says:

      Hmmm…

      I never would have guessed that “Nightshade” and “Great Capers” were stories in the same universe.

      “Nightshade” doesn’t score very well on the google test. A TON of hits, all over the spectrum…everything from books, novels, to people’s favorite name for an MMO avatar. (Dark Elven Princess Level 32, usually.) It suggests noir. Again, it’s a cool name…but because it’s a cool name, it’s very much in play.

      “Great Capers” – This has an oldtimey feel to it. People don’t really call ‘em capers anymore. Might be a great name for a pulp-detective anthology.

      “Last Shuttle to Sea Breeze Lane” – I’m picturing a futuristic Fabio on the cover of a trashy sci-fi romance novel. (Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.) It’s long. For a short story, it might be fine. For a comic title, or franchaise, I’d re-think.

  15. Lisa-Marie Wilson says:

    See now I have to bite

    “Failed Star”
    “Mad Wendigo”
    “Let Me Introduce Marlow Samson”

    First two moderately serious, last is a complete joke. Oh Marlow.

    • Tyler James says:

      Hey Lisa! Welcome to the fun.

      “Failed Star” – This one seems a little too “on the nose” to me. If it’s about a fallen celebrity, I bet there’s a more clever title you could come up with for it.

      “Mad Wendigo” – “Mad” is a very plain adjective, where as Wendigo is an awesome word. So for me, including the adjective “mad” actually diminishes the effectiveness and appeal of this title. But I will say a story about a Wendigo is ripe with potential…all the tragedy, horror, and potential of a vampire, werewolf, zombie fiction, without the problem of being an over-saturated and done to death. Pursue it.

      “Let Me Introduce Marlow Samson” – I did the name “Marlow Sampson.” It’s a little long for my taste, but could be okay for what it is. Says to me a quirky detective story.

      • Lisa-Marie Wilson says:

        All good points but to counter with context:

        “Failed Star” is actually a Sci-Fi adventure story about Jupiter.
        “Mad Wendigo” is a zombie story where the main character’s name is Madison, with a twist on the ‘zombie’ origin that ties in with the Wendigo myth.
        And I agree “Let Me Introduce Marlow Samson” is a little long. It’s an attempt at a quirky parody on the ‘vampire’ legend. It’s all kinds of awkward and because of that it’s the only reason I’ve not x’ed the long title. But it does wear on you after a while.

        All are fun little side projects to keep sane.
        With some more context on their stories how do these names hold up? Better or worse?

        • Tyler James says:

          That’s the beauty of the “Title-only” game. You don’t get to add context…because your readers aren’t going to care.

          The title needs to hook them.

          Upon some Googling, I see a “Failed Star” is actually something in science. Cool factoid…a “failed star” is also known as a “brown dwarf.” What do you think folks…is “Brown Dwarf” a better name than “Failed Star?” It’s certainly more memorable.

          Still not sure about Mad…I know a lot of Madisons, and they almost all go by Maddie. Not Mad.

          • John Lees says:

            I prefer Failed Star, personally. In the sci-fi genre especially, Brown Dwarf conjures us connotations to beloved British sci-fi TV comedy Red Dwarf.

            I don’t know if this muddies the meaning too much, but compressing the title to “Failstar” or “Fail-Star” might help it look a bit snappier.

  16. I dropped a brown dwarf in the washroom like 20 minutes ago.

  17. Sarah Weaver says:

    My title is: Richard Unhinged

    And yes I ran a google test, and only came up with my own website.:3

    • Tyler James says:

      Hmmm…

      I don’t hate it. Richard is a strong name, with a lot a lot of powerful men (kings, a President, etc.) associated with it. And Unhinged is a cool word that doesn’t get used all that often.

      It’s not a blockbuster title, but I could see it as the title of a Sundance film-festival winner…a dark comedy starring dramatic Jim Carrey, not funny Jim Carrey.

  18. Rich Chedester says:

    I’ll throw mine into the mixer here. This is the title I am working on now. The script for issue #1 will be in The Proving Grounds soon.

    Black Dragon.

  19. Tyler James says:

    This is one of those titles that the “Google Test” is going to completely bury you on. Amazon search for that title results in 21,000+ returns.

    “Black” is probably the most used color in titles. “Dragon” connotes swords and sorcery genre, which can be a tough sell in the direct market.

    It’s a title that sounds cool, but might have trouble being very memorable or standing out from the crowd.

    Now, “Red Dragon” was both a best-selling novel, and had multiple movies made with that title, so it’s not that the formula can’t be a winner. Steven King’s “Black Dragon” would have no problem selling gangbusters.

    My advice, keep an open mind to a possible title change. It’s not a bad title, it just might be a tough one to get you the impact you want.

  20. Sarah says:

    I mentioned my title before, but I got to ask. Is it a deceptive title, if each title has a focus main character per issue? I have a set character amount, but that might be a lot of titles for essentially sequel chapters.D: I have roughly 19 characters.

  21. CW Cooke says:

    What about a book called

    The Constant

    About a guy who can’t die. He’s immortal and the elevator pitch is: What if Superman was on the Green Mile?

    • Tyler James says:

      It’s okay. The “Lost” connotations have the potential of drowning it out some… Does it say what it is? Hmmm…I don’t know. I like the high concept, but I think you can get closer.

      Throw another 100 names at the wall, and see if any of them stick more.

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