The title of your book is arguably one of the most important things that you will have to decide on. It should be memorable and informative. However, this cannot always be possible and that’s where a subtitle comes in. Although most fiction books don’t employ them, they are an important tool for non-fiction books. They give a glimpse into the book and prompt the readers into reading it.

So when do we need one?

Often at the expense of creativity, the author is forced to give ambiguous titles to their books. While it is ok for a fictional book, it doesn’t go down well with the non-fiction books. Let’s take Eat, Pray, Love for example, at first glance it doesn’t say much and is more or less vague. Now let’s put it together with its subtitle Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. Now I know what I’m getting into.
Subtitles are not only informative but also intriguing. They are like little nudges for you to open the book and see what’s inside. “Vanity Fair” sounds tempting but not quite enough. What about “Vanity Fair: A Novel Without A Hero” ? I’m sold.

 

So when don’t you need one?

For one, if the author is a celebrity or an extremely well known person. I don’t need a subtitle to know what a certain book  is about with Mahatma Gandhi on its jacket. Another case is when the author is pretty famous. Andrew Morton, for example, has written numerous biographies. So when I pick up a book by him, I know what I’m getting.

 

 

 

Tips to keep in mind

  • Don’t repeat words already used in subtitle. It looks lazy and that is not a good first hpw impression. Don’t make your subtitles seem like you threw it in at the last minute. If you don’t care about your book enough, your readers won’t either.
  • Don’t repeat ideas. This one goes hand in hand with the above tip. Your subtitle is to serve a purpose, which is providing additional information. If you duplicate the idea, it destroys the point.
  • Ask other people for help. Surveys are good idea to narrow down the potential subtitles. It will also give you a chance to indulge with your audience beforehand.
  • Who is your targeted demographic? The subtitle should relate to the kind of people who will be reading your book.
  • Be frugal. With words, that is. If what you’re trying to say in 8 words can be said in 5, go with 5.
  • Be clear. In pursuit of standing out, many go with ambiguous titles that are creative. That is ok but only as long as you make up for the obscurity with a comprehensive subtitle.
  • Does it have a ring to it? Titles and subtitles should complement each other. It should be melodious, in a way. A good subtitle is one that has a strong impact and is memorable.
  • Be creative. If you don’t want to travel the same worn-out road, you can change positions. Instead of the Title coming first, try and change things up a bit by writing a subtitle that precedes the Title.

Writing a subtitle takes effort. Most authors avoid it and with good reason. You can go wrong in so many ways. So unless and until you’re sure about it, it’s better to let it be. Hopefully this post will help you in your endeavour to get that perfect subtitle for your book. Happy writing!!

Haya Abidi

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