Playing with Titles

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Sometimes writers need to take time out from the slogging business of writing to play a little.

This week several members of my critique group had a little fun with a feature at Lulu.com.

The Titlescorer is an interactive feature that purports to analyze a book title in terms of how likely it is to find its way to the bestseller list.

According to the information at the site, a research team analyzed

the title of every novel to have topped the hardback fiction section of the New York Times Bestseller List during the half-century from 1955 to 2004 and then compare[d] them with the titles of a control group of less successful novels by the same authors.

The data is based on about 700 titles. If you type in the titles of some bestsellers you’ll find yourself wondering how the research team arrived at its conclusions. Some blockbusters come up with “a 10.2% chance of being a bestselling title.”

Along with typing the title, you have to choose from a couple of drop-down menus that ask you to specify “grammar type” and indicate part of speech. Depending how you answer, The DaVinci Code can score as high as 35.9% or as low as 10.2%.

I’ll have to admit to having spent more time than I should have playing with it. No matter what combinations I tried, the highest score for any title I was able to come up with was 59.3%. One of my colleagues put in a title that scored 65%.

I wouldn’t be too influenced by the results you get for your title, but playing around with the Titlescorer is as good a way as any to hash out your ideas.

Just don’t play too long. That draft is waiting.

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11 thoughts on “Playing with Titles”

  1. First I tried the scorer on two titles that I knew were best sellers. I came up with a low score for an Anne Rice blockbuster and, for an old Mickey Spillane bestseller, a somewhat better score. Then I fed in a title of my own that I thought was hopelessly blah and came up with a score of 63.7! I was stunned! I have no idea what this means — either I am a terrible judge of what might catch a reader’s attention, or Lulu is nuts.

  2. Being the sort of person that I am, I also immediately plugged in something short and off the cuff.

    Apparently, “Pithy Bits”, which sounds better to me every time I read it, could be destined for greatness at a respectable 69% chance to be a bestselling title.

    I envision the work as a collection of short stories.

  3. “The title Gfhfg Feghj has a 41.4% chance of being a bestselling title!”

    Right. I should start writing now, I guess.

  4. Just checked my book title at LuLu Titlescorer. They rated my current work in progress at 79.6% chance of reaching the Bookshelves. Based on a range between 9% and 83%. Not Bad. Now all I need to do is plot it, craft it, and sell it.

  5. I tried a title of my own and came up with a 72.5% chance! Just couldn’t believe my one-word title came up so high

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