PICTURE BOOK KNOWHOW What's in a name?

The title of a picture book has to do a lot of work - attracting agents, publishers and online shoppers before it even gets before the child reader! Lucy Rowland gives some pointers as to how to make your title work magic.

You've done it! You've plotted and planned, written and re-written, tweaked, cut and reshaped your picture book text and, finally, it's finished! Hooray!

But now comes the tricky part … the title?! Strong titles can hook us in and make us want to pick up a book. So how do you know when you’ve found the right one? Here are some points to consider when looking for the perfect title for your text. 

Be snappy! Children’s Book Author Tara Lazar writes that ‘Picture books tend to sell on concept. That concept must be communicated succinctly in order to capture a young child’s (and a parent’s) imagination. If your picture book manuscript has an overly long title, it may suggest your concept is either too vague or too complicated for the format. You want to nail down your concept and make it snappy!’

Be intriguing! I love a title that makes me want to know more. There is No Dragon in this Story (by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright) is a title that does just that. The cover clearly shows a dragon and yet we’re told there are no dragons in this story! So what exactly is going on here?! 

Be aware of co-edition sales. This is where I tend to fall down! I often come up with stories because I like experimenting with words. Many of my titles are rhyming, e.g. Gecko’s Echo and others are plays on words like Little Red Reading Hood. But how do these titles work for co-editions where the words may not rhyme in the new language? It can be done (Little Red Reading Hood will soon be published in French as Little Red Riding Hood who loves to read) but it’s certainly something to consider. 

Be open to changing your title. My original text Ned said No is now called The Knight who said NoStoppit Floppit is now titled Catch that Egg. These changes were made after discussions with my publishers who consider things such as search engine optimisation. Parents often buy books for a particular time of year - Christmas, Mother's Day, Halloween etc or because their children are going through a particularly intense ‘dinosaur phase’. If a parent is searching for a picture book about ‘knights’ or ‘Easter’ you want them to be able to find yours. 

You want to give your book the very best chance of selling, so titles are certainly worth thinking carefully about. After all, people really do judge a book by its cover!


Lucy Rowland grew up in Cheltenham and now works as a children's Speech and Language Therapist and Author in London. From a young age, she has loved reading and listening to poetry and she enjoys creating children's picture book stories with quirky characters and irresistible rhythms. Her recent books include: Little Red Reading Hood, Catch That Egg, Pirate Pete and His Smelly Feet and Jake Bakes a Monster Cake (Macmillan). Gecko's Echo (pictured), The Birthday Invitation (Bloomsbury) and The Knight Who Said No (Nosy Crow).

Helen Liston is KnowHow Editor. If you have any ideas for KnowHow topics, get in touch at knowhow@britishscbwi.org.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these tips! I want to write a series of picture books based on one character. Any particular advice on this? Maybe this could be a next feature of the newsletter... :)


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