The Power and Profit in a Fiction Title By Marion Cuba

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As a writer, I am constantly barraged by Internet advice on how to market your book. Unfortunately, most of the suggestions are geared to non-fiction. Many also urge me to “research the market” to find the perfect subject.

I dismiss – and delete – these ideas as NA: not applicable. They hold no interest for me. Nor would they be of any value.

No, I wish to pour my efforts into fiction. And, I wish to pour heart and soul into themes and issues that I feel passionate about. Or why do it?

Recently, an e-mail came in, asking if I had tested my title out on the Internet. No, I had not. But it got me to thinking. I realized that I’d successfully developed a strategy on my own for choosing a fiction title.

Here are the facts. I wrote a historical novel about a little-known, fascinating chapter of WWII when 20,000 Jews escaped Hitler to Shanghai – the one place that would have them without a visa. (Wow, this was good stuff.)

I researched the period thoroughly, and chronicled that time – 1938-45 – in the “history” part of the novel by means of a diary. The “fictional part” of the book probed the generational clash that ensued between a mother (a refugee) and her American-born daughter.

The name of the character of the mother was Hannah. When sending out the original manuscript, I chose the title HANNAH’S HOUSE.

I thought it had a ring to it. In fact, several agents remarked on how much they liked it. Though, interestingly, none of these bought the book.

This is what I came to realize.

1) Fiction is a harder sell than non-fiction. Period. You have no handy “how to” hook. You can’t use the long descriptive title using a colon that zeroes in on your subject, and thus your audience. And, most important, your title, however descriptive of the book you know you wrote (!), comes out of left field to a prospective publisher or reader. It means nothing to them. Nor will they take the time to delve into its meaning.

2) Many more women than men buy fiction. Huge numbers of men read non-fiction, heavy on history.

Somehow – at the last moment – I saw my title, HANNAH’S HOUSE, from a distance. What was once “my darling,” suddenly appeared na