Memorable Metaphors and Phonetic Echoes: The Secrets to Titles that Sell

August 2003
by George John DeTellis

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Memorable. It’s most important that a book title be memorable. A title is the name of the book. Think of all the famous people who changed their names to something easy to remember. John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Mark Twain, and Jack London are all made-up names.

The worst title for a book is an interchangeable combination of common words. People will never be able to remember what the book is called.


In my pursuit of the perfect book title, I did some research and started a list of best-selling titles to see if there was a common trait. Here’s what I discovered.


The best titles are metaphors. For example:


Chicken Soup for the SoulMen Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus The Grapes of Wrath A Moveable Feast Tender Is the Night The Catcher in the Rye


The next desirable quality for a title is a phonetic echo. It gives you that “batta bing–batta boom.” If your readers hear the first half, they will automatically remember the second half.

Here’s a list of a few best-sellers with the phonetic echoes highlighted in color:

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