If you’re like me, you don’t expend a lot of writing sweat over chapter titles. According to the stats, around 50% of authors simply number their chapters. Well, I’ve been schooled; chapter titles are a marketing bonanza. And free, and right there for the grabbing. Great chapter titles can give a prospective buyer that final kick in the butt she needs to click the “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” button. It took me two years to figure this out—my curvature for learning arcs wide.
BABY TAGLINES – Think of each chapter title as a baby tagline . . . or a dangling worm in front of a big-mouth bass—whatev. A brilliant tagline and description will draw buyers to your sales page and entice them to read the book preview. After the publishing data, most previews display your table of contents. (The Luddite buyer must manually turn the page.) This is where a thoughtful chapter title strategy can close the sale. I’m going to lean on J.K. Rowling from here out.
SETTING THE TONE – Rowling’s chapter titles are wonderfully witty and whimsical and sometimes maniacally malevolent, but always magical (and often alliterate). Her chapter titles establish the tone for each book (in no particular book or chapter order): The Whomping Willow; Mudbloods and Murmurs; or, The Sorting Hat. This is gonna be a fun read!
FORESHADOWING – Something scary, dangerous, heart-wrenching is happening here: The Deathday Party; The Unknowable Room; The Dementor . . . ooooh, your prospective reader shivers with anticipation.
KEEPS THE READER READING – And when that buy button is pushed and the book delivered, those chapter titles keep on giving. How can a reader resist turning the page with prompts like The Boggart in the Wardrobe, Cat, Rat, and Dog (walked into a bar . . . sorry, I digress), or The Unknowable Room. Come on, could you put that book down?
ADDED BONUS – During the writing process, chapter titles can also double as mini outline trackers for the author. Let me see, where did I mention Hermione’s secret? Was it Chapter 19 . . . no, maybe Chapter 22 . . . damn, Chapter 23? Oh, there it is in the chapter titled Hermione’s Secret. Duh?
Just think about all the wonderful things you can cram into your chapter titles. But, you know, still keep ‘em short and on point—this isn’t a license to go crazy.
OMG, who put this here? Oh, well, I’ll just leave it.
2017 KindleScout winner: TRANSMUTED, book one of the Dark Landing series, available on Amazon. Book two, MASS PRIMARY, coming very soon (the chapter titles on book two will amaze you).