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Saturday, February 19, 2022

Inside and Outside of Books: Bios, Blurbs, Happy Endings, Titles, and More

By Bobbie Christmas 
Q: Are author photos and biographies essential to have on your books? Would I be making a mistake if my back cover had only my blurb?
A: The back cover is the strongest sales piece for a book. Everything on the back cover should make people want to buy the book. The back cover should contain a powerful, interesting blurb regarding the content of the book or novel. Your bio, however, is important only if your book is nonfiction and you are an expert in your subject. Your bio may be insignificant on novels unless you become famous and people want to know more about you. 
A snapshot, however, may have significance in a few cases. For example if the book is about living with a handicap, a photograph may reveal the author’s physical handicap. Otherwise, the author’s picture isn’t essential, but be aware that the human eye is naturally drawn to photographs, especially pictures of people, and anything that draws the eye of a potential buyer is a good thing. If you prefer not to use your photograph, though, I doubt anyone would even notice that it was missing. 
Q: What’s the best way to avoid getting sued for something I put into my book? 
A: Ask your questions of an attorney familiar with intellectual property. A good place to start looking for such an attorney is through the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, which has chapters in many states. 
Q: Should novels have a happy ending? I'm writing teen fiction and can't decide if my main character should end up with someone or not. 
A: While specific genres may have requirements regarding how a story should end, it’s my opinion that if every novel had a happy ending, we would have no reason to read books. I prefer to be surprised by the ending, happy or not. 
Without reading your book I can’t tell if the ending works. Teen fiction, however, focuses more on feelings, inner struggles, and relationships than on plot. The guidelines don’t have a requirement of how the novel should end. 
All novels do have to have some things, though. They must have believable characters, natural dialogue, a plot that carries from beginning to end, and resolution—whether happy or not. It also must be edited and devoid of errors in grammar, punctuation, word choice, noncompliance with Chicago style, and more. 
Q: When should I name my novel? 
A: The answer to this question varies. I recommend giving the book a working title, but recognize that the title might change. One-word titles aren’t usually as strong as titles that have allure or intrigue, but a one-word label at least gives your file a name while you wait to determine the final title. 
Years ago I worked with a client whose novel had a one-word title—a label, rather than a title—but while editing the manuscript I saw a line that intrigued me, something a child said. I recommended using a portion of that child’s chant, and it made a captivating title. 
My own nonfiction book about creative writing had the working title of Rev Up Your Writing and Win. I thought the title was fine, but when I sold the book to a publisher, the publisher explained that it also had an imprint that specialized in gaming books and didn’t want a book that wasn’t a gaming book to have the word “win” in the title. We settled on the new name, Write In Style. While I didn’t love the new title, I loved that a traditional publisher bought the book, paid me an advance against royalties, and paid all the costs of publishing and distribution. The publisher got my book into libraries and bookstores across America and Australia, something I could not have done on my own, so I was willing to compromise on the title. 
After you finish your book perhaps your editor, beta readers, or publisher will make suggestions for the title, if you can’t come up with one that hooks readers. You never know when that title will appear or where may come from it. The working title is unimportant as long as you pick a strong title before the book goes to press. 
Bobbie Christmas is a book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. She will answer your questions too. Send them to or Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this great advice, Bobbie! I have to say, I've seen a few books recently that don't have a blurb at all on the back or inside and it makes me pass on buying them. How am I supposed to know if I want to read it or not? I'm also working on a manuscript that has a working title but I'm keeping an eye out for other possible title ideas while I'm editing the first draft. I'm sure something will pop out along the way.


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