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Compelling Titles with John Searles

John Searles is the Deputy Editor of Cosmopolitan where he oversees all book coverage for the magazine. His essays, articles and reviews have appeared in The Washington PostThe New York Times and other national magazines and newspapers. His novels include Boy Still Missing and Strange But True, both published in 2005. He lives in New York City.


Your book title is critical. Of course, great reviews and strong word of mouth can drive the sales of a book with a lousy title, but if you come up with the right one for your book—grabby or provocative or haunting—you’ve given your book an amazing advantage. People hear it and are instantly intrigued or stop in their tracks when they see it in the store. I absolutely love the titles of John Searles’s two novels—Boy Still Missing and Strange But True. They happen to be utterly fantastic books but the titles beg you to read them. So I asked John, how did you come up with those alluring titles?


If you pay attention, you can find title inspiration in the most unexpected places…even The New York Post, which is where I found the titles of both my novels. When I was trying to come up with a name for my first book, I happened to walk by a newsstand where a headline on the paper’s front page screamed at me: “MILLIONAIRE STILL MISSING.” In my book, I had a boy who was missing so I just replaced the word “millionaire” with “boy” and had my title:Boy Still Missing. For my second novel I was inspired by the long-running column “Weird But True.” In my story, lots of strange things happen, so I replaced one word and my title became Strange But True.