So, you’ve finally finished your book, only to find one last question standing between you and the bestsellers list: how to come up with an amazing title for your book. Maybe you don’t like the working title you’ve been using these past few months. Perhaps, you’ve come up with a title you love, but everyone says that it might hurt your market potential.
So, what makes for a truly good book title? Luckily, there’s a short, simple 4-point checklist that will help you choose a book title that’s guaranteed to catch a reader’s roving eye. While there’s no sure-fire method for formulating the perfect title, this post will help give you some ideas for devising a title that enhances your book and gives it the best chance of success.
Why Do Book Titles Matter?
Your book can’t exist without a book title. Having a title in place before you start writing can help inform or reinforce your themes and motifs as you plan your novel. Secondly, you should start considering your book’s title as a marketing decision. Your book title might be the single most important marketing choice you make.
The title plays a key part in creating the first impression, possibly even more so than the book cover design. Think about the last time you browsed Amazon or looked at a bestsellers list. It’s possible that what caught your eye was the:
- Book cover and design
- The title
Now, a good title won’t magically make a book sell, but a bad one will hinder sales at best and alienate its core readership at worst. With that in mind, let’s start making some good decisions.
What Do Good Titles for Books Have in Common?
Like we said earlier, there are no hard-and-fast rules for crafting the perfect title. However, there are some patterns and similarities between good titles that may help you choose your own.
· They Intrigue and Entice the Reader
A title might ask a question; it could encourage the reader to wonder how, why, who, or what the title refers to. However, keep in mind that the line between mysterious and downright confusing is sometimes a very fine one.
· They Match the Book to its Genre
You don’t have to be painfully obvious about it, but a title like “Titan Returning” doesn’t sound like an emotionally fraught romance novel. While intriguing titles are what we’re aiming for, you also want it to tip readers off to your genre, especially because people are likely to find new books through ‘Customers Also Shopped For’ sections.
They will gravitate towards things that remind them of books they have read and loved. So, take inspiration from your favorites of the genre.
· They Are (Normally) of a Sensible Length
The aim is for readers to have some idea of what’s going on without revealing too much or having a paragraph on the front cover. Long titles can work, so long as people can recall just enough of it to find it on Amazon (or by asking a bookseller in a store).
Also, you need to think of what your cover will look like as a thumbnail. If the type is too small, no-one will be able to pick out the title.
· They Help Readers Discover the Book
Even if you’re not planning to sell through Amazon exclusively, many readers may discover your book through it, making it one of your primary sources of revenue. While you want a unique title so that it’s not the millionth novel titled “The Book,” you don’t want to make it so special that you miss out on potential keywords that people search for in your genre. In essence, if your book is about tax accounting, then words related to that subject matter should be present in the title.
Things to Watch Out For
While picking out a good title for your book is not the easiest task, it becomes even more difficult when you make mistakes that you should rather avoid. We will highlight some of the things that you should watch out for when coming up with a title for your book.
· Overly Complex Language
Even books about a specialist subject can have a simple, accessible title, like “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. Remember, a title is there to intrigue and entice, not repel and frighten off readers by making them think that your book will read like a thesaurus.
· One-Word Titles
If you title your non-fiction book “Bottles,” it’s going to be very difficult to rank as the first search result since you would be competing against people selling hot water bottles, books on the ecological impact of plastic water bottles, and research on bluebottle flies. Avoid confusion by striking a balance between cryptic titles and ones that attempt to summarize the entire book on the front cover.
· Potential Confusion
Don’t get caught out; be careful not to choose a title that might be offensive in specific regions, or that might have an unintended double meaning. Equally, if your book title relies on a reference that is extremely local or perhaps a little niche, it might be an idea to reconsider and aim for something more universal.
The Best Methods to Use to Title Your Book
There really are no bad ideas when you’re coming up with potential titles, just ones that are better than others. Try to write down anything that comes to mind. Here are some of the best methods:
1. Start Free Writing
Write absolutely anything that comes into your head: words, phrases, names, places, adjectives, and anything else. You’ll be surprised how much workable content comes out from such a strange exercise.
2. Look for Formulas or Set Phrases
Obviously, we’re not advocating plagiarism, but try playing around with different formats. These will work for specific genres, though they are by no means the only patterns you can play around with. Have you noticed how many blockbuster thrillers these days feature the word “woman” or “girl” somewhere in the title? Use that to your advantage.
3. Use Characters as Inspiration
If your central character has a quirky name or a title (like Doctor or Detective), you can definitely incorporate this into your book title. You can just look at “Jane Eyre,” “Percy Jackson,” or “Harry Potter” for instance. Working with one or more of your character’s names is a surefire way to get some title ideas down. Equally, you can add a little detail to add a little color to a name and make it title-worthy.
4. Do the Same for Setting
Is your book set somewhere particularly interesting or significant? Even if your title isn’t just where the action takes place, it’s something to have in the back of your mind. You can include other details to give your readers a sense of action and character as well as setting (which tend to be linked).
5. Is There a Particular Phrase or Idea You Can Work With?
Think Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Here, the title is a central symbol and significant piece of dialogue in the novel. It’s enigmatic (what does it even mean? Is it a warning? An instruction?) and makes us really sit up when these words appear in the text itself. Try and think of your inspiration for writing your book or sum up your central theme in a few words, and see if these inspire anything.
6. Find Inspiration from Other Works
You might be surprised at how many books refer to other works in their titles (“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green comes from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” takes its inspiration from a Robert Burns poem). Going this route allows authors to use an already beautiful and poetic turn of phrase that alludes to a theme in their own book.
From Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” to Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials,” so many books have used this technique, and it might also work for you.
7. To Subtitle, or Not to Subtitle?
In non-fiction publishing, there’s a trend of evocative or abstract titles, followed by a subtitle that communicates the content (and is packed with delicious keywords that the Amazon search engine can’t resist). This is also another way to get around long titles and add a little panache to an otherwise dry subject matter. In the United States, it’s also quite common to have “A Novel” as a subtitle. In the United Kingdom, this practice is much rarer.
Your book title is the foundation that your book will stand on once it’s published and will be a key part in convincing readers (or publishers) to take a chance on your book. Hopefully, all this information we have shared with you will get the ball rolling on your book title and ensure that you come up with an amazing title for your book.