Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Idiot's Guide to Choosing Your Book Title

What makes a good title?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Water for Elephants - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - The Hunger Games - The Lord of the Rings - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - To Kill a Mockingbird  - A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Joy of Sex - A Tale of Two Cities

That's just a sample of some of the book titles that have sold millions of copies!  Granted, they have more than a title working for them, but their titles encouraged people to read them.  Last year, my favorite title in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest was "The Revenge of the Squishes".  What?  What on Earth is that story about?  The title grabs you!

So... without further ado -

The Idiot's Guide to Choosing Your Book Title

1.  Write down all possible title ideas, yes all of them.  Even if it sounds stupid, write it down!

2.  Ask for ideas from your friends or critique partners!  If they've read your book, that helps.  Have them add to your list or cross off ones that don't even make sense, such as "The Murder of Elmo" for a book about rabbits that knit mittens.  It wouldn't work.  You may still like that title, but it isn't a good fit for your book.

3.  In that same thought, make sure that the title actually fits your manuscript.  My first book was originally called "Pink Roses", but after I finished the first draft I realized that the story had nothing to do with pink or roses.  It eventually became "Falling Star" since that was an important discussion in the story and it was a symbolism that I connected with the main character's life.

4.  Pairing a color with an object.  Yes, it can be done, but it's not very original.  Anyone can pair an object with a color to make a title, so try to be a little more creative!  Unless it really fits like "Blue Gathering" by Lois Lowry.

5.  Length - your title should not be longer than your book as a rule of thumb.  How to add decorative frosting to your delicious cake and loose your virginity with the baker's son - catchy, but way too long!  A title shouldn't give away all of your plot points.  An average length of a book title is one to seven words.

6.  Research the title that you chose to see if other books have the same title!  Titles are not copyrighted, so there may be several books with that title.  (The only thing that can be copyrighted is the content, same with movies or songs.)  Such as "Book of the Dead" by... five different authors because they are five different books.  Though I wouldn't suggest making your title "Curious George and the High Voltage Fence" just to get children to see the name Curious George.  Bad marketing for your book unless it really is about the monkey dying, which would make a lot of children sad.  If your title is already popular, it may help to get others to read your book.  You never know.

7.  Your title should intrigue your reader and be clear.  Too much symbolism in a title can confuse a reader.

8.  LOVE YOUR TITLE!  You are the one naming your precious "baby" and giving it a beautiful life.  It should be a title that you love.


I have never really struggled with titles.  Usually, I could come up with a title before I wrote the story, but I do have one that I don't love.  "To Love Without Hope" - I can't tell you how many titles that this book has had and I'm still not content with it.  Since this novel is inspired by a true story, I really want to name it "Jon".  But there's no character in the book named Jon and it wouldn't fit.  Jon is the name of the real person that the story is based on.  I'll stick with this title for now, but if someone came up with a better title... I might consider it.

How to you come up with titles?  Do you always love your title?

17 comments:

  1. Oh I come up with titles in a lot of different ways. For me I want the title to convey a central theme if the book. I don't love the title of my first novel - but it fits. I love love love the title of my current wip!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I forgot to add that one! A central theme for the story, good idea! It's great that you love your current title! I can't wait to read it someday!

      Delete
  2. The title is very important. Sometimes I'll come up with a catchy title and start trying to figure out how I can use it. One of the things that'll kill my interest in a book right away is a lackluster title.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true - a boring title will turn me away from a book. I once found a book called "One day everyone will die". Wow, it was a statement of fact. Not interesting.

      Delete
  3. I love my title a lot, and only recently was a book released with the same title. But I can't give my title up. It just wouldn't be right!

    ReplyDelete
  4. i changed the title of my 1st wip 3 times til i figured out it was the book, not the title!

    here is a website that rates titles.
    http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never heard of a site that rates title, that's really cool. Thanks for sharing it!

      Delete
  5. I LOVE this post and all the funny titles you made up. The Murder of Elmo made me LOL! I've had titles on the brain for a long time. I stink at coming up with them, which makes me sad because I love book titles. I will try out your suggestions and see what happens. Thanks for the tips. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It can be really hard to think up a title, I agree. The Murder of Elmo would be very interesting - though I'm not sure if Elmo would write it in first or third person, lol. I love book titles too, but mine current one is just... not quite right. Good luck!

      Delete
  6. If I can't think of a title immediately for a WIP, I name it after my protagonist. A few of the books just kept that title. Titles are hard for me, but a few times, I manage to find one I love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good idea too - to name the book after the main character. I've thought of naming my book "Sophie" but that just doesn't fit for my story. I'm glad that you can find titles you love.

      Delete
  7. 11/22/63. Best title I've seen in awhile! Grabs your attention and tells you a ton about what the book is about! The fact that the book is written by an amazing popular author doesn't hurt either! lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never heard of that one, so I went and looked it up. That does look like a really good book!

      Delete
  8. Ahh, I'm not good at coming up with titles. :( But you're absolutely right--titles do grab the attention of a potential reader. Thanks for your list. I'll keep your points in mind. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I belly laughed a few times with our post! So funny. I'm a terrible title creator. I never ever come up with a working title until well after trying out several and then I'm still not sure it is right or even good :)

    ReplyDelete