You’ve been pouring so much time and energy into writing your book, and settling on the perfect title can feel like naming a baby. Here’s how to make the task easier.
4 Tips for Choosing Your Book Title
For some writers, titling their book comes naturally. The idea arrives in their mind before they start writing or in the early stages of drafting. Like a eureka moment, they welcome the title with a strange familiarity. 'There you are. Of course, it’s you. Come on in and get settled.' But for most writers, titling their book leaves them lost for words.
Maybe you’ve changed the name of your book countless times since you started. Or you have a name that kind of works but doesn’t put a fire in your belly. If the task has become agonising, here are some tips to help you find the words.
1. Think about your favourite books and their titles
Whether it’s books you’ve enjoyed recently or old time favourites you reread over and over again, look at their titles. What made you pick them up from the shelf in a book shop even though countless other covers were trying to catch your eye? What titles do you love and why?
Do your favourite titles include vivid imagery, emotion, clever wordplay or contradictory words that don’t go together but somehow do go together? Look through the titles on your own bookshelves and in bookshops. Take a magnifying glass to what works and what falls flat.
Just like you need to be a critical reader to be a great writer, think about titles critically to come up with a great name for your book.
2. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm
Set aside a distraction and interruption-free block of time, allow yourself to daydream and free write a list of as many titles for your book as possible. Don’t edit as you go or pause to cringe at what you just wrote. There will be terrible titles. But there will also be golden nuggets, one of which could become your final book title.
After brainstorming as many as you can, hide the list away. Leave it out of sight and out of mind for a few days or a week. Come back to the list with fresh eyes and start culling. Go through carefully and score out of the ones that are definite noes. What you should be left with is a list of maybes. At this stage, you can consider the remaining potential titles and tinker with them.
Keep shortening the list until you have a top 5. If you’re still struggling to choose one, ask your friends, family and other writers which version they prefer best. From these focus group results, you could land on your perfect title.
3. Research your genre and target readers
Having someone – a friend, beta reader, fellow writer or agent – say something negative about the name of your title might be hard to hear. A key part of finding the best fit for your book title is to consider your specific market, genre and audience.
For example, a horror novel will have a much different style of title than a romance. The name of a collection of essays will vary greatly from a short story collection. A memoir will follow a different titling process compared to a sci-fi novel.
If you’re stumped with what to name your book, do some digging into other titles in your genre and find out what grabs readers. We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But when your book is fighting for attention with agents, publishers and readers, your title needs to hook, intrigue and engage – fast.
4. Consider literary devices and quirks
There are lots of different ways you can approach naming your book. You could employ literary devices within your title like a metaphor, symbolism, paradox or alliteration. If you’re struggling to figure out what style you want your title to have, here are some questions to ask yourself:
● Do you want to use your protagonist's name for your book title? Think Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
● Or a title that tells the reader something about the plot like My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh.
● Maybe you want to shock or perplex people with your title, creating intrigue to lure them in. Think I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy or How the Dead Speak By Val McDermid.
● Perhaps a wordier title like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is more your style.
● Or do you want to add some specificity to your title with, for example, numbers? Think Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King or The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Crafting the perfect book title is more of an art than a science, like writing itself. So don’t beat yourself up if settling on a name for your book is proving difficult. And if you’re still in the early stages of writing your book, don’t let yourself use ‘untitled’ as an excuse to delay your writing process. The writing will show up if you do and so will the title.