How to come up with the perfect title for your book
By Zoe Hale - Managing Editor of Impact Press and Ventura Press
You may be surprised to read that the title of your book is one of the most important marketing strategies you have as an author.
The title is most often how a person will hear about your book for the first time, be it from a friend, on the radio, at a conference or on the internet. Your title has the power to lure the reader in, capture their imagination, or let them know exactly what they’ll learn from the book, in just a few words.
In that moment it doesn’t matter if you’re an unknown author, whether your book is hardcover or paperback or digital, if the genre is unfamiliar, or the price is expensive. A title that successfully captures the essence of your book will help overcome all those obstacles, which is why you need to spend as much energy crafting and editing your title as you would the rest of your manuscript. The last thing you want to do is underrate your book with a poorly crafted title.
One of the best ways to start thinking about your title is to research what makes a good title. Think of a title that has tempted you into picking up the book or clicking on the cover – what was it that sparked your curiosity? What was it that made it memorable for you? A strong title should be distinctive but not distracting. Some titles we love here at Impact Press include:
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
- Anxiety Free, Drug Free (Renee Mill)
- To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
- Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
- Between a Wolf and a Dog (Georgia Blain)
- Aardvark: Two Gentlemen, Two Wars (Paul Ashford Harris)
- The Museum of Modern Love (Heather Rose)
- Girl on the Edge (Kim Hodges)
And just in case you weren’t convinced yet, here is further evidence of how important titles are. Consider what these well known books could have ended up with as titles.
- The Great Gatsby could have been Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires
- 1984 was suggested by Orwell’s publisher, but it was originally The Last Man in Europe
- To Kill a Mockingbird was simply Atticus
- Pride and Prejudice could have been First Impressions
- War and Peace was originally titled All’s Well that Ends Well
- Of Mice and Men was originally Something That Happened
- Gone with the Wind was Tomorrow is Another Day
- Lord of the Flies was originally Strangers from Within
EVERY GOOD BOOK TITLE SHOULD:
1. Be unique and personal to your story. The easiest way to tell if you have an original title is to Google it. While titles aren’t subjected to copyright, and in theory you could name your book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, it’s probably not a good idea.
2. Be memorable. Your title should be one that readers will never forget, so that when they want to recommend it, or have it recommended to them, they remember what they are looking for when they get to the bookstore or are searching for it online. A good tip here is to select precise nouns and strong active verbs.
3. Provide insight. Many readers consider your title twice: once when they pick up the book, and a second time when they finish reading. What can the reader expect from your book? Provide a glimpse into the world of your book, something that will become clear as the reader comes to understand the characters, the plot, or the argument of your book.
HOW TO ACHIEVE TITLE GREATNESS:
1. Relax. Stress inhibits creativity and won’t help you. If you haven’t yet finished your manuscript, then focus on that. The telling of the story or the finishing of your argument may uncover the perfect title in the process.
2. Brainstorm. We recommend a minimum of five titles, but don’t feel you have to stop there. Keep going if you want until you reach 20 or 30, or even 50 titles!
As you brainstorm, try each of these different approaches to help you think of you book in different ways.
Who is the book about?
- Rebellious Daughters (Edited by Maria Katsonis and Lee Kofman)
- The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
- My Cousin Rachel (Daphne Du Maurier)
What is the book about?
- The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
- The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)
- The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
When does your book take place?
- Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
- The Last Anniversary (Liane Moriarty)
- Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel García Márquez)
Where does your book take place?
- Camino Island (John Grisham)
- The Light Between Oceans (M. L. Stedman)
- Black Rock White City (A. S. Patric)
Why should someone read your book?
- See What I have Done (Sarah Schmidt) – What has she done?
- The Many Ways of Seeing (Nick Gleeson with Peter Bishop) – What are the many ways of seeing?
- A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing (Eimear McBride) – Why is a girl only half-formed?
Also as you brainstorm:
- Don’t forget voice and point of view – make sure your title is consistent with the point of view in your story. For example, if your crime fiction book is written in third person, don’t call it My Encounter with A Killer.
- Avoid sabotaging your plot with your title – if your book is a mystery or suspense, don’t give away the ending on the cover! By the same token, don’t take your title from the first or last lines of your story as this can dampen the curiosity for your potential reader and also comes across as trite.
- Make sure your title matches your story. This is the most important rule of coming up with your title. If you crafted your title before you finished your story, or even think of a great title during your brainstorm session, it’s critical that you can clearly state how this relates to your story.
- If your non-fiction book is part of branding, make sure this is worked in to the title, for example, Impact Press author Renee Mill uses her brand Anxiety Solutions in her book, Anxiety Free, Drug Free.
Your title, just like your manuscript, will need to be edited and polished. A benefit of working with the team at Impact Press is that we help you decide the best title for your book. We suggest you come to us with a list of prepared titles, and we’ll give our professional insight on what title will have the most cut-through in the market, will have the most appeal to readers, while still successfully reflecting the content of your book.
With nearly a decade of experience in editing and publishing, Zoe Hale is passionate about the written word and loves working closely with authors to see their stories come alive on the page.
Zoe is Vice-President of Editors NSW and brings her extensive knowledge of editing, proofreading, and a perfectionist eye for detail to every facet of the editing and production process – from draft manuscript to printing.