Before the introduction, before the first chapter, even before the book reviews, the title of your book is the very first thing that readers will learn or read about your book. And that’s why your book title needs to be a great one.
Along with your book cover, the title of your book will be your one chance to make a solid first impression—and to start selling your book. After all, a good book title has the power to pique a reader’s interest, inviting them to stop whatever else they’re doing and discover everything that your book has to offer. A poor book title, on the other hand, has the power to repel your reader and lose their interest before you ever really had it. No pressure, right? But you can relax!
Today I’d like to share with you some tips on how you can title your book in the most easy-peasy, reader-friendly way. So are you ready to invite your readers to stop in and stay for a while?
Basic Rules for Creating the Title of Your Book
It’s time to build a good foundation with these do’s and don’t of coming up with a great book title.
Do represent your book: If you’re writing nonfiction, I encourage you to distill your book’s main idea into the title. But if you’re writing fiction, aim for a title that gives readers a subtle but firm hint of things to come. Consider this: A good title will serve as the skeleton key to your book, while a bad title will leave readers feeling as if they were a victim of a bait and switch scheme.
Do aim for a comfortable length: Nowadays, if you want your book to have the greatest chance for success, then your title should be short and sweet. But not too short. While there are successful books with one-word titles (Carrie and Voices are just two examples), I would still recommend that your title have at least two words in it unless your proposed one-word title is a very unique word (like Frankenstein). Otherwise, your book title will be at risk of blending into the dozens of other books published each year. At the same time, your title shouldn’t be too long either. Long titles can quickly become uncomfortable for readers to say and impossible to remember.
Don’t repeat: Your book title shouldn’t have been done before. You need to vet any potential title and make sure that it isn’t already the title of a novel, movie, song, tragic historical event or anything else that could lead to reader confusion (or search engine confusion) and possibly depress your sales.
Questions to Help You Come Up With Your Book Title
Are you ready to give your book a great title? Then let’s do it! Here are six questions to get you thinking, dreaming and ready to discover the right title for your book.
- What is your book about?
- What makes your book unique?
- What are five adjectives that could describe your book? And your book’s theme? And your main character? And your book’s setting?
- What are the most important elements in your book?
- Are there any short quotes or phrases in your book that jump out at you, or will for your readers?
- What do you want your readers to remember about your book?
Write your answers down. Then start playing with the resulting words—adding, subtracting and substituting them. Create a big list of potential titles that you can whittle down. Do you have some? Now read your potential titles silently. Then read them out loud. If you have trusted friends and/or editors, solicit their opinions as well.
Quick Ideas for Your Book Title
What if you’re still not sure what to title your book? Here are a few more ideas based on real book titles.
Character/group name or description: Use the name of your primary character, a secondary character or another person who is key to understanding the book. Or a quick description. Or a descriptive name for a relevant group in your book. Examples: Frankenstein, The Book Thief, American Gods.
Places: Highlight a place or setting of significance in your book. Examples: Jurassic Park, Prague.
Objects: Elevate an important object from your book. Examples: The Notebook, The Golden Compass.
Events: Call out key events or happenings. Examples: The Return of the King, The Wars of the Roses.
Previews: Show readers what to expect when they start reading your book. Examples: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference; Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.
But whatever you decide to title your book, you should make sure that you fall in love with your title and, with any luck, your readers will fall in love with it too.
Dudley Court Press
Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a full-service, hybrid publishing house, we help thoughtful people write their books and become successful published authors.
For more information, including about DCP’s programs for writers including Writers’ Sprint, Memoir Writing Made Easy, and Aspiring Author to Published Pro, please get in touch at publisher@DudleyCourtPress.com.