As a writer, I always find it difficult to choose the right title for each book. The title is a reader’s first impression, and your first chance to hook them. There are so many factors to consider in choosing the right title, including originality, demographics, SEO, and whether the title will stand out both on bookstore shelves and online. As an editor, I have spent a considerable amount of time discussing titles with clients to ensure that the title is not only a great marketing tool but also fits the story they want to tell. With so much to consider, how can you choose? Here are some tips for finding the right title for your book:
- Study titles that work (and don’t)
Take a look at your bookshelves, browse Goodreads, go to your local library. Pay attention to the titles. Which ones pique your interest? Which ones do you skim over? What grabs your attention, and what doesn’t? Pay extra attention to titles within your genre and get a feel for how effective titles sound.
- Match genre and demographics
Make sure that your title is a good fit for your genre and will appeal to your target demographic. Different genres usually have very different types of titles, and the style of yours will signal to readers what kind of book it is. A category romance title, for example, usually sounds very different from a fantasy title.
- Do a thorough search for your title
Book titles aren’t copyrighted in English, and you can use a title that’s been used before. However, you don’t want to use a title that’s too cliché or unoriginal. This is definitely a problem from an online marketing standpoint: you want readers to be able to Google your title and find your book, not someone else’s. Make sure to search for your title and see how often it’s been used.
- Think about length
There are so many pros and cons to short and long titles that I could probably do an entire post about them. In short, one word titles can be problematic, as they might be too broad or not hook the reader enough. Long titles can also be an issue, as they sometimes sound amateurish and cause problems for both marketing and cover design. Both long and short titles can work, but both can present problems worth considering. A good length is probably two to four words.
- Have a hook
With so many titles competing for a reader’s attention, it’s important that yours hook the reader right away. The best hooks are often those that pose some kind of question, thus piquing the reader’s curiosity and encouraging them to pick it up to find the answer. A few simplistic examples:
–The Great Gatsby. Who is Gatsby, and why is he great?
–Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Who is Harry Potter, and what is a Sorcerer’s Stone?
–The Book Thief. Who’s stealing books and why?
- Don’t be too broad or too specific
Broad titles can often feel bland, unfocused, or generic. A title like “Dreams” or “Love” or “Hope” doesn’t tell your reader anything about the book. It’s important to be specific enough that your reader knows what kind of book this is. At the same time, be careful not to be too specific, or no one will know what the title means.
- Use pronounceable words
I see this a lot with fantasy, in particular. If you’re putting a name or other aspect of your worldbuilding in the title, make sure it’s one that a reader can pronounce at first glance. With titles like The Land of Zxcvvbx or The Sword of Illxpstqv, readers won’t be able to go to a bookstore and ask for your title.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose the right title for your work. When in doubt, ask your critique partners or beta readers for help. You’ll be surprised by the difference a great title can make.
What do you think? How do you find the right title? Let me know in the comments!
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