7 Tips for Choosing the Right Book Title

1280px-Stipula_fountain_penBy Cecilia Lewis

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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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!

Interested in professional editorial services for your manuscript? Check out my Services page for more information about what I offer.

This post is part of my Writing Craft series. For more info about planning, writing, and revising your work, check out the other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts!

Related Links:

-What to Avoid in Your First Chapter

-All About Word Count

-Writing Great Opening Lines

-7 Tips on Writing Engaging First Pages

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6 thoughts on “7 Tips for Choosing the Right Book Title

  1. Bailey Jackson says:

    This is actually the one aspect of writing that I think I have zero trouble with. I mean, I don’t think I come up with perfect titles, but I don’t agonize over them for ages and I’m usually happy with the ones I come up with. If only writing the actual stories came so easily :/

    Like

  2. Rhonda Wiley-Jones says:

    This is hard work coming up with a title. I’m struggling with finding a title for my current in-progress novel. I’ve played with the idea of “Salwar Kameez” — the Indian outfit that both men and women wear in India that is gauzy cotton that keeps dust and sun off the body, but cools the body and allows the breeze through it. Metaphorically it works in the novel, but I don’t think it will attract readers before they read it. Any thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • ceciliajlewis says:

      Interesting! I like that it’s a unique title and one with a lot of resonance. But I do think it would be challenging from a marketing perspective, as readers might have difficulty remembering it, or spelling it for search engines. It’s entirely up to you, of course, that’s just my two cents as someone who hasn’t read it! :)

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  3. Ellie P. says:

    Great post – I just caught up with this now! I would also add the notion of asking others for their input re your title. I asked my beta readers, and in fact it was my son who helped me brainstorm many ideas for my title, and after playing with many versions, I ended up with “Surviving Hollywood North: Crew Confessions from an Insider.” At least I know it’s unique – it’s not on Google! :-D

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