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choosing a title for your novel

How do you choose a title for your novel?

I’ve been playing with titles of a book this week and trying to find something that works. Of course, titles are marketing tools, designed to catch an audience’s imagination, and get them to pick up the book, and look inside.

First, I thought carefully about the audience. Who would be reading this book and why? What other interests would this audience have? What sorts of things appealed to them?

Based on my audience, I started making lists. The first list was boring and inappropriate. So, just as a way to think of more, I looked up the 100 most famous movie quotes (just Google it) and used it as a jumping off point to write another long list. For some odd reason, a series of words caught my attention and I began to look for adjectives that begin with a hard “k” sound. Another list. Lots of list of possible titles, many of which I knew were bad, but maybe they’d have a spark in them. Try titles that tease, shock, titillate, embarrass, or make someone laugh out loud. Hint at what is to come. Your goal is to get a reader to open the book. That’s it. After that, your first line take over the job of keeping them reading.

Finally, I sent the lists to a couple friends and had them tell me their favorite three. Amazingly, only one title came out that everyone liked, and I added a subtitle from another title.

The process of finding a title is sometimes easy, sometimes hard. When it doesn’t come easily, I don’t leave it up to marketing! I make lists and get feedback and search for the one that fits the content best. I know my content better than the marketing people and would prefer to do this myself. As a friend advised, I’ll live with the title for a couple weeks and see if it sticks.

How do you find/create titles for your books?

12 Comments
  • L.N. Hammer
    November 17, 2007

    Not very well. I fail at titles.

    —L.

  • Koda
    June 18, 2011

    I think about the most important character. I always write series, and the main character is, of course extremely important. I try to incoporate their name in some way when giving my stories titles. A story I’m writing, who’s main character is Ashe, is titled “Feather & Ashe” and then each book has a subtitle such as “Rebirth” or “Suffocate”. I think about who and what is most important to the storylie, and then the speific plot to each “chapter” of the main character(s)’ journey.

  • jokiwi
    July 23, 2011

    I’m always quite lucky with titles, it seems. I think about the characters, the story, and at some stage during the planning process, the title just pops into my head. I’ve nothing published yet though, so who knows if my way works? ;-)

  • Cindy LYnn Jacobs
    April 11, 2012

    I follow a three-step process. First, I cluster. I come up with key words that describe the book, then cluster those words. For example, the word flood. What other words mean flood and what other words do you think of when you think of that word? Second, I play with the arrangement of words to create a title. Third, I run my title ideas through friends.

  • tABITHA
    May 25, 2012

    I like Cindy’s idea. I’m currently deciding on a title and I think I might use that process. I also learned it is a good idea to use your left hand (if you’re right handed, if not, then the right) to write down ideas because it makes a different part of your brain work.

  • Peter tong
    May 28, 2012

    I have to have a title for whatever I write (fiction). In fact a title invariably suggests the whole novel to me. I may change it later, but usually the first one works, it comes out of the ether unbidden. But if someone I trust doesn’t like it, I do think of options. But if I have to deliberately create a title I suffer mental anguish for days!

  • kristen
    August 26, 2012

    I look at the main point/goal in the story. I found my title in a song I was listening to on my ipod, it fit perfectly. My goal is to catch the readers attention, making them want to find out why it was given the name. I am writing this story for myself first than once its finished I will decide if I want to publish it.

  • kristin
    October 31, 2012

    My titles come easy for me. But I’m sure if they are up to par. I mean, how can you ever be sure when you’re the one writing them?
    So heres a list of different titles and if one of you guys like a certain one tell me ^_^ it’ll help a lot.

    The Broken Key
    The Emergencies
    Red Pearl
    Dust
    The Caged Girl
    16 Days
    Time Tumbler
    The Flipped Switch
    Disaster Dreams

    Sincerely yours,
    Kristin.

  • Tate thurgood
    August 16, 2013

    Sometimes I just have to write a story and suddenly it just clicks. Although, with the novel I’m currently writing, I searched the internet for a book title generator, and my story blossomed from the title.

  • Lamar
    February 18, 2014

    @ Kristin-

    My favorites of the ones that you listed are:

    Red Pearl, 16 days, and Disaster Dreams…

    These are the ones that stand out to me the most, and would compel me to pick up your book and find out more. I’ve always been more attracted to short, clever titles that just barely hint at the story’s theme.

    For example: If I were walking down the bookstore aisles and saw a book titled “Last One Breathing”, “Depths”, “H2O”, or something like that, I would pick it up and see what it’s about. It peaks my curiosity, but once I read the back cover and discover that it’s about a cataclysmic flood that somehow covers a quarter of the globe, I would most likely read that book. For me, a direct and clever title has always been the sign of a good book (though I do give the ones with bad titles a chance lol).

    Didn’t mean to leave a long post, just thought you would like to know why I favor those!

  • darkocean
    November 6, 2014

    My book was untitled for quite sometime until around chapter 16 where the main (of three) powers that my protagonist has (the third one can only be activated under dire stress as I don’t want it to become an easy out.) Any ways the story decided the title. :3 Find what the main theme of the story is or something in the book that stands out, I like keeping things simple. Two words: Soul Tear. It has to be a tile your happy with. IMO if it has more then two “ands” in it the title needs to be remade.

  • darkocean
    November 6, 2014

    @kristin I like 16 Days, it raises a question in my mind 16 Days for what? IMO a tittle has to be a hook too, get them to look at it out of pure curiosity. I think you plot out a whole book on this tile alone.