One of the many questions that I’ve been asked lately is how I come up with titles for my books. This is a part of the creative process that I really love and I’m so happy to share my thoughts on the ways I’ve approached it.
Luckily, for my first domestic suspense novel, I was able to come up with Center of Gravity myself, and the HarperCollins team loved it right away. It really seemed to capture the essence of a family on the edge; a mother and her children in peril.
For my second domestic suspense novel, though, a story involving a woman who goes to jail for a crime she doesn’t commit, none of the titles I’d brainstormed completely resonated with the team. The choices were almost there…but not quite. So, the HarperCollins team took a shot at coming up with a title, and I believe they nailed it with Sister Dear.
Was taking the extra effort and worry worth it? Absolutely, yes. Was it fair that the publishing house had the final say? Again, yes. In traditional publishing, top decision-makers generally consider that their marketing departments know how to choose titles that sell. And selling is important. Selling well means getting a contract for your next book, and the next.
Bottom line, a title gives a reader a first impression of your book. If it’s a striking and accurate title, it’s like a window into the soul of a novel.
If you are independently publishing your books, the sky’s the limit. You can be as creative as you like! After all, you are the CEO of your career. But remember, the title of your book matters a lot. Don’t rush the process. Choose carefully.
Whether you traditionally or independently publish, your title needs to be the best it can be.
Here are a few tips to nail your title:
Sometimes, a title pops into your brain fully formed. It happened to me with some of my Lauren Clark novels (Stay Tuned, Dancing Naked in Dixie, Pie Girls), but coming up with Stardust Summer took some work. Consider keeping a running list, playing with word order, and brainstorming.
Remember, though, if a title has nothing to do with the storyline, the reader feels cheated. If it’s a confusing or vague title, it’s possible the book won’t sell well. Put in the time to come up with the very best title for your novel.
2. Be Brief
In the publishing world, less is usually more when it comes to titles. Look at the top ten books on the New York Times best seller list. Check out the most popular books on Amazon. My guess is that most of them will five words or less. Long and complicated titles are difficult to remember. Keep it short and sweet. Make it easy for readers to remember your book!
3. Run it by Others
When you’ve done all the brainstorming you can do, see what others think. Bounce the top choices off your writing group or author friends. Belong to a book club? Run them by the group. Or, hold a contest and allowing your friends or social media followers to send suggestions. Give away a few copies of your new novel as a thank you, or send the winner a gift card.
4. Check Amazon
When you think you have a title that’s a winner, search for it on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Google. If twelve identical titles pop up, move on. Pick the next best choice on your list or start over. After all, you want your book to stand out, not blend in, right?
5. Think about Songs and Poems
Popular songs and poems have often inspired book titles, such as J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (“Comin’ Thro the Rye” poem by Robert Burns) and Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song). This Goodreads list has fifty book titles based on popular songs. Here’s another list with more than 200 book titles based on lyrics or songs.
Other ideas include choosing a phrase from your book, playing on the theme of your novel, or use a character’s name.
What are your thoughts? What makes a great title? Please share some of your favorites.