Title Tips and Tricks
Just as the opening line of your book must grab the reader’s attention, so should the title of your book. Your objective as an author, besides writing an interesting story, is to hook readers. The title is the first thing a reader sees or hears.
You are the CEO of your novel so think of yourself as a corporation trying to come up with the best name for a specific product - your book. Invest the time and energy it takes to choose the title best suited to your story and genre. There are several ways to do this.
Begin by brainstorming short titles. A title of five words or less is a guideline I adhere to, or the title becomes too cumbersome. Make a list of several possibilities and add to it as you think of things related to your book. Once you’ve generated a good-sized list of at least 5-10 options, narrow it down to a list of three potential titles. Then, choose the best one.
Choose An Original and Memorable Title
What makes your book special and different from others on the shelf? Figure that out and use it to create a unique and memorable title that speaks to your story. Research the title you have in mind to be certain it doesn’t exist. When books have the same or similar titles, it gets confusing for potential readers. A title too similar to another book title, especially a best-selling book, may be overlooked because the buyer may choose the other book by mistake.
Let Your Title Give The Reader A Glimpse Into The Story
Sum up the most important aspect of your story in a few words. Think Tom Clancy - Patriot Games or Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid’s Tale. These titles hint at the substance of the story and are intriguing. They pull readers in and make them think. What patriot games will the author play? Who is the handmaid and what is her tale? The title coupled with an interesting cover design is a win-win.
Consider Your Genre
Just as writers follow a certain criteria for the genre they write in, writers must keep that genre in mind when choosing a title. For example, if the romance genre is your jam, you will want to come up with a title that corresponds to romance, not thrillers, horrors, fantasy or sci-fi.
Consider Your Target Audience
Know your audience. Using the romance genre again, the audience is mostly women who are looking for a fun escape from their daily routine. The title must snag their attention in an enticing way, one that creates allure and the possibility of lust, not one that is scientific, fantastical, or sterile. What romance fan wants to purchase and read a book with a title that’s a turn-off? Probably not many.
Who is your novel about?
Some authors use the main character in the title of their book. A famous example of this is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. There are seven novels in the series and each one begins with Harry Potter and the . . .
This kind of title kills two birds with one stone by also including a glimpse into the story. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Roald Dahl also uses this technique for titles like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, as does Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables.
When Does Your Novel Take Place?
This doesn’t need to be a specific date such as Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, it can be a timeframe like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Though no established time period is included in the title, we surmise that the husband travels through time. That’s a pretty cool title. Another suggestion is to use a moment in time or history such as Gabriel García Márquez’s, Love in the Time of Cholera. Now that's an intriguing title.
Where Does Your Novel Take Place?
Is there a distinctive or unusual place that defines your novel? This could be an actual place like a town or country, a forest or desert, an island or planet, a nightclub or restaurant, but it might also be a more general location like a no-name street or a spot the author has invented.
Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Spice up your title by choosing words that coincide with your story to express your book’s meaning in an imaginative and beautiful way.
Spark intrigue in potential readers with some type of action or conflict in the title.
Act of War by Brad Thor
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Evocative words are perfect for a title. Use ones that express something about your book.
Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine De Saint Exupery
All the Pretty Little Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Use repetition in your title.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Stick with one word. There are many successful books out there with one-word titles.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Bring something ominous into your title.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying by William Faulker
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
A title should be easily pronounced.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Play With Words
Play around with words until you stumble on the perfect title.
Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover,
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Contrasting themes are a great way to title your book.
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
Use a quote or phrase from your story as the title for your book.
To pick a title for this article I created a list using some of the above suggestions. I narrowed it down and finally chose the title. Do you think I selected the right one? Tell me your thoughts.
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