7 Tips to Making Book Titles that Might Possibly Work

I’m going to get into my own book title adventure on Friday, but I’m sure most authors can relate.  You come up with a title at the start, change it halfway through, and then cycle through more until you land on the final choice.  It’s rare for the first title to stay until the end if we have one at the start in the first place.  Regardless of how it happens, we usually go through a lot of trouble to come up with the perfect title.  It needs to be catchy and connected to the story.  If it’s part of a series then you need a series title and the volume ones may have a common theme.  So many choices and decisions that you need to factor in before you get your cover art much less publish.  So, what are some ways that we can make things easier?

  1. Do not think that your first choice has to be the final one.  You came up with it during the planning stages, but the story may have changed enough that the title no longer fits as well as you’d like.  Sure, the basics are there, but you know there’s something better out there.  If you really have trouble saying good-bye, write the rejected title on a piece of paper, set it on fire, and flush it down the toilet.  Then explain the concept of a Viking funeral to the plumber.
  2. You might get frustrated that your title has ‘of the’, ‘and’, or other common phrases within it.  Try not to make this a sticking point because you could end up tossing out a really eye-catching title on a technicality.  Language has tons of common phrases and they exist for a reason.  That reasons is because we all use it and the words involved are some of the most basic, repeated ones ever.
  3. Never change your title once the cover art is completed unless you’re also the artist.  If you’re not then you better think carefully before taking what’s a point of no return for this piece.
  4. If you’re coming up with a series title then you need to have it focus on the overall story and not what happens only in the first book.  This is something that will be on the cover of every volume, so it needs to go the distance.  It doesn’t have to be specific or make immediate sense.  There has to be a connection though, which can be nicknames, the name of the heroes’ group, the event that’s occurring, or whatever comes to mind when you think of the full scope.
  5. Humor in a title is great, but only if the story has some comedic aspects.  People will expect laughs if the title makes them giggle, so be careful here.  Serious dramas tend to have serious titles for a reason.  All that being said, you can still use puns and play on words, which aren’t always funny.  With the correct crafting, these can become downright chilling.
  6. Don’t make a title that is so long that it could run from your wrist to your shoulder in Point 12 Times New Roman font as a tattoo.  You don’t want to make this a marathon of words because you’ll wear out the potential read before they can make a purchase.  If you do this then at least provide some oxygen or water for when they finish.
  7. Be careful testing out your titles with an audience.  Some people will say it’s great because they don’t want to upset you.  Others will say it’s terrible because they have a different view of your story.  This is difficult tactic to depend on solely because of lack of information.  The people you’re asking don’t know the overall story in the amount of detail that you have in your head.  They might not see what you’re seeing, so their title suggestions won’t encompass the whole idea.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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28 Responses to 7 Tips to Making Book Titles that Might Possibly Work

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great tips! I’ve never had an initial title that stuck around. And if I’ve done work for hire, seven out of ten times the editor changes the title at the request of the marketing people who decide on then anyway.

    So many people have opinions, so it’s wise, as you mentioned, to limit those who give feedback.

    Like

  2. Some very good points here, Charles. I must admit I have clung to my title A Ghost and His Gold even as the story grew from 30 000 words to 105 000 words, but the gold is still very central to the story.

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  3. All great tips, Charles. The title on the image made me laugh.

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  4. Naming of anything drives me up the wall. I started a random project once and called it the Yak Guy Project. As I wrote it, he was kind of a project himself, and the title stuck. I get tired of some titles that involve someone’s daughter, or the word “born” in them. Now I’m about to break that rule. I have a story board for one called Once Upon a Time in the Swamp. Once upon a time gets too much use, too.

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  5. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Great tips from Charles 😃

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  6. V.M.Sang says:

    Great tips, Charles. Only one of my books has the title it started off with. Another two (part of the same series) the publisher changed, but they are better titles, so I’m happy with that. My current wip I’m having trouble with finding a title for, though.

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  7. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this helpful post from Charles Yallowitz’s blog with 7 Tips to Making Book Titles that Might Possibly Work

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  8. Some series do end up having super-long titles, all right! Also, I’ve noticed there are trends in book titles that will fun for five to ten years. A while ago, we had one-word titles like Crank or something. I still see those, but now there are more titles like “The Thing of This and That.” Daughter of Smoke and Bone, for instance.

    So we have to also gauge if our title is going to be super “in” at the moment, but later might seem outdated. Or if it might make people assume our book is from a certain genre that uses that title style.

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    • There are trends now that you mention it. I don’t really pay attention though. I just do what feels right. Hate to have a title that I love and then the trend changes it. Be like changing my son’s name because it gets popular or unpopular.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for the tips, Charles! Really, the example at the cover is funny. Be well and stay save. Michael

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  10. Lindsey Russell says:

    I write crime and I wanted a ‘word’ in the tied the series together – Peter James’s crime novels all have ‘dead’ in the title – I won’t state it here (don’t want it ‘nicked’ 🙂 ) but I’ve found what I think is a great word to repeat through the series.
    As for long titles – if they ‘fit’ I love them, was particularly impressed with John Farris’s ”All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By”.

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    • Lindsey Russell says:

      Sorry, fumble fingers – that should be ‘ . . . in the title that tied . . .’

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    • That’s a great idea for a series. I did that with a post-apocalyptic adventure series I tried and retired. It was always two words with ‘Bedlam’ being the second one. Got really hard to pull off at times. Good luck with your titles.

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  11. petespringerauthor says:

    What do you think about the concept of not choosing a title until your story is written or nearly completed? I’m not necessarily advocating that, but sometimes the title becomes far clearer as one writes.

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    • I think it’s a viable concept. Met a lot of people who do that. Personally, I’ve put in titles just to give my mind some extra focus and a name for the computer file. Many times, they change at some point.

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