How to Pick the Right Title for Your Book

The moment has finally arrived: you’ve finished writing the book you’ve dreamed of and labored over devotedly. Now the time has come to brand it with a title and send it out into the world. But what will you call it? How can just a few words embody everything about your glorious book?

Fear not, for we have a few fail-proof tips that can help you get started on the journey of picking a concise and catchy title for your book.

Hook the Reader

You want the title to be something epic and unforgettable. It should jump out at readers as soon as their eyes skim over the spine at the bookstore or when they spot the cover online. Just by reading the title, your reader should get some idea of the book’s genre and content. Try to land on a word or phrase that communicates the tone and topic while still maintaining some mystery. You want your title to hook the reader without hitting them over the head with it, so keep it short, simple, and alluring.

Draw Inspiration from Your Favorite Quotations

If you’ve already completed your manuscript, read back through your favorite paragraphs to see if any phrases or expressions jump out at you. Find a line that you’re particularly proud of and see if a few words or a phrase from it could work well as the title.

Another great option is to look for inspiration outside of your own writing. Does a famous saying fit well with the themes of your book? Is there a phrase from Scripture that sums up the message or tone of your work? Even famous authors William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom!) and Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) used this technique when naming their books.

Using a Subtitle Is Key

Nothing is as beneficial to your book as a simple but punchy subtitle. In works of nonfiction, having a great subtitle allows you to be more mysterious with your main title, letting the subtitle do the work of clarifying the book’s content. If you’re writing your life story, a subtitle as simple as A Memoir gives an air of intimacy and authenticity while also communicating the genre. If you’re writing a work of biblical studies or theology, the subtitle can clarify what topic you’re focusing on, whether it be a particular book of the Bible or a systematic exploration of the nature of God.

In works of fiction, using the simple two-word subtitle A Novel can be a game-changer. While this may seem obvious, many authors fail to realize that their novel’s title may not actually communicate to the reader that the book is a work of fiction. You don’t want someone to preview the first few pages of your book and be uncertain if it’s your life story or a fabricated tale. Using A Novel as your subtitle will help the right readers connect with your work.

Finally, for poet’s publishing their first collection, no subtitle is as clear and inviting as Poems.

Check Amazon before Choosing a Final Title

Nothing is worse than finally settling on the perfect title for your book, then going online and seeing that hundreds of other authors have already used it—or one like it—for their book. Just like in fashion, trends for book titles come and go. Recently, a plethora of novels with Girl or The Girl in the title have been released after the success of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train. News outlets from USA Today to The New York Times have commented on this ongoing trend. While it’s helpful to pick a title that naturally aligns with genre norms, you don’t want a prospective reader to accidentally purchase the wrong book just because your title is similar to your competitors. Use Amazon for research to find a truly unique title that will set your book apart.

 

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About the Author ()

Amy brings experience from her work with the Minnesota Book Awards, Milkweed Editions, the University of Minnesota Press, Ivory Tower Magazine, and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Writing. Before joining Xulon Press in 2016, she marketed academic religion textbooks and reference resources with Fortress Press in Minneapolis. Amy’s love for books began at an early age, and she went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities with a BA in English literature with studies in technical writing. She enjoys creative nonfiction, poetry, contemporary fiction, and literary classics.

Comments (2)

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  1. Checking Amazon is a great start. I’d also recommend simple Googling. See if there is anything else out there that’s too similar and could cause any confusion.

    • avatar Amy Sleper says:

      Great suggestion, Kristen. Searching on Google is an excellent step in addition to checking Amazon. You don’t want your title to be too similar to anything else floating out on the web, whether book-related or not. Thanks for sharing!

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