What’s in a Name?

ID-100405887Many aspiring writers assume that coming up with a title is the first step in writing their book. They spend hours and hours (or days and weeks!) agonizing over what the book should be called, before they’ve even started writing!

Titling a book is a big decision, but more often than not, the title doesn’t come until after book is finished. Sometimes, it isn’t until all your thoughts and inspiration are out on paper and your ideas have been strung together in a cohesive and enjoyable format that you’re able to determine a worthy title. Other times, the title appears to be sitting in front of you! Either way, choosing a title can take serious time and energy, and it’s not a decision to take lightly. The title is the very first piece of information your readers will ever gather about your book.

How do you come up with a title that draws attention and begs people to pick up the book? How do you make sure your title encompasses the message of your book? How do you ensure the title is memorable and easy to say? These are all valid questions, and what you should be thinking of as you decide what to name your masterpiece. Here are some other thoughts and ideas to consider:

  1. Click through Amazon and search for other books in your genre. What are they called? What do you like about the titles and what do you dislike about them? Notice what words and phrases stick out to you.
  2. Spend some time “free associating.” In other words, using a whiteboard or a piece of paper, create a list of words associated with your book. What words come to mind when you think about your book’s message? What words capture what you want your reader to feel or think when reading it? What words should be included in the reader’s “takeaway,” or what you want him or her to learn from the book? Would any of these words work as a one-word title? Consider phrases or words that are attention-seeking or memorable. The worst thing you could do is come up with a boring title that doesn’t attract interest.
  3. Role play. Imagine yourself at a social gathering, standing in group of people talking about your book. When you mention the title, are people able to instantly tell what your book is about (with only a sentence of explanation)? Do they seem intrigued and ask to know more, just from you sharing the title? Or, are they confused, bored, or something else? If it’s the latter, you should probably come up with a new title.
  4. Decide if your book needs a subtitle. Most fiction books do not need a subtitle, but many non-fiction ones do. Usually, the main title is the part that is attention-grabbing and memorable. The subtitle is a several-word phrase that gives context—it lends more information and gives the reader a better idea of what’s inside. Here are some good examples of great title/subtitle combinations:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, written by Brene’ Brown

Moonwalking with Einstein:  The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, written by Joshua Foer

See how the title makes you want to read more, while the subtitle gives you a quick idea of what the book’s about?

We know titling can seem like an overwhelming step in the book writing process. Our goal with this post was to provide you with some practical wisdom that will hopefully help you take a step in the right direction. Don’t forget the importance of following your gut—no one knows your book like you do. Happy titling, writers!

Post written by Heather Sipes, Assistant Editor

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