Behind the Scenes Sunday

How to Title a Book

Let’s take a peek at the cogs inside the machine and talk about why I write and how I write on Behind the Scenes Sunday! Today I’d like to talk about the bane of my existence, the thing that torments me from the minute I start writing a book until the moment I have to package it for editors and literary agents: PICKING. A. TITLE.

I hate titling my work. It’s frustrating, mind-numbing, and just plain hard. But to make matters worse, it’s also a very important step in the book writing process. Or at least in the book selling process. The title of your book can make or break it as far as sales go – nothing can kill a book’s momentum faster than a lousy title. Do you think anyone would’ve picked up “A Journey from Transylvania to England”? No. But “Dracula”? YES. Absolutely.

So how do I go about picking a title? Well I try to keep these few rules in mind when I start on my arduous task:

Keep it simple.

Long winded, winding, wordy titles are not your friend. Now, are there exceptions to this rule? Of course. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a mouthful — but it’s so good it can get away with it. It’s those last two words that make the rest of the title sing. If it was Everyone In My Family Has Committed a Violent Crime, that just wouldn’t have the same effect.

Simple is king. Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

Obey the genre.

You wrote X type of book. Don’t give it a Y flavor of title. Romance books shouldn’t sound like horror books or vice versa.

Aim for unique but memorable.

You want something that hasn’t been used as a title a hundred times. Goodreads is going to be your best resource to check for previous books with the same title. Be warned, though, that trying to be too original may make your title impossible to remember.

Use evocative language.

Remember the example from the first rule? Killed is an evocative word. You hear it and your body reacts. This is not a time to be shy about using attention grabbing language.

Test your title on readers in your target audience.

Final rule: if it works, it works — but you won’t know until you try it out on your target audience! Find your books ideal reader and run some titles by them. Take their recommendations seriously. They know what will hit and will miss.

What are your thoughts on what takes a title from good to great? How do you decide what to call your books when you’ve finished writing them? Have you ever come across a plain terrible title? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Published by rsjeffrey

Robin Jeffrey was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a psychologist and a librarian, giving her a love of literature and a consuming interest in the inner workings of people’s minds.

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