How Did You Choose Your Title?

by | May 28, 2013 | The Writing Life | 66 comments

I have titles on the mind lately as I figure out what in the world I’m going to call my guide to writing a novel.

How did you choose the title of your most recent project?

Is it an allusion? An inside joke? A line from the work?

And more importantly, how did you know it was the right one?

When I went to name Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow I combined my favorite coffee drink with a bit of absurdity that I hoped might evoke Calvin & Hobbes.

What about you?

Art: Trompe l’oeil by Adolph von Haake


  1. RJ Crayton

    Titles are always tricky. I chose a theme from the book for my title, Life First. Ultimately, I think you have to go with your gut. Some titles are so great that they immediately intrigue readers while others are lackluster, but gain meaning once the book becomes popular. The good news is there are lots of books with average or even below average titles that do well.

  2. Joanne Huspek

    Good question. Titles are easy; it's what's between the covers that's hard to complete. 🙂 And I'm interested in what other writers have to say. My novel, Virtually Yours, was 1. set online, therefore the "virtually", and one of the characters ended all of the email to one of the other characters "Virtually yours," while to the rest of the group, the ending is "Peace out." (It's an inside joke, plus it's a clue as to the Big Reveal. I tried to pitch it at the SFWC this year (kind of a lark, not really serious since it's been an e-book for a year) and was told by an agent that my title would have to go. Too generic, he said. There is a sequel-second book in the works titled "Virtually Yours Forever" because there is a lasting hookup at the end. That's all I'm going to say.

  3. India Drummond

    One of the things I've done when I'm stuck is look at what's selling well in my genre. I also did an "event" on my mailing list and let readers vote for titles and suggest some of their own. I did end up picking the most popular one, so it really worked for me.

  4. Colleen Ruttan

    I'm working on a YA traditional fantasy series and self-published the first book (The Last Falcon) last summer.

    The title represents a choice my main character is faced with in the book. Falcons are used in my world for long-distance communication, but have been outlawed by the evil younger son of the king in her own kingdom. To save her kingdom it becomes vital to get a message to someone, but she discovers her own life is at risk for other reasons and must choose between finding a certain falcon and saving herself.

    Colleen 🙂

  5. Tom Braun

    I think the title of your book is something that's almost always worth thinking twice about. You may have a title that, to YOU, is perfect, but I think very few authors step back and think about how their title will sound to someone who knows nothing about the book. Will it intrigue them enough to make them want to find out more? Or will it be instantly forgettable, just another meaningless book title in a sea of book titles?

    It may be what's inside that counts, but readers are likely never going to GET to the inside if you don't hook them with the outside.

    By all means pick a working title that works for you, but when it's time to sell your book, either to the readers or to publishers, revisit that title and see if you can't come up with a couple of punchier alternatives. Then try them out on friends.

  6. sepa

    I usually choose my titles in light of the whole work, sometimes it's a catchphrase, or a very important person in the story, etc. … With my current WIP I'm completely clueless though, and I've been working on it for about 2 years now. Should I worry? 😛

  7. Peter Dudley

    I am notoriously BAD at titles. I had a kind of weak title for my first novel, and one of my editing partners started using a one-word shorthand to refer to the novel rather than the four-word title. Took me a month or so to realize her shorthand should be the title. (Thanks again, Aerin!)

    The second book in the series built on the meaning of the first book's title. It came to me about halfway through the draft, mirroring the way the first book's title represents the story.

    I am currently writing the third in the series, and I have a working title that sucks. I'm hoping the right one will magically appear at some point between now and publication. I have some time.

  8. lora96

    I can't make up my mind on a title. The one I liked and thought remarkably clever was annoying to others…

  9. Nancy Thompson

    I write psych thrillers/romantic suspense so it's been been fairly easy. I just sift through the story & find the main issue. In my first book, it was all a series of mistakes, as well as the wrong person being taken or kidnapped, so I called it The Mistaken. In my second, a sequel, it's all about the leverage one character has over another, so Leverage it is! Easy peasy! I think if the author is confused as to what to title their book, they don't really know what their book is about. And that's kind of scary.

    • Rigzy

      I've always been bad at naming songs I write, so it came as no surprise that I can't name my MS. But when someone asked what it's about and I didn't know how to answer concisely, that was the REALLY scary moment for me.

  10. Mr. D

    For my books, the titles seemed to just jump out at me. For example: Killer of Killers–that's exactly what my main character in that story is. The Vase–a story that revolves around a very special vase. Killer Eyes–the sequel to Killer of Killers, and the title is from a description of the female antagonist in that story. Finally, John Dunn, Heart of a Zulu. Well, it's based on the true story of John Dunn who lived in Zululand for most of his life, had 50 plus Zulu wives and 150 children by them. He fought in two Zulu wars and was best friends with the Zulu king. I'd say the title fits.

  11. Michaelle Wilde

    I prefer a very short title, three or four words. Easy to remember. I also like the title to reflect the work without using a line or phrase from the text. It's difficult for me to decide on a title and I tend not to get too attached to them.

  12. Nicole Palmby

    I originally chose my title more as a designation. I'm working on a rather large project, and needed distinctions for the individual parts. This initial distinction became the title, and the style of the title lends itself well to the other aspects of the project, I think.

    That being said, I'm not wedded to the title(s) in this project, so if they end up changing, I won't be heartbroken.

  13. Seatmates

    I chose "A Collector of Affections: Tales from a Woman's Heart" for my novel about a middle-aged woman. The "Collector…" part was an answer I heard years ago when I asked a man acquaintance why there were many women in his life.I never forgot his answer and saved them for my novel about a woman who collected affections, too.

  14. Kristi Lea

    I change the titles to works in progress frequently. The working titles tend to be the names of the protagonists, or something imaginative like "sciFi.doc" until I find something better.

    Alas, I have no pattern about how to choose a title. I have one that went through 4 titles before I found one that didn't make me cringe.

    My most recent was derived from lyrics of a hymn at church (I'm sure the composer would be cringing if he/she knew what sort of book it inspired LOL).

    I had the title to my current WIP before I even started writing it–title and book idea arrived together in the brain.

    I'm just glad I haven't worked with a publisher that requests half a dozen choices and then makes the decision for me. I'd rather be indecisive than apologetic.

  15. Michael Montoure

    What worked for me, weirdly, was psyching myself out and pretending I wasn't choosing a title for one of my own books — and just asked myself hypothetically: "Okay, so, your favorite horror writer — you know, the really cool, edgy, very modern one — has got a new book of short horror stories coming out, right? What was the title again?" The first thing that popped into my head was Permanent Damage. So that's what I called my new anthology.

  16. Maya Prasad

    Fun question!

    My title, SKY MAHAL, was meant to evoke an image of India that is both old and modern. I hope that "Mahal" immediately makes readers think of the Taj Mahal, and that Sky would then further the image to a beautiful edifice reaching into the heavens.

  17. Zan Marie

    I had two previous titles that didn't quite fit and until the theme completely solidified, I had no clue. Once the theme, and with it, the story settled, I found the title staring me in the face. ; )

  18. Meghan Ward

    I sent my best title ideas to a handful of smart, creative friends and asked what they thought. One came back with a fantastic title, and that's what I've stuck with: "Paris On Less Than $10,000 A Day." It's a play on two phrases – the under $40/day travel guidebooks and supermodel Linda Evangelista's famous quote: "We don't get out of bed for less than $10,000 A Day."

  19. RayBear

    I had a word I used in the book that I crafted and I really wanted it to be in the title and after that I just came up with more words having to do with my novel. I had quite a few variations and I canvassed friends and family to come up with: Ataxia and the Ravine of Lost Dreams. It has familiarity and something foreign in one sentence.

  20. Elisabeth Grace Foley

    The latest project I finished, a Western novella, is titled Left-Hand Kelly. It was pretty easy to come up with—it's the nickname given to the central character, and the reason he was given the name is what drives the plot. (I must be crazy to think of marketing a book with a hyphen in the title, given that people still spell my name wrong all the time, but that's another story…)

    Personally I think titles are a lot of fun. I especially like it when there's some play on words or even a literary reference in the title. I've only had serious trouble coming up with a title once…and it just figures it's one of my favorite manuscripts!

  21. Spike Cordiner

    I started off using a character's title (yes, I mean title not name) as the book's title. Then I changed it to a title that reflected the theme of the book.

    In both cases, however, I went for something where the meaning only becomes apparent when the reader's finished. The book has strong mystery elements and choosing a title that way is in keeping with those.

  22. KJ Bain

    The idea of the title for my fifth book came from the song "Beautiful Disaster". The song got me thinking about how imperfect people were to think of themselves as unloved and not worth anything when God loves them. The more I thought the more the words "Beautiful Imperfection" kept running through my mind, so I used it. After all, my heroine thinks she's deformed because she had breast cancer. Thought the title fit well.

  23. Barbara McDowell Whitt

    Nathan, since you wanted to evoke an image of Calvin and Hobbes when you came up with Jacob Wonderbar and the Comic Space Kapow, I am sharing a link:

    My book is a work-in-progress via my blog, A 1961-65 Park College Diary. I wanted a title that exactly explains what is in my blog, in which I am transcribing nightly posts from the diaries I wrote in 50 years ago to the night.

  24. wendy

    Interesting question, Nathan, and likewise to read what everyone has written.

    The title for 'Winter Roses Never Die' was originally 'Winter Roses', but as I discovered more of the story and themes I expanded it, while also hoping for something more original and eye-catching. The same with a YA novel, 'The Magic People', which evolved into 'Magination: A Little People Magic'

  25. jongibbs

    I start with the title and figure out the story from there. My curremnt WiP is called Abraham Lincoln Stole my Homework. For a long time, that was all I had 🙂

  26. Neil Larkins

    The title for my ebook novella, Mouse Hole, was pretty easy: A mouse hole is central to solving the mystery. Not so easy with what I consider one of my best short stories, "The Wonderfulist." Not even sure where I came up with the word, though it too is central to the story. My next book, certainly to me the most difficult one I will write (I've started some two dozen drafts) will – hopefully – be called The Last Time You Fall. Also taken from the book because of it's relevance to one of the main characters.

  27. John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur

    The entire time I was writing my teen pirate novel I called it "The Wreck of the Gladys B." I didn't like the title, it didn't say anything, really, about the story or the mainc haracter. I knew I was going to change it, but couldn't think of anything. After a while, it was just "Gladys." Then one day as I was preparing to send queries out, and my daughter told me if/when a movie is ever made, she has dibs on playing the lead character – Chrissie. And I dubbed her Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter – then gasped. How stupid do I have to be? That was obviously the title, tells the whole story in four words. You can't be smart all the time, but it's nice when you can be smart eventually.

  28. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

    Chow Italy: Eat Well, Spend Less.
    Play on words and (hopefully) key word heavy (good for search).

  29. Cathy

    Divine intervention.

  30. Doug

    When going with traditional publishing, does the title matter much? I'm told that the author's title rarely makes it onto the printed cover.

  31. Marilynn Byerly

    STAR-CROSSED was easy since it was "Romeo & Juliet" in space.

    TIME AFTER TIME was part of a series where I used Standard's titles, i.e., works by Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Stein. The book was about reincarnation so the title choice was no great problem.

    THE ONCE & FUTURE QUEEN was a play on the King Arthur novel by TH White because the MacGuffin for the novel was a dead queen who might not be dead.

    I've also taken a phrase from a character who describes a violent con game of betrayer and betrayed as THE GAME WE PLAY which pretty well explains the plot.

    A majority of my other novels have had titles that either came from a phrase in the novel or described the major character.

    When I was considering titles for each of my novels, I'd always get a frisson of recognition when I found the right title in the same way as I'd get that sensation when I was naming my main character.

    Luckily, none of my publishers have made a name change so my title spider senses seem to do a good job.

  32. G. B. Miller

    With great difficulty. The potential publisher where I had recently submitted a novella suggested that I change the current title because it kind of telegraphed what the novella was about.

    So, for title number 6 (yes, it went through that many incarnations) I was inspired by the song "Bring Me To Life" by Evenenscence, and came up with two that I have to choose from by the end of the week.

    And this response is for Doug: my original title for my commercial debut that I had chosen, stayed. Makes an interesting conversation starter (my avatar is my book cover).

  33. Bruce Bonafede

    Great question. I always know when NOT to write a book, because I think of the title first and think "Wouldn't that make a great book?" No, it wouldn't. At least not for me. With a play I wrote in the 1980s which won some awards I didn't come up with the title until I had finished the first draft. With my current work, a humor book, I didn't come up with the title until I was well into writing it. NOBODY KNOWS MY NAME BY ANONYMOUS popped into my head, seemed funny, fit the theme, so that's it.

  34. Laurie Boris

    The publisher chose my first title, with my input. The title for my second was like a bolt of lightning and nothing ever fit so perfectly. Lately I've turned toward picking up a recurring phrase or idea from the story. One time I got so desperate that I threw it into a random title generator online, at least for inspiration. I got a fun blog piece out of that one, though.

  35. CSG

    I'm working on a short story right now that had its whole plot worked out before a title, which is unusual for me. Eventually I just called it after the plot element that I had the most trouble with…then realized I could make it a pun on something to do with that plot element. I was over the moon!

    The working title of my novel (which exists now in only a few preliminary notes) is an allusion to Shakespeare. The more I think about that title, the more I love it because it fits so well.

  36. Eden Ashley

    Eh, It started out as The Siren's Heart–named for important artifact in the story. But in the end, the title sounded far too girly/romantic. Changing the title to Dark Siren captured the themes of redemption, rebirth, and using evil to conquer evil.

  37. Mira

    So, you could consider having something coffee related in your title, Nathan, as a sort of trademark.

    I think that non-fiction titles are different from fiction titles.

    Fiction titles are designed to let people know what type of emotional experience they will have if they dive into the story. A book called "Inferno" tells you it is probably an action book, fast paced, possibly explosive – maybe when you aren't expecting it – and hot. Probably hot in more than one way. I haven't read the book, but that would be my expectation from the title.

    Non-fiction is different. A non-fiction title should give the reader clear information about the content of the book. If done well, it will also convey that information in a similar voice as the book.

    One way to do this is with subtitles. So, the first title is about the information, and the subtitle is in 'voice'. Rough examples:

    The Art of Interviews: How to identify and fulfill any employer's top three wishes.

    Gives the reader an idea of both content and tone.

    If you can combine them, that's terrific, but hard. For example:

    Interviews That Work Like Magic

    Good luck, Nathan!

  38. Terin Miller

    Another great question, Mr. former Agent Man.

    I first selected the title for my self-published debut novel, From Where the Rivers Come, because I loved the section in Ecclesiastes from which Hemingway chose to open The Sun Also Rises. It conveyed to me the true character of my novel, the country of India, and the fact no matter how many thousands of generations of people have lived, loved and died there, the land, the country, abides forever.

    And as I explained when first publishing it, my anthropologist parents always argued that civilization did not actually begin along the then-popular "fertile crescent" of Mesopotamia, but rather along the Indus River valley.

    The novel mostly takes place in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi, formerly called Benares, where the Ganges River flows, and meets the confluence of the Varuna and Assi Rivers as well.

    So I loved the title and thought it fit really well.

    Then, a funny thing happened. A new start-up publisher, Author's Empire India, wanted to publish my self-published novel, and wanted to market it to Indian readers, and wanted to therefore give it a new title.

    After a few passes that seemed to me less likely marketable world-wide, for a host of reasons, I and the publisher agreed upon naming the newly edited and revised debut KASHI–which is perhaps the oldest name for the city formerly known as Benares and now called Varanasi. A name virtually instantly recognizable to readers in India. And in place of a photo I'd taken while on assignment as a journalist, a graphic designer made a much nicer cover.

    A similar thing happened with my recently published Texas thriller. I'd gone back-and-forth for years over what to call, how to focus the thing. The main character/narrator is a Vietnam veteran, from Vietnam's "Class of '68," the Tet offensive, etc. Originally I thought of calling it "Bad Moon Rising," after the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, as it deals with a murder at night. But in the course of editing it with the publisher, he and I both decided there was a much more significant song, even mentioned as one that held personal significance for the main character–so it's been published as SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, with the line quoting the song saying "Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints…"
    Because it deals with corrupt law enforcement officials as well…:)

    So I guess I'm also suggesting that, no matter how much thought a writer puts into a title, the writer should not be surprised if the publisher, an editor, even an agent has a "better" idea of a title that might make the book more saleable…;-)


  39. Jennifer R. Donohue

    When I've Picked a Title, it's been a phrase or few words that resonate with what I'm saying about the book (short story, etc.) Sometimes a work in progress goes through a lot of titles, even though its (unsuccessful) submission process, before my brain turns up something new and I think "Yes, this was it."

  40. Morgan

    The title for my novel has been there almost since the beginning. Characters have come and gone, but the title has always been the same; it summarizes the major plot who and what. Interestingly, both the title and the cover art idea that popped into my head at the same time has given me focus for the project, when otherwise I might have dropped it — the title and cover art make me see the work more a book than just an ephemeral idea that lives in my head.

  41. Jonathan Dalar

    Some of them seem to come naturally; some require blood, sweat, and tears, and even then you're not completely satisfied.

    To me, a great title is like an epiphany: once you get the right one, you're blown away by how perfectly fitting it is. A good title is like a marketing strategy: you find one whose metrics suggest it will garner the most attention, which usually works decently. And a bad title is like a hook-up after 2:00 AM: mission accomplished, but results aren't necessarily as flattering as you'd like once you see them with a little time and perspective under your belt.

  42. Lori

    Reflections is the name of my novel. The main character is Dr. Bailey Fairchild, one of the country’s top forensic anthropologists, knows the mind of a serial killer. What she doesn’t know is that a recent series of murders is all connected to her, and the killer she is hunting down has now begun hunting her.

    As Dr. Fairchild dials in on her quarry, she makes a discovery more shocking than even she could have anticipated—a part of her she never knew existed: the killer is her identical twin.

    The title for the novel came about mid-way into the story. It's much better than the first title, The Engram.

    I am writing four more novels and the titles come naturally for me.

  43. Vegas Linda Lou

    I absolutely adored my ex-husband, but after his 13th beer he got a little ugly. Sometimes I'd leave the house before it all hit the fan and I'd get myself a hotel room for the night to escape the insanity. I woke up one morning in the Ramada Inn in St. George, Utah–my haven from his latest rampage. I went out to the pool, and perhaps inspired by the red rocks, thought, "I should write about all this. Hmmm…. Bastard Husband: A Love Story.

    And that is the name of my memoir.

  44. Elaine Smith

    Despite being MG and Sci-fi, I selected the title for my new work in progress from a quote from Dickens.

  45. Matthew MacNish

    I really only do working titles, so I have no idea.

  46. &

    Well, when I named Apocalypse: the trilogy in a million pieces, clearly the influence of Douglas Adams was around. For the much improved, 30,000 word shorter ebook version, Apocalypse Revisited, clearly Evelyn Waugh was at play. I like that title much better, and the ebook too. As for Metalmorphosis: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the paranoid androids, perhaps Kafka and Dr Strangelove might have been on my mind, even though it's more Pet Shop Boys meets Asimov with an army of lesbian space robots and a bunch of Michael Jackson jokes. Maybe the title should have just been "lesbian space robots". Hard to know.

  47. J.C. Martin

    My entire series has a common theme: references to ancient Greek mythology, and I title my books according to that theme. The first book is about a serial killer who believes he's an "Oracle". Book 2, set in the twisting tunnels of the London Underground, is called, fittingly, "Labyrinth". Might have painted myself into a corner with subsequent books to the series, but I'll worry about them when the time comes! 🙂

  48. David Toll

    Thanks for posing a question sure to get interesting responses; here's mine:

    "Breaks, Brains & Balls" was Joe Conforte's recipe for success.

    Joe made brothel prostitution legal in Nevada and created the legendary Mustang Ranch east of Reno. Today he lives in luxury in a penthouse apartment in Rio de Janeiro, with a young protogee who might be the prettiest girl in Brazil.

    It was the only title that truly reflected the book and its 'hero', even though, as one critic asked, "how is Katy Couric ever going to read that title on Good Morning America?"* I figured if Katy couldn't handle it, that was her problem. Mine was to make the book as true as I could, and that meant this title.

  49. Joel Mayer

    Very timely question! Mark Coker says the best sellers on Smashwords have titles running to about four words, more or less. See:

  50. 120Pages

    I read somewhere that it's a good idea for a title to have more than one meaning. That the title should be a nod at, not only the obvious plot, but also a deeper meaning — maybe even something you don't understand until you've experienced the story and the characters. I love this idea but find it incredibly hard to do. And there are plenty of fantastic titles that don't necessarily do this. But the idea has stuck with me nonetheless.

    So, while I don't necessarily go for a title that has two meanings, I do try and find a title that not only describes something about the story, but also conveys the tone, or feel, of the story. If it's a fantasy story, I want the title to have a fantastical sound to it. If it's a mystery, I want the title to make me curious (and maybe just a little scared). Granted, these are for fiction works, but I suppose the same could apply to a work of non-fiction. What is the book about, but also what's the style and approach – fun, funny, serious, dry, etc.

  51. Anonymous

    I think this is so different for everyone, Nathan, you're the only one who can really know what is the best title for your book.

    You title blog posts all the time, so go back and check out which of your blog post titles were the most effective and that might help. I've actually always been a little jealous of how you can choose blog post titles and get so many seemingly intelligent people interested in absolutely nothing significant at all (What Literary Character Would You Most Like to Be?)…and this is a compliment 🙂

    Brainstorming helps, checking out titles on Amazon helps, and just sitting down and writing what comes to the top of you head helps sometimes.

    I always like titles that refer to something in a book that's significant to the book. Many times the title is right in the book somewhere and you didn't even notice it.

  52. Lanette

    I love titles that are mentioned once in the book that seems to tie everything together in an obscure way; ex: THE COLOR PURPLE or WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. However, I didn't do that for either the book I'm currently submitting or for my WIP. My completed novel has the nickname of the city it's set in because it encompasses the theme very well. My WIP has an ironic title, which is a phrase repeated constantly through the novel.

  53. Tom Bradley Jr.

    In its initial iteration (how alliterate of me!) many years ago, my novel was titled HULA BULA BABY. After much editing and total gutting of plot and characters, I found the old title no longer worked. With some help from fellow writers, I changed it to THE KONA SHUFFLE (set in Kona, plot involves "shuffling" of backpacks, one of which contains a small fortune in stolen jewelry). Now I am working on a follow-up novel, THE HILO HUSTLE, and have a WIP in the can titled THE BLACK SAND BOOGIE. Note a trend?

  54. DL Johnstone

    CHALK VALLEY, my first, came as a gift out of the blue very near the start if writing it, and it never changed. I still love it – Chalk, because it's skeletal, brittle and transitory, and Valley, because it's such a remote, otherwise beautiful place. Doesn't that just scream "Serial Killer thriller"?

    FURIES, on the other hand, was like birthing conjoined twin elephants. I didn't have a clue what title to use, so I called it "that Alexandria book". Several times I called it much worse. My agent offered two titles, both of which I hated but went with anyway. The first "The God Who Murders" from a theme and phrase in the book. Then "All the Serpents Bite" from an ancient Egyptian epitaph. Great inspiration, but what was the point? I loathed them!

    So I researched and brainstormed and hit my head against the wall. I finally thought of FURIES, from an epic poem by Aescylus. The FURIES were avengers of murder in Greek mythology. Perfect reference, sharp title. Once I decided on it, I couldn't believe it had taken me so long.

  55. Automan21k

    I have 3 in the works, and I refuse to identify them with a title until I am ready to openly talk about them with friends/family. I find it easier to tell people "I'm working on a few untitled books".

    When they are ready to see the light of day I will pick a title, until then they have project names based on the date/time I write the first word on the page.

  56. jenna123

    I'm the pits at titles. I usually accost friends, family, and random strangers with a piteous expression and ask them to name my magnum opuses.

  57. Greg

    I like to use a methodology, and I like the title to be short. "Wool" is one of those ideal titles. Short, memorable, and meaningful to the story.

    1. Assemble a list of key words relevant to the content
    2. From those, build a list of prospective titles (various combinations)
    3. Look for clever, memorable combinations. E.g. "Write Right" or "Writing Right" or "Wright Now"
    4. Send the list out to your "trusted circle" 6 -10 key people who give it to you straight up and tell you what they like and don't like.
    5. Winnow it down to 3 or 4 (at most) final candidates
    6. Send those out to the inner circle for a vote and comments
    7. Check with your wife or girlfriend (if you have such), and tell her how profoundly grateful you are for her input, even if you don't use it.
    8. Then, with all that input, make a decision.
    9. Wait a week.
    10. If you don't like your decision, make a different one. You need to find one that feels good after a week.
    11. If none of that works, write each final candidate on a slip of paper.
    12. Wait for a breezy day, climb a step-ladder, and release the slips in the wind.
    13. Find the slip that blows the furthest before getting hung up.
    14. Use that one.

  58. D.M. SOLIS

    I keep a hook book, it's a songwriter's thing. Combining hooks can make for some curiously quirky titles. Word twists are often fun and intriguing, as in, "Forever Only Lasts So Long."

  59. Anonymous

    You already have web presence and following most authors don't have. Make sure you use your name in the title. Think search engines.

  60. Cindy Dwyer

    My title was the hardest part to write out of the whole book! I write humor and my book is about family – the "apple never falls far from the tree" concept, which would be cliche as a title.

    I brainstormed words having to do with family, craziness, mayhem, love, etc. I even searched for quotes about family. By the time I finished I had filled the front and back of a piece of paper with words and phrases.

    When I thought of My Roots Are Showing I knew instantly that it was the perfect play on words to give an immediate sense of what my book was all about.

  61. Allyse

    My YA book title, 'FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS' is also the name of a book the main character is reading within my book. I thought it was a pretty clever conceit!


    My best titles come before the story. If I write a story and THEN try to come up with a title, it's much much harder. It's almost like my title is the theme that gets the story going and keeps it focused.

  63. Saul Bottcher

    For fiction authors, here's a formula that might help:

    (essence of your book) + (a twist)

    Start by figuring out what your book is really about. This might be a specific character, an event, a moral theme, or whatever.

    Then, find a creative way of expressing that idea by adding some perspective to it.

    For example, the title "The Catcher in the Rye" comes from the protagonist's description of himself. It's a better title than "Holden Caulfield" because it sounds more poetic, but also because it suggests that the book is about how the protagonist perceives his own identity (which is what coming-of-age stories are all about!).

    I've written almost 30 different "twists" you can use to create a title here:

    It's also important to keep some practical considerations in mind. For example:

    -Will my title work as a web address (domain name)?

    -If I search on Amazon or Google for this title, are the results already crowded with duplicates or similar titles?

    I've written some more details about the practical side of titles here:

    Hope it helps!


  64. Cynthia Washburn

    I like to check that my proposed title hasn't been used before.

  65. Greg Field

    I take what first comes into my head and then run some analysis on it.
    Does it actually convey the right meaning or does it just sound good?
    What would a librarian type into a database that would set my title apart from others?


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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