How to Write a Book Title: Practical Tips for Authors
Even though we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we surely can judge it by its title. That’s why you have to pour a lot of thought into the name of your book. Because if the title of your book isn’t well chosen, no one will look twice at your content no matter how profound it is!
That’s why in this article, we will cover everything you need to know about how to write a book title. There is so much to unpack and a lot to consider, so bookmark this article and come back to it whenever you need a refresher.
Why Are Book Titles So Important?
As a reader, you may often skim the titles of the books at your local library without picking any of them. Other times, you may find the perfect read instantly. In both cases, the names of the books play a vital role in determining how likely you are to pick up a certain book.
To paint a better picture, here are the reasons why you should give more thought to your book title:
- Books with great titles sell more. That’s because a great title hooks the readers, draws them in, and convinces them to flip through the pages. This first pull is so important that it’s made authors go to great lengths to rewrite the titles of their books, even after publishing! Your book title is the first impression your book makes, so it has to be impactful.
- You will feel more confident about your book if it has a great title. It’s probably not a great feeling for authors when people look at them strangely when they mention the name of their books.
- Your title can make it easier to reach your target audience. For example, you can usually tell from the title alone whether a book is a sci-fi or a contemporary romance, or if the book promises a better diet or a crash course on college-level astrophysics.
What Makes a Good Book Title?
Before we get started, we wanted to answer one question: should you start thinking of a book title before you write? The answer is that usually, you don’t need to, but it can help you focus on the main themes of your book as the title usually describes them or refers to them in some way. Just keep in mind that the first title you come up with is usually not the final one.
With that out of the way, the first step in coming up with a good title for your book is to consider what truly makes it memorable. There are many things to consider, like originality and relevance. As you think about your book title, think about the following points:
1. Is your title relevant to your book?
The title must reflect what your book is about, or else it becomes misleading. As an example, let’s say you have a murder mystery where the protagonist is related to the victim and the story follows their grief-filled journey. In this case, it’s not wise to name your book “Killer’s Instinct” because that implies the story is about the antagonist.
A more relevant title can be “A Smear of Blood,” which implies a tragic event that led to blood being spilled but leaves enough mystery for the reader to get curious. The word “Smear,” which means marking something carelessly with a thick or greasy substance, works better than, say, “Drop” in implying a struggle or intentional harm to someone in the book.
As a quick cheat sheet of sorts, here is a list of questions you can ask yourself while choosing a title for your book:
- What is the main idea of my book? What am I really writing about?
- Who am I writing this book for? How old are they? What interests them, and what do they avoid doing?
- Which character is the protagonist? Is the story focused on them or the plot events that happen to them?
- Is there a major theme in my book? If so, what is it and what mood does it set for my book?
- How is the conflict resolved in my book, if at all?
- What do other authors’ titles in this genre look like? Is there a common way to write them?
2. Is your title unique?
You don’t want to name your book Pride and Prejudice or The Da Vinci Code, even if you cannot copyright book names and those titles are just perfect for your story. It works the same for non-fiction books, albeit to a slightly lesser degree because of the overlap that happens when you write about subjects like keto diets or DIY furniture.
3. Does your book title draw others’ attention?
Great titles grab readers’ attention for many reasons:
- Strong wording: Phrases like “smear of blood” make readers feel suspenseful or nervous but curious to find out more.
- Wordplay: Using puns and alliteration can grab the reader’s attention quite effectively, on the condition that it’s done with precision.
- Literary sense of perspective: This title implies an opinion on the event that occurred. In our example, “smear of blood”, using “a” instead of “the” can imply that that smear could be one of many. As we discussed before, “smear” implies that something unusual happened, which is better than using words like “drop” or “pool” while giving just enough away for the reader to stop and wonder what happened.
4. Do the words you use come off as offensive?
There is a fine line between strong titles and outright offensive ones. While the balance is delicate, keeping updated with different cultures and beliefs is a good way of making sure that your book title does not offend your potential readers.
5. How long is your book title?
This point is more targeted at non-fiction books that can have very long titles at times. Try to keep in mind that the longer your title, the more likely readers will just skip your book and look at the next one. The average for fiction books is 2–3 words, while non-fiction books tend to have 5 words in their titles and 3–9 words in their subtitle (which is the phrase that follows the title to give more meaning or explanation/context).
How to Write a Showstopping Book Title
Coming up with the best title for your book depends on a lot of factors as we have seen. You may have noticed the distinction between fiction and non-fiction books, too. While there aren’t many differences between the two genres, book titles can look drastically different depending on which one it belongs to. So, let’s take a look at how to handle titles for each of them.
We’ll tackle fiction first because most authors tend to struggle more with fiction book titles than non-fiction ones. To make your brainstorming process easier, we will go over specific points:
- Shorter vs. longer titles: Some authors prefer shorter, more punchy novel titles and go for one or two words maximum (filler words like “the” are included). Examples include Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.
On the other hand, others like using longer titles for more creative freedom or to provide more context, especially with sequels in a franchise. What you choose will mostly depend on your personal preferences. Examples include A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score.
- Using character names in your title: Sometimes you create a name for your character that’s so memorable you want to make it the star of the book cover. While it can be exciting to do so, make sure your book actually focuses on that character and their journey. If you name your book “Lana’s Key” and the book doesn’t mention Lana or her key beyond two or three chapters, your book is not really about Lana’s key and your readers will feel misled.
- Adding powerful, meaningful words that induce emotions: This is a good way to make sure that the readers stop to look at your book and find out more. Using strong adjectives and verbs is usually advisable in your writing, and book titles are no different.
For example, what’s the difference between “Pain” and “Agony”? One simply means the feeling of being physically or emotionally hurt, and the other implies a stronger, more gut-wrenching feeling of pain, which makes “agony” a much better fit.
- Having layered or double meanings to your title: This is a classic trick used by many authors and loved by most readers. When your title has two or more meanings, often one concrete and the other abstract, it can intrigue your potential readers and help turn your book into a memory that stays in their minds for a long time afterward.
A well-known example of this is Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, which refers to the actual fossils the protagonist studies as well as the sexist, condescending male scientists she works with.
- Sentences vs phrases: Once again, this argument depends on your own preferences. Titles like I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Time of the Eagle by Sherryl Jordan both work well for their respective audiences. The only recommendation we have on this topic is to choose a grammatical structure that flows well with your book. Genres like adventure and fantasy can benefit from poetic or exciting phrases for their titles, while mystery, paranormal, and horror may do well with complete sentences.
Non-fiction books tend to have straightforward, informative titles with creative twists to capture readers’ attention. As a result, some authors add a subtitle to improve the clarity of the title of their books.
Many of the things that apply to fiction book titles also apply here, but there are other things to keep in mind, such as:
- Presenting a solution to your readers’ problem: Most non-fiction books present a solution to a problem the readers have, whether it’s a cookbook aimed at beginners learning to cook or an anatomy textbook for med school students.
Explaining the solution your book offers is a great way to hook the reader and draw them in. Examples include Astrophysics For People In A Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Write Better, Faster: How To Triple Your Writing Speed and Write More Every Day by Monica Leonelle.
- Clarity: While your title can be creative and dramatic, it still has to be clear enough for your readers to understand what the book is about right away. Look for a combination of uniqueness, clarity, and intrigue that promises useful information and will convince readers to pick up your book.
Many authors, however, tend to favor a longer and clearer subtitle over the strict word count of the title as it allows them to add more punch to the main title. Examples include The 4–Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss and Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz.
- Making your book title marketable: One of the most important factors that you want to achieve with your book is higher sales, so ensuring that your book title appeals to your target audience is key. To market your book to certain readers, make sure to educate yourself on their average age, career choices, life habits, and the problems they’re most likely looking to solve. You can also make use of the keywords your target audience uses to search for books like yours.
Some great examples include Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat, which targets cooks who want to master their craft, and The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams, which targets health-conscious people who want to incorporate nature into their lifestyle.
Should You Use a Book Title Generator? (Book Title Generators Pros and Cons)
A book title generator is an online tool that generates random book titles based on your chosen genre and keyword. While they sound basic, these generators can be very helpful when brainstorming title ideas for your book, no matter its genre or the story you’re telling. However, some people may be skeptical about them, and they have good reason to be; book title generators are not meant to fix all of the problems that come with picking a great title.
Why Use Book Title Generators
When you’ve exhausted all your creativity writing your book, sometimes thinking of an attention-grabbing and creative title can be daunting. This is where book title generators come in, as using them:
- Saves you time and energy: We all know how tiring an author’s creative process can be. By using a book title generator, you waste less time thinking and more time choosing alternatives or tweaking good results.
- Gives you results you may not have considered: Depending on the generator you choose, you can find titles that you may not usually think of, especially if you’re writing in a genre you’re not used to.
- Is free: None of the generators we have tried charge anything! On the contrary, they are an excellent way to help authors free of charge while also inviting them to explore the websites that host them.
Why Avoid Using Book Title Generators
Like any tool on the internet, book title generators come with trade-offs. Additionally, not all of them are created equal, and some will give you better results than others. Here are some points you may want to consider before using one:
- Results can be repetitive: Book title generators use a database of keywords to give you a book title. These keywords can be different variations of the same thing, so the results you get can seem repetitive or unoriginal.
- They can rely heavily on famous book titles: Another reason you might want to be careful with these generators is their reliance on words that are used often in famous book titles or straight-up variations of those titles. Therefore, you should look up any titles you are thinking of using, even if you made adjustments to them, to make sure that they are original enough.
- Keywords can be limited and non-inclusive: Sadly, if you write about niche topics or talk about uncommon themes or cultures in your work, most book title generators will hinder your thought process rather than supplement it. The keywords used in these generators tend to be more well-known concepts or oriented around popular books.
A List of Great Book Title Generators
The good news about book title generators is that it’s easier than ever to find what you’re looking for, whether you’re writing a horror story or a guide to parenting. To save you precious time, we have compiled a list of the best generators for both fiction and non-fiction books below:
- Reedsy’s Book Title Generator
- Fantasy Name Generator’s Book Title Generator
- Imagine Forest’s Book Title Generator
- Sefchurchill Romance Novel Title Generator
- Pulp Sci-Fi Title-O-Tron
Coming up with a title for your book doesn’t have to be difficult; the hard part is using a clear theme in your book that you can focus on in your title. So don’t worry if it’s hard to think of the perfect title right away. Once you have a great book with a gripping story, or unique insights on a common problem, you already have the main substance of your title. And while coming up with a title that is worthy of your book can be tough, it’s so rewarding by the end of it!