Whether you're a first-time author or a seasoned pro, nailing the title of your book is essential if you want to grab readers' attention and make sure your book ends up in their hands (or on their e-readers).
That doesn't mean it's easy. Schools don't teach classes on how to write a book title. How do you write one that sounds interesting and grabs the reader's attention?
In this article, we'll explore some tips and tricks for writing eye-catching titles that will help ensure your book has the best chance possible of being noticed and purchased.
Write a Book Title the Easy Way
The perfect title starts with a good brainstorm. Here are some ways to generate title ideas on the go:
- Look up other titles in your genre. You'll get some idea of what . Nonfiction titles, fiction titles, children's titles all follow different conventions. Example titles will help you make the most important marketing decision in your author career.
- Who is your main character? Would their name work in your title? What is their main conflict? Figure it out, then write it down.
- The main character's central conflict can give you great ideas for a book's title. For example, all the Harry Potter book titles establish the central mystery or conflict right in the title, e.g. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
- What style of book titles do you like? Write down some of your favorite titles and explore why you like them. I like Jurassic Park, for example, because it encapsulates the entire theme of the story in two words. You know right away it's going to be about dinosaurs in some kind of manmade park, which is instantly intriguing.
- If you're writing a book series, consider how series are titled in your niche. Is each book going to follow a similar template, e.g. Harry Potter and the…, or will they riff on a similar theme, e.g. Twilight, New Moon, and Breaking Dawn?
Gathering Your Ideas
- Write out title ideas whenever they come to you, whether you're out running errands, stuck in a boring meeting, or just lying around the house. Sometimes title ideas even come to you in the bathroom, so make sure you have a pen handy!
- Keep a central list somewhere. You can even text yourself title ideas throughout the day. As long as they live somewhere,
- Write a list of all the different titles you've thought of for your book. Don't worry about how good or bad they are. Then brainstorm and start finding the titles that resonate with you.
When you're looking for good book titles, keep the following things in mind:
1. Keep it short and sweet.
Shorter titles rule. Long titles often put readers off, unless it's in keeping with the genre. But all things being equal, a short title beats a long one. A good rule of thumb is to keep your title under 10 words, seven if possible.
2. Know your target audience.
What are they drawn to? What are they looking for in a book? Once you have a good idea of who your target audience is, you can tailor your title accordingly. If you focus on what the reader wants instead of on what you want them to know about your book, you're more likely to create a title that will compel them to check it out.
Try to follow a format that's familiar to your readers. If they're used to titles like A [Noun] of [Nouns] and [Nouns], you don't have to follow that exact format, but
3. Sex (and romance) sells. (Unless you're writing a kid's book.)
The romance genre is the largest single book genre in the world. So if your book has a romantic plot or subplot, don't be afraid to highlight the romantic content, even if your genre is a bit different.
This isn't new. Over a century ago, Emmanuel Haldeman-Julius made a fortune simply by changing the titles or subtitles of the books he sold. He added the subtitle “The Quest for a Blonde Mistress” to the book The Fleece of Gold, which made sales leap from 6,000 to 50,000 copies a year.
4. Aim for adventure (Especially if you're writing a kid's book.)
By and large, people don't read books to be bored out of their mind. Book titles that capture the reader's imagination work best, especially if you're writing for children or young adults.
5. Make it personal.
People connect with other people, not ideas or concepts. Whenever you can, make sure there's a person in your title, even if the person is an implied “you.” Here are some examples:
- Lycanthropy World could become Werewolves Among Us.
- An Essay on Conversation could become How to Improve Your Conversation or How to Talk to Anyone.
- Safety of Hard Drugs 101 could be Get High Tonight: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Getting Loaded Without Hurting Yourself.
This isn't fool-proof, but if you're striking out with your titles, try making it personal.
6. Use humor judiciously.
A funny title can help your book get noticed, but it's important to make sure that the humor works with your book and your audience. After all, you don't want potential readers to get the wrong idea about what your book is actually about!
7. Be descriptive.
A title that gives potential readers a good sense of what your book is actually about can be very helpful in getting them interested in reading it. After all, you don't want them to feel like they're taking a leap of faith by picking up your book—you want them to know exactly what they're getting themselves into!
8. Brainstorm with friends, and family and writing colleagues.
Sometimes it can be helpful to get some input from people who know you well when you're trying to come up with a good title for your book. After all, they might be able to offer some insight into what would make a catchy, attention-grabbing title for your particular work.
9. Take your time.
Don't feel like you have to come up with the perfect book title right away—it might take some time (and some trial and error) to find the right one. And, if all else fails, you can always change the title later on!
How do I know when I've got a great title?
You'll know you've got a great title when it feels just right. A good title should be attention-grabbing, descriptive, and reflective of the book's content—but most importantly, it should be something that you're proud of.
If you're not sure whether your title is up to snuff, ask yourself this question: would I want to read a book with this title? If the answer is no, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.
The Bottom Line
Writing a great book is only half the battle—you also need an eye-catching book title that will make potential readers want to pick up your book in the first place! By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to writing a title that's sure to get noticed. Who knows, maybe your next book will end up being a bestseller!
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