Five Tips for Choosing a Book Title

Greetings! Welcome!

First off, it’s Leeda, not Lieda or Lydia or Linda. My blog title – Follow the Lida – would be pun-free without the correct pronunciation of my name. Who cares about titles? After all, I don’t remember the names of each of the Stephanie Plum or Nancy Drew series, but I don’t enjoy the novels any less. What prompts us to read a book anyway? The first impression. Casting aside the selling point of a big name author, we consider the genre, an intriguing excerpt, a captivating cover, and an interesting title as readability factors. If you’re one of the fortunate few writers who discovered the title of her book beneath a windshield wiper, no need to read on. Otherwise, a few pointers for title selection:

  1. Character name – think Carrie, Rebecca, Forrest Gump, Hamlet, Robinson Crusoe or Winnie the Pooh. They all worked well enough, don’t you think?  I briefly (2.5 seconds) considered entitling my novel, Paprika. I like the spice, but it’s also the name of a secondary character, hence the 2.5 seconds.
  2. Single words – I like concision. And I’m not alone. Think: Jaws, Gravity, Persuasion, Divergent, Nemesis or MASH. If my book had fallen in the horror genre, I might have called it Corrie, after my main character, with hopes of attracting a few bleary-eyed Stephen King devotees.
  3. Places – Consider the location by itself or incorporated in the title like: Chinatown, Gosford Park, Bergdorf Blondes, Mystic River, even The Stepford Wives. Would The Fashion Island Murder Meet-up have worked for me? No, because the only thing Fashion Island did for my main character was to bring out her lying side.
  4. Text search – Take a solid, hard look between the covers of your manuscript. Anything title worthy? Unique lines? Interesting phrases? Look for specificity. For instance, a question such as, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? And don’t limit your search to your own work. Take a peek at someone else’s masterpiece. This includes novels, poetry, or nursery rhymes. For instance:

    All the King’s Men (borrowed from Humpty Dumpty)
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (courtesy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
    The House of Mirth (Biblical)

  5. Go for free-form thought. Let the ideas flow while engaged in other activities. Agatha Christie once said her best ideas came to her while doing the dishes. This did not work for me. I have too much of a love affair going on with my dishwasher. His name is Ken. Take a walk outside while sky-gazing and humming, not only to prove yourself capable of this multi-task, but to allow ideas to pop into your head (caution: do periodically look downward to avoid tripping or colliding with something or someone unforgiving).

My title, Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters, was not discovered under my windshield wipers, but it did pop into my head while sky-gazing.

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Grace Topping
Grace Topping
9 years ago

Thanks for the list of things to consider when naming a book. It will be a helpful guide. Unfortunately, I’ve heard writers often say that the publisher changed the title of their books. Good reason to self publish.

9 years ago
Reply to  Grace Topping

Fortunately, my publisher did not change my title, but you are right – indie publishing ensures the author has the last word. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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