A book title might not contain many words, but it is the first thing your reader sees, so it’s important to get it right. This blog will help you get those first few words just right.
What makes a good title?
The best thing a title can do is draw people in. A good title should employ a ‘hooking factor’, which is anything that will stand out to readers. This can take many forms, whether it’s a curious-sounding title with a mysterious tone, or a sense of familiarity accompanied by some recognisable features. Alternatively, your title could earn its memorability with sheer quirkiness, such as the title Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. You might also consider using shock tactics to catch the eye of your reader, as seen in Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving F***. As a rule, the ‘hooking factor’ of the title should match your story.
Also remember a title that’s more unique can also be more marketable. Likewise, it’s worth considering the searchability of your title as this will directly impact its ability to be discovered by new readers. While it might not be the priority when deciding on your title, it is worth looking into Amazon’s keywords to keep you in good stead.
Playing into the genre of your novel
Many book buyers will know what they want to read before buying, which you can appeal to in the title. If you are writing a rom-com title, keep it light and sentimental. An effective trick you can use is a play on a recognisable phrase, for example The Hating Game. Horror titles tend to be short and are usually a literal description of the mythic threat of the story, making for a strong hook. Think It or The Haunting of Hill House. Whatever the stereotypes of your market are, know them well so you can use them to draw in an audience.
What’s best: vagueness or specificity?
A snappy one-word title thrives on its simplicity. With limited context, shorter titles are more easily interpreted and can incorporate more ideas because they relate to broader themes. However, a long title full of detail can also spark a reader’s interest. Take for example The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Places to start
Words with strong associations are a great place to start with your title. People love to recognise things--whether it’s original iconography from your brand, or something in the real world. Including a specific date, place or event is also a great starting point, because they can work as a connection point with your readers. Titles like Murder on the Orient Express or Love in the Time of Cholera are strong because they paint a picture for the reader and play nicely into the genre rule.
Another starting point could simply be the name of your protagonist. It might not seem very imaginative, but it does make the story recognisable and can help you make a strong brand for yourself, such as in Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Do note that using a protagonist’s name for a title is often associated with YA fiction, so be aware of forming mis-associations with the wrong demographic.
When to write the title
Starting your project off with the right title is just as important as starting it at the right time. Most authors have an idea of their plot, but it may change through various revisions and edits, so it’s worth letting your story evolve before labelling it. Think of your title as a final bow that summarises the entirety of your hard work.