Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What's the best way to title your book?

A writer e-mailed me to ask, "How do you name your books? Whats the best way to go about it?"

For a writer, titling is one of those funny things where it matters ... but it also might not.

I didn't come up with a single one of my titles. Actually, I came up with So Over It, but that was when my publishing house came back to me and said, "We're not sold on these original titles - what else you got?"

They say somewhere around 50% of writer's titles get changed by their publishing house. The theory I've heard on this is that writers tend to pick titles that you "get" only if you've read the book, whereas a marketing department is better at picking something that will sell.

So does it matter what you come up with? Yes.

Your title is your first impression. When you write your query letters to agents, it's one of the first things they see: "Dear agent, Please consider representing my manuscript, TITLE GOES HERE." And that title leaves an impression.

Here are a few tips for titling:

1. Brainstorm

Don't expect the title to just pop into your brain fully formed. I hear it sometimes does, but it's not often. Don't be afraid to brainstorm.

2. Talk to others

When you've done all the brainstorming you can do, see what others think. When my friend, Roseanna, has brainstormed some decent options, she'll post a list of them along with a description of the book on her blog and hold a titling contest. She often gives away a free book or two, and in return she not only gets feedback on the titles she came up with, people suggest others. You can also do this on your Facebook pages. (I often do this with character names as well on my Facebook Fan Page.)

3. Google it

When you think you've got The Title, Google it and see what comes up. Search for it on Amazon.com and see if there's anything close.

Anyone have some favorite book titles they'd like to share? One of mine is Carolyn Macklers, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things. Makes me chuckle every time. And, by the way, I happen to know she came up with this title herself. If I'm remembering the interview correctly, it took her like two years or something.


  1. Hey, I got a link! Cool! ;-)

    Most of the time when I (or my blog followers, LOL) are coming up with titles for my books, I try to pinpoint what theme or image I'd like to appeal to. Perfect example: for the book set at the beach, the options were all oceanic--and I ended up choosing YESTERDAY'S TIDES.

    For Christian books, I also love to make use of BibleGateway.com and do a search through the Bible for a word I'd like to use. Like searching for "sand" for my archaeology story gave me a Genesis verse that led to THE STARS AND THE SANDS.

    FYI -- a friend of mine chose a title she didn't really like, thinking, "The publisher will change it" and then they DIDN'T. So make sure you like whatever you come up with--you might get stuck with it, LOL.

  2. I got the book you sent me, Steph --thankyou SO much, I can't wait to read it!!! :D

  3. Glad it arrived, Emii! Never shipped internationally before :)

  4. In that case, I'm honoured to be your first reader of a book been shipped internationally from you. :D