How to Come Up With That Bestselling Book Title

I’m sure this has been an issue for every writer at some point. 
You have poured your creative juices into a work you are proud of and depending on what stage of writing you are at, it is always at the back of your mind: WHAT DO I CALL THIS BOOK?

It seems like such a simple task to do, but how do you exactly pick the one title that will complement your book perfectly?

As someone writing their first novel, I have no bloody idea! 

I get mixed opinions on the importance of the book title. For those ‘don’t judge book by its cover’ believers, they say that there have been plenty of ‘crappy’ book titles that were bestsellers, whereas there are the ‘definitely judge a book by its cover’ crowd that think the title can make or break.

From scouring on the internet here are some tips I have picked up (thanks to Karen Woodward for her very helpful article!) 
1. Indicates the Genre

This should be a no brainer, but it can be difficult to do this. My novel is about two sisters, more of a chick lit style book but am I just going to call it ‘Sister to Sister’? No, the title should indicate what genre without being too obvious.

2. Memorable

Probably the hardest criteria to meet, how exactly do you think of a title that is memorable? As difficult as this may be, this is something you need to think about, having a title that will stick in their head as they peruse through the bookshop or online and go ”oooooh’ that looks interesting!”

Help readers out, make the title of your work memorable. Yes, I know, that’s easier said than done but there are a few simple tips.


Short

I’m not an expert on what makes a good title, but I personally like short titles as it does make it easier to memorise, 5 words or less is a good starting point. 

Poetry

Try giving a poetic edge, sometimes a figurative phrase can sum up your book purpose perfectly. 

Maryann Yin gives these titles as examples: When Crickets Cry and Wildflowers from Winter.


3. Use the Characters

Is your book more focused on character development? Perhaps the title can describe a facet of them that drives the plot of the story. In a way, many of the same things that can be said about what makes a character interesting can also be said about titles. Or you could just simply name the book after them, if the story is really about them and their development.

Contradictory qualities

Indiana Jones was a fearless adventurer, but he has an irrational fear of snakes. He’ll face a wave of enemy soldiers without blinking but get near a snake?

4. Descriptive


If you could make the descriptive title imply an action so much the better. Of course, again, that’s much easier said than done. For example:

– Gone with the wind

– The Silence of the Lambs

– Fahrenheit 451
-The DaVinci Code


What do these book titles have in common? They all are used in the book, whether directly or indirectly but they all represent a key plot device. This can be a very interesting way to allude the reader back to the title and gives the title a sense of legitimacy and realism.


5 Tips For Brainstorming The Perfect Title

I love K.M. Welland’s blog, she gives practical advice I frequently find myself using when I write. For example, in how to brainstorm titles. She writes:

i. Research titles in your genre.

Zoom by Amazon and take a look at your genre’s bestseller list. What do the top twenty titles have in common? Write down the ones that particularly pop out at you and note the elements that make them attractive. How can you replicate their effect?

ii. Consider your book’s text.

Your title makes a promise to readers about what they will find inside the book. So why not look inside the book itself to find the title? Are there any lines that pop off the page? Any particularly memorable or unique phrases? What one line in the book best sums up the theme, premise, or protagonist?

iii. Look up words in the dictionary.

Grab your dictionary and flip it open to a random page. Do any words pop out? Make a list.

iv. Analyze songs/poems/books.

One of my favorite techniques is to pull vivid imagery from songs, poems, and old books (the King James translation of the Bible is particularly full of strong and unique words). Make a list of the best phrases and start playing with them. A little clever wordplay can go a long way toward making your title stand out.

v. Free write.


Scribble down every title, word, or combination of words you can think of. I often cover pages in my notebook with various title ideas. Most are dumb, but there’s always one that finally pops out as the perfect representation of the book.

5 Online Tools

If all these tips do not help, the internet is your friend. You can use various online book title generators to get some inspiration but it really helps to have a draft list of titles at hand for you to get an idea of what title you want.

For any non-fiction writers I came across this fantastic tool which analyses the likely chance your book title is a bestseller, I can’t speak for its effectiveness but it certainly has been helpful for me when it came to naming my non-fiction books. The tool is called Lulu Titlescorer and you can use it free, anytime of day 🙂


Do you have any tips for how to generate a book title? I would love to see what you came up with 🙂

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One thought on “How to Come Up With That Bestselling Book Title

  1. Very interesting read. Especially about the research which is something most writers don't bother with. Selling a book is just like any project where you should be doing your market research for it. It is selling a product, after all.

    Like

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