How to choose a ‘winning’ book title

For an author, choosing a title for their book is much like choosing a name for their child. A book’s title is usually for life, and you want to be sure it’s just right. After all, as much as we say, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’, everybody does. The title sets the tone for the first and subsequent impressions. So how do you choose the right title for your book?

Choose a title that’s appropriate for your genre. A nonfiction self-help book should have a title that clearly illustrates the book’s theme. For example, author Deborah Hining wrote Money Is No Object: How To Get the Life You Dream of Even If You Think You Can’t Afford It. Her main title, Money is No Object, tells the reader immediately that this is about finances. The sub-title explains the book’s coverage a little more in depth. This is about maximising results for people with limited resources.

If you’re writing a piece of historical fiction, then don’t choose an ultra-modern title (and vice-versa). Or, if you’re writing a memoir, allude to that in the title. For example, author Iris Kapil, wrote a memoir about her time in Mogadiscio, Somalia. She titled it Tales of Mogadiscio. The title clearly depicts its a memoir and helps the reader to identify the subject area (Mogadiscio).

Choose a title that reflects the tone of your book. Is your book comical? Then choose a light-hearted book. Likewise, if your book is dark, pick a title that reflects that. Or, perhaps, you’ve written a straight talking how-to guide. Then go with a straight-forward title.

Choose a title that is easily remembered. Your book’s title should stick with the reader. This rule also implies that titles shouldn’t be too lengthy (sub-titles can be oh-so-helpful). In making yourself memorable, you’ll also want to stand out. Whenever possible, avoid titles that sound similar to existing titles – especially existing titles in your same genre. Once you’ve identified the proper genre and tone for your title, then it’s time to get creative.

Here are some places to look for inspiration:

One-word title. One-word titles can be powerful. They’re also easy to remember. A successful one-word title will use a word that invokes a strong feeling, such as Twilight.

Choose a phrase from your book. Is there a particular phrase in your book that evokes the overall theme and tone of the story? Author Celia Leary used this approach with her title Wish For The Moon: ‘Wish for the Moon–that was easy, because this young woman loved to sit on the porch and make wishes on the moon – instead of a star. Once her mother told her, when she asked for a store-bought dress, “Honey, you might as well wish for the moon.” Thus the title.’

Use a play on words. Is there an existing pop culture phrase or common saying that you could bend to suit your book. Some young adult books do this, including Best Friends for Never and Boys R Us.

When it comes time to naming your book, don’t panic if the title doesn’t come to you right away. Brainstorm, reach out to your fellow students and other booklovers. Finally, if all else fails, you can always use the Random Book Title Generator (or not).