After having spent all those long hours writing your story, editing and re-editing, choosing the title should be the easy part.
You may already have one in mind.
Before you decide for sure though, check out these 8 tips for getting it exactly right. After all, it is thought that choosing a good title will do more for your sales than any other decision you will make about your book.
1. Get the length right
The length of your title should be the shortest title you can manage while conveying the meaning or gist of your story.
Around five words or less is an ideal length for a title, though if you really need more, remember that you can always go for a snappier main title and longer sub-title.
You must consider early on whether you are writing a series or a standalone novel as this may impact your title: many series writers go for the main title and sub-title approach e.g. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series (The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger, The Dark Tower 2: The Drawing of the Three etc).
Your title needs to fit comfortably on the book cover and should be short enough for use in website URLs if you decide to set up a dedicated website. You wouldn’t want a website called www.thelongandcuriousjourneyofthemanintheblackmask.com.
Think too about social media… is your title snappy enough to be remembered for use in hashtags?
One word titles. Let’s say your book was simply called ‘Murder’. If a potential reader types this into a search engine, results on the general topic of murder are likely to place higher than your novel. Using one-word titles also increases the possibility that another author has already used it for their story. If you must use one word, make it really stand out.
2. Watch your words
Try not to use words in your title that are difficult to pronounce or understand; readers aren’t going to grab a dictionary to check what your title means, they will simply keep browsing.
Once you have something in mind, try saying it out loud. Does it sound right?
Using symbols. You need to be able to duplicate your title when typing it in social media, on an author or book website URL or for marketing articles. There are restrictions on which characters you can use in Twitter hashtags, for example.
3. Make it memorable
What we really want is for readers to love our story so much that they recommend it to their peers. Your title needs to be memorable. Don’t call it ‘A Person Dies’.
How to make a memorable title:
1. Make it original. Readers are drawn to more unusual titles
2. Use alliteration
3. Use contradictory phrases to add interest
4. Don’t be afraid to be provocative, a reader won’t pause for long looking at a boring title
It’s not just a potential reader judging your title choice, agents and editors will form opinions on it too!
Giving away the ending, twists or important plot developments with your title.
4. What is the essence of your story?
Your title should tell the readers the concept of your book: the most important person, event or idea that you’ve written about.
Does the title fit with your genre? If someone is flicking through titles in their local bookshop, is it obvious that your story is a crime, thriller or mystery, for example?
Mixing up POV. If your book is written entirely in the third person, don’t use the title ‘My Dead Neighbour’, for example. Keep the point-of-view consistent throughout.
5. Cover art considerations
You should be thinking about the colour and design of your cover when you decide on the title because these should tie in together.
For inspiration, check out this shortlist of The 22 Most Iconic Book Covers of All Time.
6. The search engine check
Before you decide for definite on a title, you MUST do the search engine check. Type your chosen title into a search engine and have a good look through the results.
This could flag up any number of issues. The more common one might be that the title has already been used by another author. This isn’t too much of an issue if that story is written in a different genre or isn’t a high seller. If you clash with a popular book you might want to rethink your choice!
You may also find that your title is associated with a famous person or event in history, and not always in a good way. To ensure you’ve had a thorough look you could also consider typing the title into Amazon to see what comes up. Your title could be associated with other items for sale.
7. Test the saleability of your title
There are a number of tools available for you to put your chosen title to the test, to see how well it might sell on the market. Use Lulu’s Title Scorer algorithm to reveal the percentage chance of becoming a bestseller!
8. And finally… break the rules!
You need only look at the top bestselling books to see examples of titles that break the ‘rules’ we have discussed here. If you love your title then stick by it.
After all, it’s your story.
Over to you
Have you ever had to change the title of your story? Share the reasons why in the comments below!