Do You Have a Great Title for Your Book?

Several years ago, one of my daughters entered a photography contest at her school. One of her entries pictured our cat sitting with a plastic bag wrapped around her feet. We never will know how or why our cat did this — the pose just happened. We titled the funny picture, “Cat’s Out of the Bag!”

But then we discovered the rules didn’t allow photographs to be titled. Without the title, the picture looked like a random image of a house cat. A photo of a landscape took the prize.

Of course books and photographs aren’t the same but I hope the point is still well taken. In most cases, a great title will encourage potential readers to investigate a book much more closely than a bland title. For example, Have a New Kid by Friday, which I admit I haven’t (or needed to since my children are grown) read, sounds much more interesting to me than something like HOW TO MAKE YOUR KID DO BETTER.

Don’t you want to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou?

I think Sherry Gore’s upcoming cook book, Me Myself and Pie, sounds like more than just an ordinary cook book. And it is!

As for fiction, are you as intrigued as I am by the title Through the Deep Waters by Kim Vogel Sawyer?

I want to read about The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd, don’t you?

Lynette Eason’s many excellent titles are so promising it’s hard to choose where to start.

Once you and your publisher choose a wonderful title, it’s up to you as an author to make sure the book lives up to readers’ expectations. Thankfully, talented authors with top drawer traditional publishers have a team of editors, artists, and sales people for support.

But before you get to that level, take advantage of choosing a title to garner interest. My assistant’s in-box consists of a list of titles in the subject headings. Some titles stand out more than others. We review regardless of title, but it’s always good for an author when a title makes us eager to open your message. No doubt our time-pressed, hardworking editors feel the same when we submit to them!

Your turn:
Other than the Holy Bible, what is your favorite book title?
What type of title makes you choose a book?
What is the worst book title you can recall?

18 Responses to Do You Have a Great Title for Your Book?

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    Dianne Barker June 26, 2014 at 5:46 am #

    Tamela, I absolutely agree! The title of my new book has been grabbing attention: I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life (CrossBooks). Obviously the title grew out of an experience. It lets readers know what the book is about and that it has a light-hearted tone. I choose to investigate a book title that speaks to a need in my life or intrigues me enough to want to know more. By the way, I appreciated the opportunity to hear you speak at AWSA in Atlanta.

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    Martha Rogers June 26, 2014 at 5:52 am #

    Titles are the bane of my writing. I can never come up with really good ones. To me, that’s one of the most difficult parts of writing. Titles do make a difference.

    I don’t have a favorite title, but the title is what attracts me along with the cover and back blurb. If the blurb doesn’t seem to match up with the title, I may not pick it up. Titles to mysteries and suspense are the ones that intrigue me the most. Brandilyn Collins, Richard Mabry, and Lynette all do a great job with their titles.

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    Cristine Eastin June 26, 2014 at 6:19 am #

    Yep, titles better be attention-grabbing and related to the story. Generally I’m not big on lots of words in a title, however I just started reading “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” Catchy. Pithy and germane titles: “Winter Wheat,” “The River King,” “Before I Go to Sleep,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Dovekeepers.” A title I can never remember is “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.” Which is lots and which is plenty?

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    Diane T. Ashley June 26, 2014 at 6:43 am #

    Although I’ve never read it, I grin every time I think about a book by Michelle Levigne titled “Never Moon a Werewolf”. I hope one day to get it.

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    Emily R. June 26, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    “The Shape of Mercy” by Susan Meissner and “How Huge the Night” by Munn and Munn are two of my favorite titles.

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    sally apokedak June 26, 2014 at 7:09 am #

    Great examples of strong titles. I’m terrible at titling, but I have a favorite. I’ve never read the book–by the time it came out, I was already past the need for it–but I’ve always loved the title, “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” because it perfectly conveys who it’s for and what it’s about in a creative way. And there is a subtitle which interprets the title for women who aren’t aware of who Mary and Martha are, Finding Intimacy With God in the Busyness of Life.

    “Have a New Kid by Friday” is much better than HOW TO MAKE YOUR KID DO BETTER.

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    Deb Elkink June 26, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    Tamela, my sister is a visual artist and, with her imagination being stimulated by pictures rather than words, she’s arguing with me about the title of my almost-completed, contemporary women’s novel. She thinks of cover image and therefore likes my working title (“The Red Journal”) but But I suspect something more “aural” and in line with your suggestions might be preferable (“Daughter Begotten” or “Within” or “A Better Inheritance” or “Household Belongings: A Novel” or several other thematic phrases I’ve come up with).

    So my question, Tamela (and others with opinions), do readers/publishers/agents prefer visual “pictures” (easily matched to cover art) over less concrete and more “ethereal” words when it comes to fiction titles?

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    Wendy Macdonald June 26, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Tamela, I like a book or movie title that has a hook. In grade five I picked ‘The Secret Garden’ out of the library because I wanted to know more about that mysterious garden (I’ve always loved gardens & secrets). The book cover is equally important. My grade eight teacher gave me a bookstore gift certificate, and I ended up picking out ‘Christy’ because of the lovely cover. (Boring title saved by a great cover.)

    For my WIP I asked my family which title they preferred of the ones I had chosen. I noticed that they liked the one that makes you ask a question (and hopefully makes potential readers want to have it answered).

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

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    Jeanne Takenaka June 26, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    Great post, Tamela. I have trouble picking titles for my books. I’m never quite sure what to focus on. The theme? The story question? Something else? If you have tips, I’d love to hear them. 🙂

    One title that intrigues me is Susan Meissner’s A Fall of Marigolds. I haven’t read the book yet, but I love the title. Susan May Warren’s, My Foolish Heart also caught my eye.

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    Penny Zeller June 26, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Great post, Tamela! Titles do grab my attention, whether positively or negatively. I just read Kim Vogel Sawyer’s “Through the Deep Waters,” which I loved, by the way. That title definitely grabbed my attention.

    I agree with Jeanne. Susan May Warren’s “My Foolish Heart” sparked my curiosity and I enjoyed reading it just this past weekend. On the nonfiction side for a well-chosen title, “Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage.”

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    Eleanore D. Trupkiewicz June 26, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Thank you for an excellent post!

    Titles are so hard for me — I write fiction and poetry, and I used to just number my poems because it was easier than trying to figure out what to title them!

    Favorite titles include “Freefall” by Kristen Heitzmann; “The DMZ” by Jeannette Windle; and “Kiss” by Ted Dekker. I prefer titles that are a single word long, something that catches my attention immediately and hooks me in to what the story will be about.

    Worst story title I’ve seen … I’d have to think about that one. Probably most of my titles would qualify!

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    Rebecca LuElla Miller June 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    My current favorite title is Andrew Peterson’s North! Or Be Eaten, book 2 of the Wingfeather Saga. It carries the right amount of whimsy and seriousness, and I think it’s an attention grabber.

    Worst title? The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin.

    Fun questions.

    Becky

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    Jackie Layton June 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Hi Tamela,
    I’m so glad I stopped by today. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve been told not to worry about a title because the editor/publisher will change it anyway.

    Two titles I never forget are children’s books. The Best Loved Doll, and Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

    One of my favorite romance titles is, Until There Was You.

    Thanks for sharing. I’ll work harder on my titles.

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    Gabrielle Meyer June 26, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

    Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers is one of my favorite series titles. It conveys a literal and figurative message. Some other titles that come to mind that relay the story are Anne of Green Gables, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I believe book titles are just as important as names for children, and I labor (no pun intended!) over both!

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    Niki Slovacek June 28, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    When naming my ministry I was looking for a name that would intrigue people but also have great meaning. I came up with “Remember Me”,
    it’s for infant and pregnancy loss
    awareness.
    After speaking to women for a couple of years and getting the same question of “Do you have a book?”…. I decided to write one.
    The book is almost complete and I’ve given it to friends to rip apart and find errors etc.
    Their number one comment was about the title of the book also named “Remember Me”, after the two daughters I had lost and from my drive to make a difference in the world after almost dying giving birth to my daughter who was born still.
    Knowing that they can’t shake the story or the tilte let me know I was on to something…
    (Sorry about posting this from my phone, not the best way to show writting skills!) 🙂

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    Nick June 29, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    I think you are right, given that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is probably the one book that made me want to write – to make readers feel something.

    Then I see what the teenage set reads and Fault in Our Stars, Too Many Catherines, etc. doesn’t seem to hold true for them. I’m wondering what people think about YA… what is the thought process behind naming these books?

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    Natalie Monk June 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Hi, Tamela.

    Great post! I love dreaming up titles.

    The most eye-grabbing title I’ve seen recently is “The Devil In the White City.” After reading the back cover blurb, though, I’ve been too chicken to read it. 🙂

    I used the Titlescorer at Lulu.com to help with the title for my current manuscript. Very interesting to use.

    Susan May Warren has had some excellent titles recently. As well as Laura Frantz.

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