Tag s | Titles

I Couldn’t Think of a Good Title for This Post

Some writers love to come up with titles for their stories, articles, or books. Some hate it. Some are good at it, some are awful. But we all have to do it, like it or not. A title can make or break a pitch, even though editors will often change our titles.

So here are my twelve top tips (try saying that ten times fast!) for titling your tomes:

  1. Know your market.

If you’re writing for the Christian market, some words and phrases should not be in your title. A title that enchants women may not appeal to men. Or kids. And so on.

  1. Define the genre, tenor, tone, and theme you want your title to convey.

A great title for a Gothic romance probably won’t fly for your picture book. Obviously.

  1. Review at least twenty titles in your genre.

Or 100. Become a student of titles, especially in your genre. Figure out why you find some more intriguing or compelling than others.

  1. Brainstorm a list of words related to your story, article, or book.

Sometimes a title leaps out at you. At other times you have to go fishing. And brainstorming words and phrases that relate, even tangentially, to your piece may spark inspiration.

  1. Circle or highlight words that might work as a single-word title.

I know many people don’t like single-word titles, but I’m kind of partial to them, myself. Holes. Dune. It. 1984 (okay, that last one’s cheating, but just a little).

  1. Start experimenting with different word combinations.

Some titles seem to be delivered to the author, while others take time and effort—and play—until something “clicks.” I wonder if that’s what happened with Neverwhere and Dragonspell.

  1. From those lists, compile a list of twenty or more possible titles.

Don’t stop until you have twenty, even if you think one or two are positively, absolutely, “the winner.”

  1. Narrow your list to 4-5 possibilities.

Try not to focus only on your “favorites,” at this point. It’s too soon for that. Shoot for variety.

  1. Compare your short list to the list of titles from other books, especially those in your genre.

Are any too similar to someone else’s title? Do any not sound like a title in your genre? Do they evoke what you want them to? (I recently chose a name for a children’s book that the editor thought could have been the title for a Stephen King novel, a possibility that had totally escaped my attention).

  1. Field test 4-5 titles.

For example, write the titles on 3×5 index cards and show them to friends and acquaintances, especially those who read in your genre. Ask not only “which one do you like?” but also “what does it suggest to you?”

  1. Ask a few more questions of your top title.

Does it “snap, crackle, and pop?” Does it lend itself to a sequel or series? Would your target audience be drawn to it? Etc.

  1. Run with it…but don’t fall in love with it.

Remember that your job in writing and pitching your work is to come up with a perfect title. But there’s a good chance a savvy editor will make it better…or replace it entirely. That’s a good thing.

Of course, you may do all of the above, and still not be excited about your title. That’s okay. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

You may want to start the above process again, and do it as many times as necessary to “nail it.” That’s okay, too. It’s an art, not a science.

You may need to keep writing, using a “working title,” and praying that something better will leap out at you. Sometimes that happens—like the sudden realization that I should have called this post, “Creating a Title Wave.”

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Choosing a Good Title For Your Book

Placing a good title on a book is not as simple as one might think. In fact, some prominent books have had rather circuitous journeys to their final title. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice started out as First Impressions. Tolstoy’s All’s Well That Ends Well released to some yawns until …

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Naming Names

We recently received several excellent questions that I would like to answer: 1.) Should (you) repeat a book name and how old should it be? I believe you are asking if it is okay to use the same title for your book even if it has already been used before. …

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Get Attention with the Right Title

 When an agent or her assistant tackles the email slush pile, she sees one subject line after another written by authors vying for attention. Some lines describe the book category, while others make a claim about the author himself. But most include the book’s title. I tell authors not to get attached to titles because all too often, they are changed somewhere between the time the editor takes the proposal to Committee and when the book goes to press. However, putting thought into the title at the proposal stage will help orient us to the book and a really catchy title might excite us enough to open your email proposal right away. Who wants to read a boring book?

Consider these fiction titles:

Rodeo Sweetheart by Besty St. Amant

The Guy I’m Not Dating by Trish Perry

Sketchy Behavior by Erynn Mangum

These titles made me smile and want to learn more.

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Silly Saturday


Today is International Bacon Day! Celebrate the Bacon!

Apparently this past week, according to the LA Times, a rapidly trending Twitter “game” has been to replace movie titles or book titles with the word Bacon. For example:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Bacon
Pretty in Bacon
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Bacon
Eat, Bacon, Love
The Lord of the Bacon

So I thought, “Why not apply the same to bestselling Christian titles?” And came up with the following list:

The Bacon Driven Life
The Five Bacon Languages
Crazy Bacon
Bacon Wins
Redeeming Bacon
21 Immutable Laws of Bacon
Bacon is for Real
90 Minutes with Bacon
Same Kind of Bacon as Me

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Three)

Remember that old adage for retailers, “The customer is always right?” Well, for novelists seeking the perfect title, that should be “The audience is always right.”

Tip #4: Remember Your Audience! Novelists do a great job, on the whole, of keeping their audience in mind as they write. But sometimes when trying to come up with a catchy title or cover image, they go a bit far afield of that audience. The result is that readers who would love the story won’t even pick it up. And those who do pick it up may not find what they expected inside. So as you work on your title, remember who your reader is. For example:

Age range. If your book would appeal mostly to Christian women in their 40s and up, then don’t use a trendy title that will appeal to the twenty-somethings. And watch out for technology phrases. Unless your certain your core audience is familiar with both the meaning and use of something technologial, steer clear. For example, using RAM, bits, bytes, and bauds as words in your title may work for a younger audience, or one that’s technologically savvy, but for older readers? Odds are good you’d lose ’em. (Or have them writing you letters scolding you for misspelling bites.)
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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Two)

First, here are the answers to last week’s questions:

Name That Tone!

The Boneman’s Daughters–chilling

Redeeming Love–romantic

The Shunning–Amish

The Riddlemaster of Hed–fantastical

A Vase of Mistaken Identity–whimsical

Without a Trace–suspensful

Three Weddings & a Giggle—humourous and romantic

Name that Genre!

Kidnapped–adventure

Sister Chicks Down Under—witty women’s fiction

The Lightkeeper’s Ball—historical romance

Deadly Pursuit—suspense

The Twelfth Prophecy, A.D. Chronicles—biblical fiction

Okay, now, on to Tip #3 for crafting strong titles. As USA channel puts it, Characters welcome! Ever and always, Keep Your Characters in Mind. Sometimes the best title for a book focuses on the character.

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part One)

One of the most difficult—and important—things we did when I worked in the publishing house was come up with titles for our authors’ novels. Sometimes it was a breeze, either because the author’s title was spot-on or because the story lent itself organically to a certain title. But more often than not, it was a long process of back-and-forth with the author, marketing, and sales. So how can you, the author, develop a title that works well? Give the following tips a try.

1. Tone. Be sure your title reflects the tone of your story accurately.

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