Finding Your Book’s Killer Title

Book titles are difficult for some writers. Yet in order to attract the attention your work deserves, a great title is a must.
Writing Tip for Today: What are some things to think about in deciding on your book’s title?

  • Titles Can’t Be Copyrighted. If another prominent book already has your title, it’s not illegal to use it, but think hard about duplicating it, unless the other book(s) is very old, in a completely different genre (be careful here, too!) or some equally valid reason. Do an Amazon or Google search to determine if your title idea has already been used, and if so, when and where.
  • Speak to the Theme. My great friend and an amazing editor, C.S. Lakin, recently read one of my unpublished novels. She didn’t like the working title, so she suggested key words, theme, motif or metaphor words to help me think up the perfect title. As you go through your manuscript, look for major themes, motifs or metaphors that can help you find a title that sings.
  • Read Poetry. Another writing mentor taught me to consult great poetry for phrases that fit the theme of my book. Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, and William Blake are just a few of the poets whose work often yields titling ideas.
  • Won’t the Publisher Title My Book? For nonfiction, sometimes the answer is yes. And novels are sometimes retitled by committee. But overall, especially if it’s your first novel or you’re trying to gain an agent/editor’s attention, a fantastic killer title is a great way to set your work apart, right from page one. Go ahead and finish your book using whatever working title you think is good. But be prepared, as you begin shopping the work, to come up with something catchy and strong.
  • Keep Lists. The working title for The Fence My Father Built was Thick Water, as in blood is thicker than water. Although it didn’t work for my book, adages turned on their heads or twists on known-titles can bring fresh attention to your book. Meanwhile, keep lists of possible titles, and when the right one hits you, go for it.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

3 comments on “Finding Your Book’s Killer Title

  1. One title literally came to me in the shower (MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER) For another of my books, an agent that I had pitched it to cautioned me about using such a familiar song title as my book title. As it turns out AND THE BEAT GOES ON often does get mistaken for a sonny and Cher spin off. I guess he knew what he was talking about.

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