Book titles! They’re such a small part of the overall product and word count, but they carry so much weight! A good title can pull your readers in and make them want to pick up your book, while a bad title will do the opposite. But finding the perfect title for your novel can be really challenging! And when you consider how important your title is, it can start to mess with your head. So much so that it might be hard to know where to start.
With that in mind, here are eight tips that I’ve found ridiculously helpful for finding the best title for your novel.
1) Do your title last
The best titles encompass a core theme of your book or main character. Often times, I’ve found that I have to make it to the final draft before I really know my book well enough to understand what I’m writing about. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t/shouldn’t do some light thinking and drop in a working title early on. If you want to, go for it! But I wouldn’t suggest giving your title a ton of your time or brain power until you’re totally finished your book and genuinely need a title. Once you reach that point, you’re playing with a full deck of cards, which will make it that much easier to come up with a killer title for your novel.
Of course, sometimes the perfect title just comes to you, and when that happens you should absolutely run with it!
2) Make a list of themes and related words
Once you finish your book and know what it’s about, make a list of themes, key events, and any related words. Then see if there’s a phrase that can capture one of your themes or events. This was how I came up with Crossing the Line. In the book, my main character makes the jump from working with the bad guys to working with the good guys. That’s the biggest line that’s crossed in the book, but there are a handful of other smaller ones too. So thematically, I think it works on a few different levels, which makes it a very fitting title for the book.
3) Use a thesaurus
If you have your word list, but can’t find a good phrase or combination, run those words through a thesaurus. This is a great way to work your theme into your title in a way that stands out. It’s one of my favorite title tricks. It’s also how I came up with Enemy Exposure, which as a title, I think stands out more than Crossing the Line. When I google Enemy Exposure all of the search results are my book, and that’s definitely not the case with Crossing the Line. (Not that I would change anything, because like I said, Crossing the Line is a fitting title. It’s just something to think about.)
4) Consider alliterations, internal rhymes, and other literary/poetic devices
You want your title to be memorable. One way to do that is to make your title satisfying to read. Literary and poetic devices are great for this. They make your title easy for your reader to recall and pass on, which can help grow your readership down the line. Here’s a list of poetic literary devices to help you out!
5) Look to other titles you like for inspiration
If you’re really struggling, look to your books shelves. What titles do you really love? Why do you like them? What about them do you want to mimic?
6) Consider your main character
Think about your character’s journey and what they go through in your book. Make a list like you did for your themes and key events. Is there anything that stands out? Is there anything you can put through the thesaurus?
7) Use a key line from your book
When you were writing your book, did you have a moment where you wrote a sentence and thought, “That’s it! This is what the book is about!”? If you did, can you modify that sentence for the title? Or is there a line that you overlooked that could work as a solid title? Maybe this is just me, but I get nerdily excited when I’m reading a book and there’s a sentence that basically has the title written out.
Or maybe you had to cut a line that you really loved because it just didn’t fit. Could you salvage that darling by reworking it into a title? (This is a trick I learned from a flash fiction class, but I think it applies pretty well to any type of writing.)
8) Don’t put too much pressure on it
As important as the title is, it also isn’t something that should keep you from submitting your book if you’re at that stage. You should absolutely give your title a lot of thought, but if you’ve been thinking about it hard for more than a week, it’s holding you back. At that point, I would suggest picking a working title and setting your book free. Because yes, the title is important. But it’s also really easy to change. If you have a title that you think is “good enough” hit submit–even if you think it can be better. If you’re trying to get an agent or an editor, it’s doubtful that your title will be the reason you don’t land one. If an agent/editor likes your writing, they will help you come up with a better title if need be.
I hope this helps you find the best title for your novel!
Now it’s your turn: How do you come up with a title for your novel? Is there any tip or trick that’s helped you? Tell me about it in the comments!
Pin it up!