What makes a good book title?

February 23, 2007

I went away for the weekend–to Klipsan Beach–to find a title for my new book. Klipsan BeachMy ever-wise editor wants it to reflect a) a sense of place and b) a feeling of escape. So I escaped to a place with a strong sense of place and I’m waiting for a lightning bolt of inspiration. You’d think after 30 books, I’d know better.

 The book will be published in February 2008. It’s another of the “Lakeshore Chronicles” books about the made-up Catskills town of Avalon.

How do you find the right title for a book?

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| 38 Comments
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  • I’m only 10 & I’m writing a book, but I haven’t really started yet. It’s about a brother & sister who move in the middle of the year & they know nobody at the there new school. But the siser joins the cheerleading squad at school & she finds a new friend who cheers for everything ppl do. THe brother joins the preforming arts club & everybody teases him because they think the preforming arts club is for nerds. but the brother finds a friend who gets teased too for being in the preforming arts club & they become friends & they help each other not get down-in-the-dumps about being teased. I don’t know any names, or a good title or a good plot. Please help.

    • Hey Elizabeth, I am 10 years old to and I have written 3 books. It is good to find someone my age who enjoys writing as much as I do.
      Your book seems great! I would love to read it someday.

      Otherwise, I need help with names for my book. It is about 2 best friends who live in a small town. They both would love to become models. But when a big-time fashion designer from New York sees their faces on a Bilboard, he contacts the both of them. But only one of them is exepcted to become a full-time model.
      Maybe you could reply and help me with a name for the book and names for one of the girls. Thank you and Nemosta. (Good Luck) 🙂

      • Sorry, I forgot to reply to your questions.

        For a title name, I would maybe suggest ‘Fitting In’ or maybe even the name of the school.

        For the character names, I really like the name Natalie and Alana. I have experience in coming up with character names. (for the boy possibly James, Christopher, or Ty)
        Thx again. Nemosta 🙂

  • I’m am getting really far in a book i’m wrighting, but i cant think of a title that fits well with it. i have the back of the book already, it sounds a little cheesy but this is my first attempt at anything bigger than a school project. the back says: when dreams turn to nightmares, people’s lives are in danger and your the reason, who do you turn to? fourteen year old Alexis finds her world turned upside down when her search to find her birth father, turns into a battle for the lives of thousands of inoocent people. it all comes down to one choice. will Alexis choose the right one?
    it is about pain, loss, and love. right now i have the title Shatterd Skies. is it a good one? or should i look for something else?

  • hi i`m an 11 year old girl and i `m looking for a good title for a horror, mystery , romance novel i`m writing.

    here`s the summary: A brown haired girl ran through a dark,cold damped tunnel as ‘They’, chased her. The girl was sure that they weren`t of this world. Afraid to even look back she ran faster and faster until she reached the peek of ” Avala Cliff.”

    she woke ,screaming as her brother rushed in to see what was wrong.

    but as far as she knew the boy wasn` t her brother….

  • I usually leave titles till last and then take a word or phrase from the text as I do with my poetry as well. However I’ve been working on a novel which has always had one title, until recently when another book came out with that title. I don’t want mine to be the same and it was always only a wroking title anyway. Now I’m looking to change mine. As I’ve been revising ready for submission, I’ve made a list of phrases from the txt that are possibles. Then I googled to make sure there is not another book with that same title. At present I have a short list.
    I’ve read and enjoyed several of your books Susan.

  • I just finished ghostwriting a friend’s memoir. It is his story as a thirty year career criminal who experience a profound spiritual awakening in prison. We are trying to decide about which of two titles to use. The primary market is Self-Help/Spiritual Awakening. Secondary market: African American.

    Off the cuff, if you saw either of these titles on the book shelf, which would make you want to pick up the book more?

    The Last Hustle, or
    Chased by Grace

    Should a title be chosen according to the target market?
    Thanks so much for weighing in! Your expertise is greatly appreciated.
    shanti

  • I’m also writing a book that I’m planning on getting published. I have been writing books for years, but I never really got around to getting one published. I have a friend who is willing to work as an agent and my book is almost finished, but I have no idea what to title it. I’m afraid that my creativity has gone down the toilet and I’m terrified that the publisher will just toss my book in the trash after just looking at the title. Any suggestions?

    –Megan

  • Wow, Mya, you asked a mouthful! An editor once told me that a good rule of thumb is to go with your very first instinct–put a quick label on your book and go with that strength and energy. That’s not to say my publisher ever keeps that title! It’s often changed due to sales and marketing input, what else is on the list and what looks good with the cover art. I like both “Waif Girl” and “Hearing Voices.”

    At some point, you just have to let go of the work and declare that it’s done. Writers can pick at something endlessly, but that’s not the way to get it out there for readers. Do you have a writers’ group or a class you can share with? Sometimes a new eye on the material can motivate you to take the next step–sending it in! Good luck!

  • I love this dilemma. I am writing my first book and stuggling with the right title. You are so right when you say the cover/title combo is what sells a book. I started with the title “waif girl “on my very rough draft- not very appealing. It changed to “Hearing Voices”- not so sure about that one either. I now am looking for something with secrets in it- as that is really the essence of my book.
    I have another question… How do you get to the point of being done with the book and ready to submit to agnets/ publishers? I could go on editing forever. I guess the question should be; is it ever really good enough?
    Great post!
    -Mya

  • im writing a book as well. i had a good name for it but it didnt seem right for my book. but i got it from going away on a holidey to a tropical place or a place that relates to your bookand then just sit somewhere un noticable and close your eyes and think of the smell, think of the beauty, just think of the features that relates to your book and write them down. then go back home and put some of the words together but so it makes sence and if its ineresting and is a good title go for it!!!!

    sencerly “un known”

    p.s. hope it works for your next book.

  • I’m truly title challenged. The ones I manage to come up with on my own are quite awful so I usually throw some ideas out there and hope my writing friends can help.

    Good luck with your hunt for the perfect title!

  • I often start without a title, but I fill in something in the ms. header. Sometimes, the placeholder title sticks. Examples – SUMMER BY THE SEA, LAKESIDE COTTAGE. The header of this book says “LAKE EFFECT” which I love but my publisher doesn’t. Dither, dither.

  • Hey I love that! “Woefully untitled!” Thanks so much for commenting on my blog and thanks for the props re: my book.
    I want you to know I am NOT organized…I just have no choice as I live on a boat.
    Yeah titles are interesting animals.
    I usually start with a working title and in the process of writing — a better one will emerge. Ironically Lottery was the working title that I initially didn’t much care for — until I noticed that every time someone saw a bound titled copy of my draft they were compelled to pick it up and glance at it. hmmm, I thought. Maybe there’s something there.
    (I too love Ithaca — one of my earlier novels uses it as inspiration– we have seen more than one sailboat named Ithaca…) NOTE TO SELF: must stop using ellipses as copyeditor hates them and takes them out every time!

  • Dave, this is the key question, isn’t it? (“What are you trying to say?”) Most market studies of commercial fiction (which is what I write) indicate that you have about a second to capture the attention of someone browsing the book racks. This seems shockingly inadequate, except that the human eye and brain can take in a lot of info in a single second. If the book has the right package – cover art, title, overall “look” – the right reader will “recognize” it. She’ll say, “Oh! My kind of book!” Look at Patricia Wood’s first novel – see http://pkwood.blogspot.com/ and notice how you can instantly grasp the essence of this book. (I can, anyway). That’s a great title/cover combination. That’s what I’m trying to find for WOEFULLY UNTITLED which is today’s name for the book.

    I like your titles, too. “Ithaca” is one of those words that is just fun to pronounce. Or maybe it’s just me.

  • So.. what’s the motivation behind titling your book? You’ve got Catskills, and Avalon as a place… and a feeling of escape… beyond something like Escape from Avalon.. what are you trying to say? I usually books and poems based on a small detail of what might be in the book.. also, something that catches attention.

    Examples:

    Soggy Tuna on Rye (a title of a coming to age story… remembering soggy tuna sandwiches is part of the plot)

    Dreamweaver (chapters consisted of dreams)

    Mysteries of Ithaca (another coming of age taking place in Ithaca, NY)

    I don’t think I’m being much help… Titles can draw reader’s to the book.. so I almost like the ambiguity of them… just my opinion

  • I am working on my first book right now. I am not very informed about the process of writing a book – so I am just winging it! I lack the creativity to write stories and tip my hat to you having written so many books. My title came from a story I am very fond of and one that is the basis for my book. It’s called: “The People at The Well”

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