What’s in a name? How to come up with an amazing title

Are you having trouble coming up with a name for your project?

Some book titles come easily but others don’t, and some just name themselves something stupid and then you have to waste time persuading them to change. Ugh!

This blog contains my top tips to bear in mind when deciding on a title.

By the way, I still haven’t named my work in progress — the working title is Gabby — and I’m hoping to get a name out of the process of writing this blog.

Top Tips for Naming your Novel

1  Check out Goodreads and Amazon for book titles in your genre

Do they all look the same? Is everyone in the historical romance section naming their books after their character? Great. Your life has just got simpler!

Don’t worry about being cliche in your title. Go with the crowd — because readers of your genre know what they are getting, just through looking at the title and the cover (let me know if you want a blog on how to design a cover).

2  Is your book part of a series?

If it is, you will need to decide on your series title. You will be in enormous trouble if you publish one book from a series and it messes up the best series title there ever could be.

There are a few ways of naming a series. You can have the protagonist’s name as part of each novel’s title.

The books can have different titles with the series being named after the first book’s title (think Twilight) or the titles could rhyme or mirror each other in some way, like in the Crossfire Series — Entwined With You,  Bared To You, Reflected In You — you get the gist.

3  Brainstorm your theme, mood, symbols and keywords

This might seem self explanatory but it is worth digging a little deeper on this point. 

Great book titles often use overarching themes or plot points in the title. Examples would be Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

eleanor oliphant

They’re great titles and, if you read the books, they are indicative of the theme.

You could use the mood of the book as a series title. I’m pretty sure there is a successful series out there with the series title of Broken. It fits the mood and theme really well.

Key words and symbols, like Mockingjay or sword are always popular as titles.

Mockingjay

For my novel Gabby I would go through a process of listing the keywords (like robbery, mystery, detective, investigate, chase, do-gooding, friendships, secrets, second chances, witch, hippy, Monopoly, Lucas and Gabby). The theme is forgiveness and the only symbol I could think of was the stolen jewel unless you count the flip-flops (don’t ask).

4  Make titles from your list

Now you have a list of words to choose from. It is worth recapping here the list of generally accepted ways of naming a book:-

  • Name it after your theme. You can’t go wrong with Pride & Prejudice.
  • Name it after a symbol in your book.
  • Use some keywords from your book.
  • Use a line from your book — or a repeated phrase you loved.
  • Name the protagonist’s role — e.g. a king or an accountant.
  • Use an adjective or verb that describes the protagonist or the plot, e.g. Wicked.
  • Plot points in the book.
  • A song lyric from your writing playlist.
  • Element from the world.
  • Use a piece of awesome dialogue.
  • The overarching mood of the book.
  • Base on setting or location – e.g. The Firm.

Some examples for Gabby could be Gabby Saves The Day, Gabby and the Stolen Jewels, Running in Flip-Flops, Secrets Chasing Secrets, , etc.

Make a list for your project. Make a long list. Don’t worry about the quality of the titles, just make that list!

If you think you already have the best title ever — make the list anyway.

5  Make sure the book reflects the genre and is not misleading or inappropriate

If you really like a title but it implies the book is something it isn’t, cross it off your list.

Bad Books

If you love the name The Desert King but your book is about a middle class family from rainy old England, cross it off your list.

Think of your mood or theme. So don’t even think about giving your dark erotica a cheerful name, like Primrose.

There is a better title out there just waiting to be discovered.

6  Google it!

By now you will have a shortlist of potential titles which fit your theme, genre and plot and they will, most definitely, not be misleading.

Next, you must go on Google, Goodreads and Amazon to make sure there isn’t a best selling book or movie that already has that title.

Also, watch out for titles that are overused. You don’t want your title to be one of 20 or 30 others with exactly the same name.

You will kick yourself if you make a cover design and do the typesetting, only to discover a conflict that could have been avoided at this early stage.

But dont’ worry too much, if there are one or two other books with the same or similar names to your favourite. It most likely won’t be a problem if they are in different genres to your own.

7  Test them out

If you wanted to, you could now pick one of the titles yourself, but you could also use the decision as a marketing strategy and to get your book in front of potential purchasers. Here are some ways you could do this:-

  1. You could poll your email list or social media followers (more about email lists in a later blog if you want).
  2. You could A/B test the title with a Facebook ad with a mock-up cover with different names. The cover could like to your book landing page (more about that later if you want) and it would have the added benefit of helping you build an email list of potential purchasers or — even better — reviewers. More later.

Not to put a downer on this step, but it is worth remembering that giving your target audience a choice of three bad names will cause them to pick the best of — you guessed it — a bad bunch. Don’t do that to your audience.

 

If you came out of this process without a book title but a long list of titles that you can’t stand or don’t work for your audience. Don’t worry, just go back to the drawing board.

And what was it that Thomas Edison said about electricity? Oh, yes: —

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ― Thomas A. Edison

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