10 BEST TIPS FOR TITLING YOUR BOOK
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Today we're talking about book titles and how to pick ’em! Titling a book is one of those experiences that's either really easy or a complete nightmare! You either know your title instantly, or you're slamming your head against a wall for months. If you're in the latter position, I’m here to help you out! I have briefly talked about this in the past. However, you guys had additional questions, so today I’m dishing out 10 tips for titling your book!
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Number 1: Genre Relevance
It's really important that your title attracts the right audience, so you have to make sure it's relevant to its genre. That doesn't mean if you’re writing romance, the title should be Romance Abounds. But there are particular words that are common within certain genres. For example, if a title has the words “king” or “queen” in it, readers are gonna assume it's fantasy. If the title has the word “stalker” in it, people are going to assume it's a thriller or mystery.
Take this into consideration when titling your book. The title should fit the genre. Basically, if your book is titled Station Wagon, literally no one on the entire planet is going to assume it's sci-fi!
Number 2: Who or What Is Your Book About?
Obviously. Sometimes the most obvious title is the best title. Is your book about a fallen soldier? Then maybe it should be called Fallen Soldier. Is your book about a 20-year war? Then maybe it should be called Twenty Years of War. The Savior's Champion is called The Savior's Champion because it's about becoming The Savior’s Champion. Funny how that works!
Number 3: Symbols and Themes
Nine times out of ten, this is the number one tip for helping writers title their books. What are the recurring symbols, themes, and imagery that pop up in your story? If you're writing a book involving elemental magic, then earth, fire, air, and water are likely recurring symbols. If you're writing a werewolf book, then we have words like “howl,” “pack,” “moonlight,” and obviously, “wolves.”
Make a list of these words and combine them into coherent phrases. Which ones speak to you? Which ones capture the essence of the story? I promise you this step is a huge winner when titling your book. It'll also give you options to choose from, which is the exact spot you wanna be in.
What are the recurring symbols, themes, and imagery that pop up in your story?
Number 4: Quotations
Sometimes the title of your novel will reveal itself in the dialogue or narration that you’ve written. How did A Clockwork Orange get its title? It's a line within the book. These sorts of titles are not only relevant to the story, they're also fun for readers! It's kind of cool to be reading a book and then suddenly you stumble across the title drop!
“Oh! That's where the title came from! Neat!”
This method might not work for everyone, but it's definitely worth exploring, especially if you have specific lines within your story that are particularly impactful to the plot.
Number 5: Trends
Take a look at books in your genre and category, specifically bestsellers. What sort of trends are you seeing? One of the most obvious title trends going on right now is within the young adult category. Every other book coming out has a title formatted like A Blank of Blank and Blank. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. A Curse So Dark and Lonely. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
This is not to say you should copy what everyone else is doing or hop aboard a trend just because it’s trendy. I've covered trend-chasing in the past, both its pros and its cons, but you should at least be familiar with trends within your genre and category so you can get an idea of how you fit into them.
Number 6: SEO
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, refers to what you can do to make your book pop up in search engine results. There are a million ways to use SEO when releasing a book, but one of the most obvious ways is to implement it into your title. There are platforms available that can show you commonly used words that appear in specific genre titles.
An example of such a platform is K-Lytics. I have an affiliate link here if you're interested in checking ’em out. Basically, I can download a report all about my genre, and it will give me a list of the most commonly used words within the top 100 bestselling books in that genre! For example, when I looked up the dark fantasy report, some of those words were “queen,” “mage,” “blood,” and “master.” This may help you narrow down your title options by telling you which words get better search results.
Number 7: Search Hurdles
Just like there are ways to improve your search results, there are also ways to fuck ’em up. The most obvious example is one-word titles. Now, it's not a terrible idea to create one-word titles. I'm sure you can think of many popular books that have one-word titles. But one-word titles are a lot harder to search for online unless the author or the book itself is famous. Take for example a book titled War. If someone were to Google the word “war,” what do you think is gonna pop up? Not your book, that's for damn sure!
Another search hurdle is choosing a word that has a strong link to something else very popular. For example, say your book all about Helen of Troy's daughter is titled Hermione’s Story. People are gonna assume you've written Harry Potter fanfic. I'm sorry, but it’s true!
Number 8: Duplicates
It's not a good idea to give your book a title that already exists. Whether it exists as a movie, book, or video game title, duplicates don't really do you any favors. First and foremost, if the existing title is more popular than yours in any way, it'll be the first result that pops up whenever people Google it. That's no good!
Second, while I don’t think it's super common, it can potentially lead to legal issues. Like I said, I don't think it's the norm. However, I do know writers who were asked to change the title of their books, lest they wanna get sued.
Number 9: Punctuation
The quickest way to expose yourself as an amateur is to include a bunch of punctuation in your title. You can include a little bit, but remember it's a title, not an essay. There shouldn't be a need for several commas to split up clauses or exclamation points.
Think of every book you've ever read. How many of their titles are filled with commas, semicolons, or parentheses? I bet your brain’s getting nothing but crickets right now . . .
If you have to use a lot of punctuation, this is probably a sign that your title is too long. The easiest way to look at this rule is probably to understand when punctuation is okay.
First up would be apostrophes. For example, The Knight's Tale or The Midwife's Apprentice. Apostrophes dictate ownership, which can be valuable to a title, so they're perfectly fine to use.
Next up would be a colon, if your title includes a subtitle. The colon would not and should not appear on the book itself. However, when referencing the book, people would probably write it like “title: subtitle,” and that's fine.
The last situation is if you're being intentionally irreverent. This is especially common with self-help books that are written from a snarky or conversational perspective. For example, Girl, Wash Your Face!
Number 10: Ask Your Audience
After you've gone through all these points, there's a good chance you are going to have a list of possibilities. This is when it helps to simply ask. Talk to other readers and writers. Show them your list of options and ask what their favorite is! Better yet, ask them why they liked the title they chose.
This can be super revealing. It'll give you direct access to your target audience’s mentality. Plus, you are super close to your book, which means you're going to be looking at the title options from a very unique perspective. Readers have a completely different point of view, which means their choice might surprise you. Whether you're asking your critique partners or your audience, it's a good idea to poll opinions before firmly deciding on a title.
So that's all I've got for you today!
If you’ve been struggling with knowing how to title your book, I hope this blog post gave you some ideas. Considering the themes and symbols that run throughout your story is a fantastic place to start, and you can whittle down the options by considering SEO, checking for duplicates, and polling your audience.
Let me know in the comments which tip was your favorite and how you came across the title for your book!
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