Coming up with the perfect title isn’t easy. Even the best writers have had some duds before deciding on a winning name.
F. Scott Fitzgerald went through a number of possibilities before deciding on The Great Gatsby. Some rejects included The High-Bouncing Lover, Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and Trimalchio in West Egg.
John Steinbeck considered Something That Happened before settling on Of Mice and Men. The original title of War and Peace was the phrase “All’s Well That Ends Well” from Leo Tolstoy. The author of Lord of the Flies, William Golding, wanted to call his book Strangers from Within.
So know you are in good company if the perfect title of your book is being elusive.
Your title should be short, easy to pronounce, simple to remember, and descriptive. It could be funny or indicative of the book’s genre. Is there any doubt about the theme of these books by Annabel Chase?
Consider these questions when creating a title:
- What is your book about?
- What problem does your book solve?
- Who is your intended audience?
- Are there lines, themes, or phrases that repeat?
- Is the story told from a unique perspective?
- Do you have an epigraph that would work as a title?
Some books reference a well-known title or phrase but with a twist. Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler is a variation of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, a popular coming-of-age story by Judy Blume. Or what about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, the upside-down phrase based on the local meteorologist’s weather prediction. For the book, In the Midst of Winter: A Novel by Isabel Allende, the author takes the title from a quote by Albert Camus which in turn is the epigraph for her book.
Scroll through Wikipedia’s list of best-selling books and Goodreads’ Best Book Titles. See which titles jump out at you and why. Are they funny? Dramatic? Surprising?
To help you think outside the box, play around with a random title generator. Reedsy has one that you can find here.
Try these catchy phrases for your potential title:
- The Art of…
- Confessions of …
- How to…
- The Myth of …
- Where the…
- The End of …
Non-fiction books these days also have subtitles which tend to clarify the main title. A subtitle may identify your book’s central idea, who the book is for and what problem it solves. Take a look at these intriguing titles.
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
- Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven
- How to Make a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich: 15 Steps to accomplishing just about anything in business & life by J. E. Edwards
Would you buy them based on the title alone? Why or why not?
A catchy title is one of the most important determiners whether your book gets read or not, so take some time to find the right one.
Assignment: Come up with several working titles for your book.