Last updated on January 3, 2018
As an author, you want your book title to be unique and memorable. You also need it to be discoverable in searches and intriguing enough that readers go on to read the back cover blurb or book description.
Your book title is right up there with your cover design and back cover blurb in convincing people to buy and read your book.
Keep in mind that most of these tips apply to series or short story titles as well.
1. Use the Name or Title of One of Your Main Characters
Depending on your story, you might choose the protagonist or the antagonist. Use it by itself (think Hannibal) or with a combination of other words (as in The Dresden Files or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).
You can also use a character’s title. For example, Hamlet could have been called The Prince of Denmark.
2. Use Your Theme
Theme can make a strong book title. Peter Brown uses his title The Wild Robot to describe both the main character’s journey and one of the book’s themes. Bella Forest uses The Gender Game to emphasize the strong theme of gender division in her book.
3. Use a Significant Event or Plot Point
If your book centers around a major event, why not use that event as your title?
Suzanne Collins uses The Hunger Games as both the title of her first book and the series title.
If you employ a MacGuffin, a device which triggers the plot, you can use it to create your book title as Dashiell Hammett did with The Maltese Falcon.
4. Use Your Setting as Your Book Title
A unique or catchy setting name can also create an intriguing book title. Robin Carr uses the name of her fictional small town Virgin River as the title for both a book and the series it belongs to.
This method is especially appropriate when your setting figures strongly in your work. You can also use a general setting and combine it with other words or themes to create a discoverable title as Holly Black did with The Darkest Part of the Forest.
5. Use a Character’s Unique Perspective
If your character has a strong viewpoint, you can use this to your advantage. An example from nonfiction is Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. You hardly even have to read the blurb to get a feel for this book and the author’s outlook on life.
6. Use a Favorite Line of Text or Dialogue
Judy Blume uses her main character’s oft-used line as her title in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. As you read through your book during revisions, write down favorite or iconic lines and see if one might work for you.
7. Steal Your Book Title
If appropriate, use a line from something famous or make a play off someone else’s title. Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea is an obvious play off Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
So many people have “stolen” titles from lines of Shakespeare’s work that there is a whole Wikipedia page devoted to them.
In a future post, I’ll cover some dos and don’ts on getting your book title right. In the meantime, how did you come up with your book title(s)? I’d love to hear your stories.