Choosing the title for a book

A good title is perhaps even more important than a good cover image for marketing purposes.

For my own books, I usually write a first draft of the text before giving serious attention to the title. I make a list of possibilities, look them up on Google to see whether they have been used before or contain any unsuitable double entendres, and may ask some friends for their opinions before reaching a final decision.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing a title.

Is it relevant? There is something to be said for factual titles which clearly indicate what the book is about: Murder on the Orient Express, Seven Years in Tibet or A Street Cat Named Bob are good examples because they sound interesting as well as being informative. More subtle and abstract titles sometimes work extremely well: Gone with the Wind, Heart of Darkness, Catch-22, A Clockwork Orange. But a book with a title which has little relation to its content may escape the notice of potential readers; and even those who have read and enjoyed it may have forgotten its name by the time they want to find it again.

Is it easy to remember and locate? Long titles, and those containing words which are difficult to spell, can be difficult to discover online or to reproduce accurately, so are best avoided. Short snappy titles, including single-word ones, which easily ‘trip off the tongue’ are more memorable and can be very effective.

Is it eye-catching and distinctive? Years ago I picked up a book called Excuse me, your life is waiting because the combination of its quirky title and garish cover made me curious to see just how ghastly the content would be. In fact I really liked this book, which introduced me to the Abraham-Hicks teachings on the Law of Attraction. A title which is different, even slightly outrageous, will stand out from the rest.

Is it intelligent? In this category I would include titles such as Enigma and The Path to Rome, which have both literal and metaphorical meanings. But not all writers can hope to find such clever titles, and not all readers will understand their ambiguity.

Has it been used already? There is no copyright on titles, so it is not unusual to find several different books with the same name. Personally I always prefer to choose something original, which is why the novella I am currently writing will not be called Bomber’s Moon.

A subtitle, used mainly for non-fiction, provides further scope for summarising the content of a book, distinguishing it from others with the same main title, and increasing its visibility to search engines.

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