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If you’re a writer, you’ve probably used a working title – a temporary name for your project. A working title can be anything. For some, it is a word or phrase that reminds them of their WIP, such as Jane Austen’s working title “First Impressions” for what eventually became “Pride and Prejudice.” For others, it is the name of a character or place, like how Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” was first “Atticus.”

A working title can be anything. No one sees it but you and the few people you choose. 

However, the final title of a book is important. It is the first thing readers encounter about the story within and the first thing you say when you share it with others. A good title should convey the goal of the book, be consistent with the genre, and align with your author brand (especially if it’s part of a series). When you name your book, it should have just the right amount of information and intrigue to tell readers what they might expect to find inside but make them curious to learn more.

Characteristics of a Good Title

An effective title – something that serves your purpose and gains reader interest – will vary depending on audience and genre. 

Example: A title like “Love in the Silent City” is more suited to the romance genre than science fiction or horror. 

However, there are some factors that can be applied across genres and audiences:

Tips for Crafting Your Title

Use writing strategies

When you start writing a book, there comes a point where you sit down and figure out what big problem happens in the story or what question is being asked. When you make a title, you should do the same thing. For fiction stories, the title should hint at some conflict. For non-fiction stories, the title should describe how it will solve a problem the reader has. 

Throughout the writing process, keep notes about title ideas as they come. Don’t decide on any particular one until after the book is finished. Then, you can compare notes or even mix and match them to brainstorm.

As you do, make sure to read the titles aloud. Pay attention to the flow and pronunciation. If it’s difficult to say, perhaps look at other options.

Draw on the content

Your title should relate to your story somehow. Consider including a word or phrase that relates to the subject, main character (name or profession), conflict, a particular scene, or your favorite line in the novel.

Pay attention to word choice

If you need help finding powerful words, open up a dictionary, look through old books, or pull out your favorite song lyrics. These are good places to find evocative words. Take note of what stands out to you, then play around with them.

As you do, keep the cover image in mind. What can you see on the cover behind each title option you come up with? Are there any images that relate to the title or the story? Do you want them to relate or do you want them to contrast each other?

If you are seeing images from the title, your audience will too. Use that to your advantage, evoking emotions like nostalgia to draw them in.

Try to keep the title within 3-5 words. These are often the most catchy and memorable. Anything longer risks blending in with the hundreds of other options out there. However, you can consider a subtitle to explain more about the book itself.

Experiment with formatting

Titles don’t have to be a word or phrase only. You’re the writer – you have creative sway here. Play around with the structure and format of your title as you brainstorm – sentences, questions, commands, lists. 

Also test out literary devices like:

Know your audience

Be familiar with what your readers expect. Keep note of the genre you are writing in, popular titles, the demographics that read in that genre, and what interests those readers.

You can use this information when writing your title by drawing on key interests and expectations. For example, an international spy novel could include foreign vocabulary to set the mood or a high-school comedy could include generational slang or keywords from the teenage experience.

To hone the title according to your audience, reach out to beta readers and ask them for suggestions. You can also host surveys to build engagement and get a popular vote on a title.

Conclusion

The right title can make a significant difference in your book’s success. It should be a concise, memorable, and intriguing reflection of your book’s content and tone. By experimenting with formatting, vocabulary, and imagery, you can create a title that stands out and draws readers in. With careful consideration and creativity, you’ll find the perfect title that captures the essence of your book.