Titling Your Book

At some point in time you will have to write a title. Whether your manuscript is fiction or nonfiction, titles are important. They spark a reader's interest, give a sense of what the story is about, and suggest a genre. Your title is one of your best marketing tools.

Think about the last time you stood in a bookstore, scanning the spines of the volumes on the shelves. If a title jumped out at you, you porbably paused, and might have pulled the book out for a closer look. That's the power of a title.

Titles come in all shapes and sizes, and even wildly different ones can be effective. Let's take a look at this week's New York Times Bestseller List to see what they are:

Minimalist. These are one-word titles, which jump out at the reader. Some examples: PRIVATE, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, WHIPLASH, by Catherine Coulter, and INNOCENT, by Scott Turow. Without even reading a blurb about them, can you make a guess at their genre? Which one sounds like an interesting read?

The Duo. Two-word titles are all over the list. Think John Grisham. THE SEARCH, by Nora Roberts (currently #1 in hardback), THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett, THE PASSAGE, by Justin Cronin, THE LION, by Nelson DeMille, THE ISLAND, by Elin Hilderbrand (all of these were in just the top ten).

Alliteration. It can be appealing to start all the words with the same letter, but keep it short, or your title will sound like a tongue-twister. SIZZLING SIXTEEN, by Janet Evanovich (Evanovich has made a career from alliterated titles), THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR, by Allegra Goodman .

Descriptive. These titles use more words, and tend to suggest something that piques your interest. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST, by Stieg Larsson, THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, by David Mitchell, THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE, by Aimee Bender. 

Phraseology. Other titles might be phrases pulled from the book, or from a poem or quote that is connected to the story. Or the title is an abstract phrase meant to capture your attention. UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED, by MaryJanice Davidson, HEART OF THE MATTER, by Emily Giffin, AS HUSBANDS GO, by Susan Isaacs.

When you brainstorm your title, do a search for the ones you come up with. You may be surprised at how many books have been published with the same (or a similar) title. That doesn't mean you can't use it. If it was on the bestseller list, you'd probably want to choose something else, but for books that didn't sell well, a publisher might not mind.

And if you want to pit your title ideas against the New York Times Bestseller List from the last fifty years, you can do it for free.


  1. This is cool! Thanks for the heads up! I may blog (and link back, of course) about this too! :)

  2. Thanks, Susan! I read the excerpt of your book. Sounds like a winner!

  3. Thanks for the this post! I'm glad I found you on MBC!



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