Monday, June 18, 2012

Choosing a Book Title

Picking a title for your book is difficult for some and extremely easy for others.  I pretty much land on the difficult side.  How do you name your "baby?"  Just like new parents, one writer might latch on to the PERFECT title right away, while another settles for a WORKING title.   It's "good enough for now."  Hopefully, when the time comes, you'll just know.  Choosing a title is one of those decisions that can land on either end of a continuum or somewhere in between.

So just how much energy should go into this decision anyway? Does the advice "it doesn't matter what your working title is because the publisher is going to change it anyway" apply anymore?  In many cases it might (or at least be a reason to let go of overthinking the decision), but for growing numbers of self-published or independent authors...you're "it."  The decision is all yours.  And along with a lot of other writer decisions, having the freedom to choose a title is empowering.  It also comes with some "executive decision" pressure.

A lot of considerations will go into your title, and also, as shown below, there may be reasons you don't anticipate that may lead to changing your mind about even the PERFECT title.

Here is one thing I've thought about lately when choosing a title:

Is it taken?  Generally, a book title can't be copyrighted (more info here).  This makes sense because  when we think of the popularity of one or two word titles, how can it be singled out as "taken?"  But really, if anyone is going to find my book by it's title, I want it to be MY book.  And, in technical language, it just doesn't feel right to use a title strongly associated with someone else. 

However, romance title "recycling" of generic titles has been going on a long time, as this 2001 article at All About Romance: At the back fence #117 points out.  Have titles changed much I wonder?  It doesn't seem make sense to put an unforgettable story under a forgettable title.


As an example of one of my title decisions, for my first book I thought I had the perfect title.  The idea for the book was a long time ago so I wasn't thinking of the obvious author who had this title when I came up with Guardian Angel.  I know, and you probably know, that this is a popular book by Julie Garwood.  For a long time I kept this as my working title, but by the time I decided to submit this book to a publisher I went with The Duke's Angel.  I'm not sure if I realized it at the time, but this was also "taken."  To be honest, I wasn't particularly attached.  Now I'm revising the book and  choosing a new title.  I'm taking a new title or two for a "test run" in my document header. I'm not sure I'm committed yet, but I do know I plan to do an Internet search to see what comes up when I put in the new title.

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Of course, the title should say as much as possible about the kind of story your telling.  It may take lots of brainstorming...which is one of the many ideas for choosing a title from others who say it better:

How To Title Your Book - Rachelle Gardner

6 Keys to Choosing Your Book Title - Terri Marie

 Choosing the Right Name for Your Story - by John Floyd

Choosing Titles - by Sarah Grimm at Coffee Time Romance

Four Tips to Choosing a Book Title - by Carol Despeaux


Care to share any examples of your perfect final title and the working titles you had for this book?  Do you think book titles by self-published authors are more or less unique than traditionally published book titles? 

2 comments:

  1. You wrote this for me, didn't you? LOL I would say that 99% of the time I get the perfect title for my book fairly easily, and sometimes if I struggle, the right title shows up within the first 50-100 pages of the draft--just pops into my mind, like it was waiting there all along.

    It's that 1% of the time that is so hard!

    I want the title to entice someone to explore further, and I want it to give a hint of what the story is about, and the genre. Whew. A title has to do a lot of work! LOL

    Thanks for all the links -- I'll definitely check them out. :)

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  2. Donna, I'm glad the timing of this post worked for you! LOL Yes, a title has a big job to do -- and very few words to do it in! And yet, I think working titles do a lot to focus the theme of the writing, so maybe they can be longer?

    Yes, the links have some specific ideas. I could have gone on and on and made a longer list of those ideas myself, but took the lazy way. LOL

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