How to pick a great title for your book, and why it matters
Most of my book coaching clients come to me early in the writing process, when they need a boost to start working in earnest, or they call in the middle of the process, when they’ve gotten stuck and need help moving forward. And then I have the editing clients, who want me to help whip their novel, screenplay, book, or memoir into shape. This client, however, came to me with a book that was completely finished.
Why? It seemed like she’d done so many things right: she’d developed a positive mindset to make sure her motivation stayed bulletproof. She’d made writing her priority, setting aside ample time to get her project done. She’d joined a writing group for support and feedback. She’d self-edited her novel manuscript it and polished it until it was as perfect as if was going to get, and then she hired a professional book editor. She made the decision to self-publish the book because she wanted more creative control and didn’t want to go through the waiting, uncertainty, and heartache of the conventional publishing process. She had been building her author platform, gaining a respectable number of followers on social media. But her novel was getting zero traction. Even her friends weren’t recommending it to each other.
What was wrong? It took me about two seconds to see her huge mistake.
The mistake? She’d treated her book title as an afterthought, and it showed.
When I brought this up, this strong woman, who had unapologetically made time for writing even when everything in her life conspired to distract her, THIS woman started making excuses. “Readers are more interested in the content,” she justified. “All the good titles were taken.” “As long as the cover art is pretty, the title is no big deal, right? “
What’s in a name? If we’re talking about your book’s title, a lot. Your title is literally 100% of the first impression that anyone gets of your book if they’re hearing about it, and at least 50% if they’re coming across it in a bookstore or online. A good title can intrigue potential readers enough to make them want to buy or at least pick up your book. And isn’t that the goal? A bad title that is forgettable, cliché, or otherwise problematic can sink your book faster than ten bad reviews.
The internet is rife with online title generators and these are…lame. Sorry, but you can use them all you want for general brainstorming, but you’re gonna have to be a little more intentional than that.
What makes a good book title?
-Something simple and easy to pronounce, but memorable.
-Something intriguing that makes someone want to know more.
-A title that is appropriate to your genre.
-A title that at least hints to what the book is about.
What makes a bad book title?
-A single word (not searchable) or too wordy (anything more than 5 words)
-A title that is already in use.
-Something obscure or difficult to pronounce.
-Something that has unintended connotations.
-Something that sounds silly or cliché or too general.
How do you choose a book title if you’re stuck?
-Think of the essence of your book, the main theme, lesson, or message. If it’s non-fiction, does it solve some kind of problem or foster some transformation?
-Re-read your book and write down any memorable, meaningful, unique lines, quotes, or phrases.
-Think of how your characters see themselves or how an outsider would see them, their strengths and weaknesses.
-Think of your main character and their journey.
-Think of any significant locations in the book.
-Come up with a few strong candidates and ask readers or friends for their opinions.
What if you already self-published your book with a crappy title?
This was the case with my client, and she was terrified that she was now stuck with the title forever. I convinced her that changing it would be worth it in the long run. With Amazon.com, for example, it is reasonably easy (though a little annoying and time consuming) to unpublish your book, change the title, and re-publish it.
Here is the link for how to do this: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200736410
My client updated her cover art and internal text and updated her website and social media to reflect the change. It turned out to be an opportunity to further promote and celebrate her book. She is SO glad she did it.
In your case, you’ll hopefully find this post in time and choose a great title on the first try!