How to Choose a Good Title For a Book

Congratulations! You finished your novel, the one you’ve probably been working on for months or even years. You’ve created an entire fictional universe, with characters, plots, and subplots. Now you are ready to embark on the long and tangled journey of finding the perfect publisher for your work. But, before all that, you have to ask yourself one last question; one that gives the most experienced of writers the creeps: «What title can I give my book?».

The Importance of a Book Title

There is no doubt that the title of a book is very important: it’s the first invitation we make to a potential reader. When a person walks into a bookstore, the process they usually follow while browsing the shelves is cover-title-synopsis. In other words, after being drawn to the design of a book’s cover, a person will automatically look at its title to see if it’s compelling.

Types of Titles

How to choose a good title for my book? If you’ve ever wondered this, you must know that there’s no single recipe. It can be short or long, abstract or precise. It all depends on what the author wants to convey. However, we can classify well-known book titles based on some common formulas.

The Standard

This rule is based on creating a title made up of an article followed by a noun that accompanies either another noun or an adjective.

3 Tricks to Choose the Title

  1. Noun + noun
    1. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    2. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
    3. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  2. Noun + adjective
    1. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
    2. Deep Rivers, by José María Arguedas
    3. The Dark Tower, by Stephen King
  3. Noun
    1. Saturday, by Ian McEwan
    2. Timbuktu, by Paul Auster
    3. Fictions, by Jorge Luis Borges

Long Titles

Some writers seek to make an impact with striking, eye-catching titles. Among the most remarkable examples we can name:

  • The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother, Gabriel García Márquez
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace

Short Titles

There are also books that are exactly the opposite. Short titles are generally easier to remember. Some examples are:

  • It, by Stephen King
  • Island, by Aldous Huxley
  • 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami

Proper Nouns

Many authors decide to include the name of the main character in the title of their book, as in the following examples:

  • Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
  • Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Titles with Numbers

A widely used resource, especially in science fiction, is to include numbers in the titles. In fact, two of the most notable books of this genre use this formula:

  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Strange Words

The use of made-up or little-known words is also a common resource. If the words are well-chosen, they will undoubtedly remain engraved in people’s minds. Some examples are:

  • “The Aleph”, by Jorge Luis Borges
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tips For Choosing the Best Title For Your Book

The best way to choose a good title for your book is to put all your creativity and imagination into play. Here are some strategies that can help you.

Make a List

Once you’ve finished writing your novel, carefully read the text with a pencil in hand. Write down phrases, words, dialogues, scenes, and whatever calls your attention. Once you’ve made the list, start crossing out the least appealing items. The fewer options you have left, the easier it’ll be to choose.

Be Original

When you have a list of possible titles for your novel, you can do a Google search to see if someone has already used them. As an extra tip, we recommend that you avoid falling into common places. Titles like You and Me, The Sunset, This is My Life, To the Attack or The Final Battle have been used many times.

In any case, if you think that a title is perfect for your book and you find that there’s another book that has already been published with the same name, don’t worry: the title of a work cannot be registered independently: it goes together with its content. That’s why there are many books that have the same name: Joyland (by Emily Schultz and Stephen King) or A Person Of Interest (by Susan Choi and Theresa Schwegel) are some examples.

Generate Impact

As we already said, the title has to be striking, so that a person who doesn’t know you feels invited to read your book. It doesn’t matter if it’s obvious—Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood anticipates a murder—or if it’s too abstract—there’s no chance anyone will know what they’ll find in Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, by Lorrie Moore. Still, both titles sound great.

Choose a Title Appropriate to the Content

Although it’s important to attract attention, it’s also important to be consistent with the content of the work, basically so that the potential reader gets an idea of what they are going to find. That is, if you are working on a children’s book, the title has to be in tune. In that case, The Biting Chair sounds better than Killer Furniture.

Along the same lines, try to make the title relevant based on the context. For example, if you have an apocalyptic science fiction novel about a zombie virus, Pandemic is probably not the best title if you plan to publish it these days (people might think it is an essay!).

Don’t Summarize the Entire Book in One Sentence

The title has to capture the essence of the book, but that doesn’t mean it has to summarize it. The book doesn’t have to reveal too much information about the content of the text, or the reader will lose interest before starting to read it. And, of course, don’t reveal the ending! Nobody wants to read a mystery book titled How the Butler Killed the Lady.

Leave It For Last

You probably already had the ideal title in mind before you started writing your book, but don’t be inflexible in that regard. The writing of a novel can take us down different paths; we can even change the literary genre in the middle of the process. That’s why it’s best to leave the title for last.


Choosing a good title for a book is one of the most complex stages in the process of writing a literary work, but fortunately, it’s one of the last steps. Don’t worry if the search for a good title doesn’t seem to end: let your imagination run wild, make lists, try and talk to people you trust. You’ll see how, sooner rather than later, the ideal title will come to your mind.

Among other things, here at Palabra we do creative writing. We can help you come up with a good title for your book. Don’t hesitate to contact us!

Translated by: @florabosch

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