Friday, November 9, 2012

The Great Title Post

I have to say, I'm somewhat of a book title aficionado, if such a thing exists. But no one ever asks me for feedback on their title. Queries, first pages, whole novels, sure. But why don't we talk about titles more?

It seems like an important oversight as titles are the first words of the book we read. They're the ones plastered across the cover. They should be flawless. 

Here is how to pick a good title:

Start by brainstorming. Write a list of all the important elements in your book, I included examples from my upcoming novel, The Charge.
  • Themes: power, leadership, overcoming the mistakes of our ancestors, becoming a man, finding yourself, David vs. Goliath, freedom
  • Things: storm, blue, electricity, energy, lightning, crown, bomb, destruction, flag, charge, legacy
  • People: King, orphan, son, heir, traitor, President, leader, revolutionary, cowboy, dynasty, ancestors, father, tyrant
  • Places: Texas, Empire, No Man's Land, alternate history, Alamo, United States, wasteland, anarchy
Now start putting things together. Write down some possible titles. Chances are, when you find the right one, you'll "just know." But for something more scientific, here are some points to consider.
  • Originality - Search Amazon for your book title, and you might go ahead and search the whole internet too, just in case your title is also a brand of vacuum cleaner or something. There is no rule saying you can't share your title with another book, but if it's been used over and over, go ahead and cross it off the list.
  • Evoke emotion - The words in your title need to cause some kind of reaction. There should be conflict implied or an image or feeling evoked.
  • Be specific - Avoid vague concepts like A Hero's Regret or A Journey of Faith. It's too vague to mean anything really. Again, use words that we can see or feel and do something original and unexpected.
  • Voice/tone/genre - Your title needs to fit your book. For example, "Game of Thrones" sounds great for an epic fantasy, but it's not right for a light contemporary romance. If your book is epic and serious, it needs a title to match (Atonement). If it's funny and quirky, your title should be too (The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse).
  • Bonus goodness - I love it when titles have double meaning (Empire Falls) or unexpected twists (The Devil Wears Prada, Lord of the Flies). 
After lots of thinking, I chose The Charge because it has double meaning - a responsibility one must take on and an electric charge, which fit my book perfectly. I am quite pleased with it. :)

Some of my favorite titles:

The Hunger Games - Atonement - Fight Club - Never Let Me Go - Game of Thrones - A Team of Rivals - The Tipping Point - The Grapes of Wrath - Of Mice and Men - All The King's Men - The Lord of The Flies - Lord of The Rings - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - The Devil Wears Prada - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - War and Peace - Brave New World - Empire Falls - Faithful Place - Ender's Game - The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - The Last Condo Board of The Apocalypse (shout-out to my friend Nina Post)

Title fails:

I love J.K. Rowling, but this title leaves a lot to be desired. It strongly violates the evoke emotion rule. Both the word "Casual" and "Vacancy" are the opposite of conflict. She should have called it Uptight No Rooms Available. Seriously though, I get no emotion from this title and no image. Boring.

Despite what you might think about the series, I like the first two titles. 50 Shades of Grey evokes both the theme and has double meaning with the "Grey". Not too shabby. 50 Shades Darker - works well with the first book title and ups the tension. 50 Shades Freed? is not a color. This makes no sense.

Ah, fishing...the conflict...the excitement...the passion it evokes. Okay, no. This title sounds like a boring day trip your dad made you take.

For some fun title fails, check out this article, "15 Most Ridiculous Titles" and a spoof on what books should have been titled, "The Best of Better Book Titles."

Fore more tips, also check out, "How To Title Your Book," by Rachelle Gardner.

If you haven't already, you can enter the Ever title contest here. But hurry, I'll post the titles for voting tomorrow!

What are some of your favorite titles? Least favorite?


  1. Um you are awesome! I should get you to name all my MS's for me! Great advice here! I am hopeless with titles, and usually hate my own.

  2. I love to name things and I am constantly changing my titles to what I think are better title while I am writing. Can't say I am totally happy with what they are currently but nothing's written in stone.

  3. What fantastic advice! Thank you for sharing it... I'm already rethinking mine. And, for the record, your title is awesome... I do love a good double meaning.

  4. Some great advice here, thanks! I have been struggling with a title recently I shall certainly think about these points.

  5. I went with a thing/event for "The Bonding" since it has a triple meaning in the story, but I'm definitely open to a better one.

  6. I'm pretty sure freed is the colour between yellow and green. Pretty sure.

    Moody Writing