book title

The Makings of a Good Book Title

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

June 6, 2022

Some writers have a book title in mind before they write the first words of their book. But most authors put in plenty of time crafting a memorable and effective book title for their work, just like the efforts they put into writing the book itself. Coming up with a good book title can be a little tricky. But if you know the basics about what makes an effective title and what good titles have in common, you will be able to create one you love much more quickly. So let’s talk titles and everything you need to know to create a great one for your next book..

Does a Good Book Title Matter?

Before we talk titles, this discussion begs the question, does it matter? When pondering whether a good book title matters, the answer is a resounding yes, but not for the reasons you might think. Of course, it would be amazing to come up with a memorable, unique, and catchy title that grabs everyone’s attention so much that the title alone catapults your book to the top of the best seller’s lists.

But the reality is that many words and phrases have already been used over the years in some form or fashion. So coming up with a title that points to your work, exemplifies the genre, and makes readers want to open the pages to find out how the title connects to the story is really the goal of working on a good title. A good title is great but a great title may be just what your book needs to snag lots of readers.

The Makings of a Good Book Title

One of the interesting things about titles is that we may not always be able to explain what makes a good one, but we usually can point out when a title just doesn’t work. All good, great, or outstanding titles have a few qualities in common, however, that ensure that readers will respond to them.

Good Book Titles Are Captivating

A good title grabs the reader’s attention in some way. The cover of a book and its title should make the reader wonder what is inside of the book and how the author has tied the title to the contents of the story. Since most readers begin their perusing of books by looking at the cover and by extension the title of the book, having a title that compels them to keep reading the words crafted by the author is critical to a book’s success. An intriguing title might ask a question, compose an unexpected pairing, or turn a startling phrase to entice readers to open the book.

Example Book Titles and Why They Work

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (readers will wonder why the wife and not the time traveler?)
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (readers will wonder who knows bees well enough to know their lives?)

Good Book Titles Hint at the Genre

There’s nothing more frustrating to a reader than to grab a book because the title looks just like something you would love only to feel misled after thumbing through the book. An outstanding title should give some sort of hint at the genre of the book. One way to do that is to reference something or use wording that is familiar to the genre.

We are not talking about using a specific keyword (more on that later), but instead generally referring to the topic, referencing the idea through tone or phrasing, or simply using a phrase that readers can see some sort of connection to the genre at a glance. Authors who look over the most popular books in their genre can see examples of how the title can tip a reader off to the subject area without being too obvious. But sometimes obvious works, too, if that is what fits your book contents the best.

Example Titles and Why They Work

  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (mystery lovers will instantly see a connection to the word “bones”)
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (history lovers and art aficionados will suspect this is a story about artist Johannes Vermeer’s painting by the same name)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (readers will anticipate a memoir)

Good Book Titles Have a Keyword Connection

Similar to hinting at the genre, some great titles take the connection a step further and use keywords or phrases that are commonly associated with a genre or type of writing. These titles typically fall into the categories of informational or non-fiction writing, but they can cross all genre lines. Readers often search for keywords or phrases when looking for a new book so authors often capitalize on this by using a familiar word or phrase in the title or subtitle of the book.

Example Titles and Why They Work

  • World History For Dummies by Peter Haugen (the “for Dummies” phrase is associated with books containing informational instructions perfect for beginners)
  • A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton (mystery readers will anticipate future books and an ongoing storyline)

Good Book Titles are Memorable

Plenty of book titles use simple tricks to encourage readers to remember them, like switching up a common phrase or well-known saying just a little bit to make it fit the book’s theme, genre, or feel. Another commonly used trick is alliteration – the practice of using the same first letter or sound repeatedly in a phrase or sentence.

Titles that use this pneumonic device are simply easier to remember, so titles with alliteration are more likely to stick in the reader’s brain a little bit longer. Many authors use one of these common literary devices that will help the title stick with a reader.

1 A hyperbole is an exaggerated description. (A Million Junes by Emily Henry)

2 Personification gives human attributes to something nonhuman. (Charlotte’s Web by E.C. White)

3 Juxtaposition is the practice of putting two opposite things together. (Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk)

Example Titles and Why They Work

  • The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren (a reversal of the common phrase honey-do list)
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (repetition of the p sound)

One Word Titles vs Lengthy Titles

When authors are seeking a unique, memorable title, using an extreme version of a book title sometimes is considered as a single word or even a lengthy phrase as the title. Both options can be effective, but each comes with its own caveat. Single-word titles can sometimes be confusing for readers. When a reader searches for a single word to locate a book, every book title or topic using that word pops up in the results, making it challenging for books to rank high enough in search results to easily gain new readers.

Lengthy titles work well when they utilize other title structure devices like literary devices, genre, or keyword hints. Authors that can toss in humor into a longer title give readers a little surprise twist that makes the title easier to remember.

Example Titles and Why They Work

  • It by Stephen King (the title word is not commonly used singularly making the title easier to search for)
  • The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin (train of thought title indicates the book’s informal voice and humor)
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt (repetitive use of alliteration and juxtaposition as well as a well-known title pattern)

Popular Books as Models

Authors still stuck on creating a good title for their book should take some time to peruse popular books in the genre their book falls into to gain inspiration. Genre examples can provide a great place for authors to get their creative title-making juices flowing by seeing the way published, successful authors chose to name their books.

Putting Your Title on the Cover

Once you have settled on a title you love, be sure to present the title on the cover of your book so it will look appealing to readers. Get expert design help to make the cover shine and look its best. Think about how the spine of a Perfect Bound book will look and coordinate it with your overall book design and feel.

Don’t forget to snag an ISBN number to make your book title searchable at online retailers, bookstores, and libraries. And of course, make sure you work with a reputable company like Publishing Xpress to print your self-published book, so generations of readers can marvel at your writing and spectacular title for years to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Publishing Xpress. All Rights Reserved.

Email Quote