One Title to Rule Them All: Naming Your Book

WritersdontcryMagnetic Poetry Kit: ZombiesWhen a reader meets your book for the first time, the cover art is like eye contact, and the title is like the handshake. And the last thing you want is a squishy, awkward, lingering handshake of a title. You want it to be solid but not simplistic; memorable, but not in the way that leaves bruises; and most of all, you don’t want it to go on for too long--that just screams desperation.

This means that even before they start writing, every author is on the hunt for The One. As everyone knows, the legendary One True Title captures the feel and meaning of a book perfectly, draws readers in from across a crowded bookstore, and doesn’t make you sound like a dumbass at all. But with so few words and so many clichés, a good title is hard to come by. And judgment on a bad title can be fierce. So much so that authors fear to even mention their list of titles. What if they’re stupid? Pulpy when you’re going for elegant? Silly when you’re going for sinister? So much rests on so few words . . .

So how does an author come up with a title, anyway? Well, I won’t lie: there’s a lot of voodoo (and by voodoo I mean crying/weeping/venting/screaming) involved, but at the end of the day, when the deadline hits, there are a couple techniques I’ve found effective for helping authors discover their One True Title.

Ditch the Fear

The number one most important thing is to lose the fear. I know—it’s intimidating. But remember: sometimes it takes a hell of a lot of bad titles to get to the good titles. And every bad title could be just one twist away from a good title! The best way I’ve found to ax the fear is this: when the brainstorming starts, don’t just start throwing words and titles out there—start throwing bad words and titles out there. As campy, pulpy, and irreverent as you can. Titles like: The Brainless LemurThe Secret Ambitions of Soggy Toast, and Sympathy for the Poodle.

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Comments (2)

I dread coming up with titles. I am definitely guilty of being too reverent when I first start coming up with ideas. I always feel that they are inadequate and don't convey the core of the book well enough. This seems way more fun and aligns with my current process (or will once I complete the new draft of my novel).

I'm going to try this and see what sticks.

Posted by: Cam Rawls | Monday May 28, 2012 at 6:35 PM

I think most authors who love writing are guilty of being too reverent! It comes from all the caring, I think. ;) Good luck with your next novel--and finding your next title!

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Tuesday May 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM

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