How Book Titles Are a Game Changer

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November 12, 2014
How Book Titles Are a Game Changer
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They say, “Never judge a book by its cover,” but have you ever judged a book by its title?

One of the many reasons people grab a book from the proverbial shelf is that the title grabs them by the throat.

A good title can entice anyone into reading a book’s blurb and even the rest of the book’s content, but a book with a bad title will most likely be dismissed, or worse, ignored and left on the shelf to gather dust and die.

A book’s title is an important element that can predict a book’s success or failure. Your book is going to be displayed alongside thousands of other works. If you want to make your book stand out, creating an appealing title is a must, especially if you’re a new author still trying to build a brand name. A good book title has many characteristics. First, it must be appealing to the reader; one look and your book should be in the hands of prospective buyers.

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Sense and Creativity

Titles are considered vessels that take readers into the world of the book. A title is effective when it (a) tells readers what the book contains, (b) gives an overview of the information found in the book, (c) or when it piques the reader’s interest. Achieving the first two is relatively easy for most writers, for crafting a clever snippet of text can rack your brain.

Compared to a descriptive and informative title, one that arouses curiosity, apprehension, and even humor has a better chance of getting your book noticed and read. So, write it so that it creates intrigue, and at the same time, the title should reflect the book’s story, content, tone, and theme.


The trick to crafting an interesting title is to play with your reader’s imagination.

Look at the titles of these New York Times best sellers:

  • Not That Kind of Girl
  • Killing Patton
  • Unbroken
  • The Boys in the Boat
  • Edge of Eternity
  • Orphan Train
  • The Book with No Pictures
  • If I Stay
  • Dork Diaries
  • Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?

When you engage the imagination, it’s easier to create any compelling piece of literature. Imagine naming a book Systems of Linear Equations. Only engineers and math teachers will give it a second look. A creative title gives hints about what lies beyond the cover while pointing out a key point in the content. This brings us to the next point.

A Strong Title

Think about your story. Now, think about keywords – words that jump out of your story. Write down those words and put them together. Or think about similar words that still reflect the content. These are the words that will help you come up with a winning book title. However, they not only have to be keywords, they have to be strong words. They have to be crisp, sharp, and smart.

Don’t settle with the first string of words you think of. Refine all your ideas until you find “the one”. Also, don’t hesitate to change your title over the course of the book writing journey. If you’ve settled on a title six months ago when your story was just an idea in your head, you may have found a more suitable title after doing additional research, developing the characters, and weaving the plot together.

Choose a title that stands out from the existing ocean of books. While Into the Darkness sounds like it could be a good title for a dark, romantic tale of two non-human creatures, it’s too similar to the sea of other young adult, new adult, and fantasy fiction books.

The Length

Book titles work like headlines. They help get attention for pieces of content. However, unlike headlines, your title doesn’t have to be lengthy and too concise to exclude articles (a, an, the). Book titles can have just one word, in fact.

Fiction books tend to have short titles, but sometimes titles are long because they are necessary or effective. Examples of long titles include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

In conclusion, it’s not the length of title that matters, it’s the quality. Before deciding on your book title’s length, look at other books in your genre, decide if your working title sounds catchy, and narrow down your options. If you want a one-word title, be snappy. Again, use keywords that have ‘oomph’.

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Traditional publishers have a book’s sales potential in mind when publishing a book. If they need authors to revise the title, it’s to improve the book and make it appealing to the target audience. On that note, if you ever want to present your book to agents, editors, and publisher, come up with the best title possible. This aspect is a great chance to make a good impression.

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Whether or not you’re going to publish with a traditional publisher, your book title will make or break your book’s survival in this competitive industry.

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