How To Pick a Title For Your Book

Saul Bottcher,

Having trouble picking a title for your book? Here's a simple formula that will help you create a great title:

(essence of your book) + (a twist) = your title

Simple enough, right? Read on for the details!

The Essence of Your Book

First, ask yourself a simple question: “What is my book really about?”

The answer might come to you instantly, or it may take some time. You might find you have several possible answers—that's okay! More answers can give you more options for your title, but make sure you only include an answer if you truly feel it describes the essence of your book.

You may need to return to this question over the course of several days. Eventually, you'll come up with a single answer. Let's call this your subject.

And guess what? You might already have your title!

Here are some examples of titles that can emerge directly from the book's subject:

On the other hand, a direct statement of your subject might not have any special ring to it.

This is where the twist comes in.

The Twist

Assuming you didn't strike gold in part one, it's time to complete the equation by adding a twist.

What you want to do is take your subject and transform it to add intrigue, give it a pleasing sound, and make it more unique.

There are countless ways that you might do this. Here are a number of examples:

Add Perspective

Add Imagery, Metaphor, or Emotion

Use Dialogue from your Manuscript

Add Intrigue or Curiosity

Add Context

Add Comparison or Juxtaposition

Add Wordplay

Simple Additions or Changes

Making Your Final Choice

At this point, you probably have several possible titles.

The first thing you should do is let them sit for a day or two. When you come back to them, you may find you have some new ideas—maybe even some great ones. You can repeat this step as often as you want; when you go a whole day without any new ideas, the well is probably dry.

Now it's time to get some feedback on your ideas. Here's who you should ask, in order of preference:

Don't put much stock in feedback from people who don't enjoy your work or your genre, even if they're friends or family. Remember, you're mainly concerned with how your audience (and prospective audience) will react to your title. People who dislike your genre may dislike your title as well, even if it's a good one.

Testing Your Title

When you've arrived at your favourite, take a look at our companion article, Practical Considerations for Your Book Title. It contains advice to help you make sure your book can easily be found on Google and on book-selling websites, as well as some common pitfalls to avoid.