Monday, June 28, 2010

Coming up with Book Titles

Reconsider, v. To seek a justification for a decision already made. -Ambrose Bierce

Readers have commented that The Ride is a perfect title for my book and have asked me how I came up with the name. It’s been so long that I honestly can’t remember if I assigned my manuscript the title from the start or if it popped into my head at some point (most likely the middle of the night) during the first draft. I do know I was pleased with the title because it describes the book both literally and metaphorically. I was also happy that the publisher kept the name.

After the book was released, however, I had second thoughts about my perfect title. As a new author, I excitedly went to Amazon and typed in The Ride. When a page came up showing the first twelve out of 13,800 possibilities, I groaned. Not too many people I know are going to go through a list like that to find anybody’s book, including me. Of course if you type in the title with my full name, it’s not a problem. But I’m probably not the only one who can often remember the name of the book and not the author or vice versa.

I’m not sure I did much better at naming my second novel. If you type in Reigning Cats and Dogs there are only 43 results. However, if people hear the name, they are most likely to type in "Raining Cats and Dogs." Sigh.

I decided before I fall in love with the title of my current WIP, I wanted to see if I could find any information on how to come up with selecting an ideal title.

One helpful article was “Tips to Land the Perfect Title for Your Novel,” by Jacob M. Appel. Among his suggestions were Googling the title you’re considering, including precise nouns and active verbs, and making sure the title matches the story.

Another interesting approach I found was “How to Write a Book Title Using a Few Simple Brainstorming Techniques!” The article suggested writing a paragraph describing your book then writing down all the verbs and nouns you used in that paragraph. The next step is to write as many combinations as you can using those verbs and nouns. There are more suggestions if this doesn’t work.

Similar to the brainstorming article, “How to Title a Novel” by Christine Hamlett, suggests writing keywords that best describe the novel's content, central theme and settings on index cards, then try to come up with interesting combinations. She also suggests keeping the title to six words or less and making sure it’s pronounceable. But, I think her best suggestion was, “Say your proposed titles out loud. Oftentimes what looks perfectly fine in print will sound laughably terrible when spoken.”

If titles are a dilemma for you, I’d recommend reading all three articles.

If you still aren’t happy with your title selection, there’s always The Title Tailor. The site offers “custom-crafted titles that sell books.”

How do you come up with your titles? As a reader, are you frustrated when the title doesn’t seem to go with the book?

Thanks for stopping by today. Hope to see you again next Monday.

Tags: Ambrose Bierce, book titles, The Ride, naming a novel,


Anonymous said...

Hi Jane, I found your post about coming up with book titles very interesting. Lots of great information. Thank you for the links you shared in your post.

Jan Morrison said...

I would not leave the naming of my book to a stranger anymore than I would the naming of my children! Often I have the name before the book...I feel quite wild about it. I need to listen to what this entity needs and wants to be called. My first one was Feckless, the seond (the one I'm revising now) is True. In my Kitty MacDonald series - the first is called The Rock Walker and the second is called Earth Bound. My most successful play is called - Death, the Musical, kareoke at the After-Life Bar & Grill. We did have some people give us grief over that one but we were adament.
I like 'The Ride' and dontcha worry - folks will find you.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Titles are tough. I was happy with "Pretty is as Pretty Dies," but as you mentioned, Jane, people look it up as "does" instead of "dies." Makes it hard! Thanks for the links...I'm tweeting this!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My book title came to me years ago and stuck. It's rather simple, too. Haven't done an Amazon search yet, so maybe I need to see what else is out there!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Definitely not one of my strong suits...

Mason Canyon said...

Interesting post. I've wondered how titles come about.

Thoughts in Progress

Joanne said...

Titles are so important, one of the critical first things for the reader to consider. For my blog, I wanted a coffee suggestion in the title just for the comfort factor, and so played around with coffee lingo until I came up with a title suitable to the content. There were many I considered and discounted, it's such a process of narrowing it down.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Titles can be a real challenge I know. I find it very difficult to come up with titles for my poems (one of the reasons I like writing haiku - they don't need titles!). I found it quite easy though to title my poetry books.

Darcia Helle said...

Titles are such an important part of writing the book. As a reader, the title is the first thing that captures my attention (or doesn't). My first novel had 3 working titles, before I finally settled on number 4. I've gotten better at it since then. Or at least I hope I have.

I really like the title Reigning Cats and Dogs. I love the play on words. I'm sure you're right that people, upon only hearing the title, will type it as "Raining". I wonder if it would still come up in the search? So much to consider in this business. The writing is the easiest part.

dazydaywriter said...

Ah, titles! Fun and creative, yet, they can hide in the bushes, so to speak. When I title a poem, for instance, there are often several competing ideas ... it can be challenging to pick just one! Usually, I go with a title that simply conveys the essence of the work -- be it a poem, a story, a book. But I have had the "perfect title" come to mind after publication ... sigh. Great idea for a post, Jane! Have a wonderful week. --Daisy

Karen Walker said...

Wonderful links, Jane. It was just an intuitive thing for me. I'd used the title in an essay that was published by Simon and Shuster in an anthology and it just fit the memoir as well. Lucky. But I had a working title for a very long time that was different.

Carol Kilgore said...

Titles are always a problem for me. I'm currently at three choices for my WIP. Don't know if any of them will be the final title or not.

Helen Ginger said...

I like the links and ideas you listed here. I always ponder forever on the title and change it many times.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I go to Shakespeare and find the title there. I look at plays that deal with the same themes and hunt away. It's always lurking somewhere.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Susanne, I’m glad you found it helpful. Thank you for stopping by.

Thanks for the encouragement, Jan.

Elizabeth, thanks for the tweet. If only we could look over the shoulders of those readers trying to find us on Amazon, so we could make sure they type the pertinent info correctly:)

Alex, I’m not sure I would have changed the title of The Ride even if I had searched Amazon or Google first. I can’t imagine it being called anything else. Since your book title has been with you for a couple of years, you may feel the same way.

Diane, your books seem aptly named. I can’t tell it’s not one of your strong suits.

Thanks. Mason.

Joanne, I think Whole Latte Life is a terrific name – it matches your content perfectly.

Crafty Green Poet, I haven’t thought about naming poems. That’s got be to a challenge - with a manuscript, a writer has 200 pages or more to try to find the perfect title.

Darcia, I think you nailed it with Hit List! Once Reigning Cats and Dogs is released, I’ll have to see if it comes up when I type ‘raining.’

Daisy, as I mentioned to Crafty Green Poet, I think naming poems would be an extra challenge. How frustrating it must be to come up with the perfect name after publication. Wishing you a wonderful week, as well.

Thanks, Karen. I think it’s a smart move to use a title that already had some success with publishers.

Carol, you’ll have to let me know if you select one of your three choices or something completely different.

I’m glad you found the links helpful, Helen.

Elspeth, what an interesting source for titles - I’d never thought of that.

Watery Tart said...

Great post! I sometimes have one hit me that is JUST PERFECT, but I know I've got a couple that will be SUPER common, and I probably want to reconsider. Part of my problem is I really like one word titles, and it is hard to be unique there. Thanks for the list of ways to think about it!

Southpaw said...

Titles are so important. We do after all judge a book by its cover and title!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I think titles are so important! Often my titles come to me before I begin writing the story. On occassion they have changed. I did a next title blogfest. You listed some potential titles with only the genre of the book and blog readers gave you their impressions of the titles. It was really helpful. It gave me a sense of what draw someone to pick up my book and read the back cover (ummm, when I get a book deal).

arlee bird said...

I like to use titles that reference a quote or a saying. Or I prefer very simple titles that state story content or theme in just a few words or even one or two words. I feel like I'm pretty good with coming up with titles. I have lists of titles with brief synopses. Now I just need to write the books.

Tossing It Out

The Old Silly said...

My book titles usualy precede the actual book - it's the whole idea, then I flesh it our with 60-100K words, lol.

Anonymous said...

I keep my titles simple. One word: Breakthrough, Opening, and Escalation. Hard to get into trouble that way.

Stephen Tremp

Ciss B said...

Sadly, I do pretty well when it comes to titles and wretched when it comes to successfully putting together the writings for a book! :-) Ah, well.

I enjoyed your post, and like the article, "Tips to Land the Perfect Title for Your Novel." In fact all the resources mentioned here were of interest to me. THANKS!

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Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world