Titles for your Novel

So you’re finally finished writing it – the thing that has taken up all of your free time for the past two years (or more), the monkey on your back that wouldn’t let you sleep, that had you pulling out your pen and paper while on vacation with your family because The Idea came to you…

Well, you’re finished. You want to print it out, slap on a title, and send it off.

Hold up, there partner! Pause, breathe, put the the manuscript down. Easy! There you go….

What’s the big deal with a title?

Everything! It’s the first thing that a potential reader will see, the line that will either catch an editor’s attention or send it straight to the trash can. Just as your name represents you, the title of your book must be representative and catchy for your novel.

The good, the bad, and the ugly…

There are three distinct groups of titles.

The first is the good: the ones that catch attention, make a reader pick the book up, scan the front, turn it over and read the back, and then on to the checkout stand. Examples: Empress, Boiling Point, Crown of Thorns, Slaughterhouse-Five, A Feast for Crows.

The bad: have a hit and miss chance of grabbing a reader, with good enough cover art and some fantastic quotes from the New York Times or Publisher’s Weekly, they may be read. They probably won’t be the first book a reader picks up, but it’s possible. Examples: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, War of the Gods, Secrets of Droon: The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet, Maximum Ride: the Angel Experiment.

Then the ugly: get the response “how did this ever get onto this shelf?” “What was the editor/author thinking?” Examples: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl…

So how do you name it?

Unfortunately, while there is a plethora of baby-name books flooding the market and internet, there is no “novel-name book” for authors. So, you must be creative. Which really shouldn’t be that hard – hell, you wrote a book, didn’t you?

Coming up with the name of your novel should be a process started at the same time you write the firs paragraph, and honestly, will and should go on until you’re done with your final edit. It’s not an easy task – parents may argue and pine over it for nine months – why should your naming process be any different?

Following are several tips to help you come up witht the ideal name for your “baby.” These are merely brainstorming techniques to hopefully help something click in that creative cavity you have sitting between your shoulders:

Make a list

1. the names of your main characters
2. the major places in your book
3. any special talismans/objects that play a specific/important role (ie. The Sword of Shanara)
4. creatures, animals, aliens, names

Your plot

1. what is the point of your book?
2. is there a journey? To where? For why?
3. are you writing about a deeper meaning?
4. can you tie in your book with current events or popular topics? (ie the Davinci Code)
5. what are your characters trying to do?

Google is your best friend

1. search for pictures of a theme, character, creature, place, etc. that you feel represents your book. You’ll come across some cool (and weird) things, and may give you direction.
2. see what others writing about similar topics are using for titles. Make sure your title isn’t too close to another’s.
3. get some more backstory on an item, relic, place, or animal in your story. Again, think muse…

Have fun

1. play up on words and items in your book (ie One of our newest books due out next summer is “Of Quills and Kings,” in which the villan is a demonic and sadistic hedgehog that overthrows the crown…)
2. be witty. You are trying to grab science fiction/fantasy/horror/etc fans, not collegiate professors that enjoy spending all of their waking hours with their pet rock. Uh…
3. be original. You want to stand out, but don’t be too off-beat that you scare people away.