Tuesday, February 23, 2016

5 Tips for Titles

Have Book. Have Title?

I don't have an issue coming up with titles. Not for the book. Not for the series. Not for the books in the series. Taglines are difficult. Back-copy is the bane of my existence. Titles? Easy peasy. They come to me early in the process. Whether they're any good is debatable. I don't have a Sales or Marketing team telling me what I can or cannot name my books. Then again, they're not there to advise me on the latest consumer purchasing behavior either, so I have to glean that third-hand through my own research.

Here are 5 Ways to Test Your Title:

1) Does It Convey The Story:
I'm pretty sure LARCOUT wouldn't have been allowed by a publisher. Not because it's vulgar, overused, or too long; rather because--for the first book in a series--it tells the reader unfamiliar with the World nothing about the story. That's what you're trying to do with the title; capture the essence of your 150,000-word novel in under six words (including articles).

Now, if you read the back-copy, or open the cover to see the map, the name LARCOUT makes complete sense. It's the name of the nation in which the story takes place; however, I'm asking the reader to take that extra step. In so doing, I inserted a barrier to purchase. A big no-no in Sales. Oops.

The series title: Fire Born, Blood Blessed gives a strong indicator of the genre. Probably isn't a contemporary romance. Much more likely to be Fantasy.

2) Is It Unique: 
Guys, guys, guys, please check to see how many books, movies, etc, are already in the wild using the title you think you want to use. Google. IMDB. Amazon. Do the search. Do another one for anticipated releases. The last thing you want to do is passively forfeit a sale.

No, you cannot copyright a title. No, your title is not protected by the copyright covering your book. You could attempt a trademark, but that is obscenely costly to acquire and defend (and if you don't defend your trademark it becomes common use and is no longer capable of being protected...in a nutshell).

No, your use of "A" instead of "The" doesn't make your title significantly different from the competition.

I went the route of using a made up word...then doing a Web search for said word to make sure it was as made up as I thought it was. Turns out it's a surname and there was an inactive Twitter account with that name; otherwise, I was good.

Now, don't get too cray-cray with "unique" and use a word that no one can spell much less remember. If you do that, you're relying on your name to sell the book. If you're GRRM, that could work for you. If you're Nora Roberts, you don't even need a title; you could just label your books "A," "B," and "C."

3) What Are The Genre Trends: 
While you're doing that Web search for novelty, make note of trends for the last two years and for the upcoming year. Always popular is the naming convention of THE ADJECTIVE NOUN.

Since LARCOUT came out last year and features a female protagonist, some publisher somewhere would have suggested THE GIRL WHO... in an attempt to leverage the craze spanning multiple genres.  THE GIRL WHO RAZED THE NATION, maybe.

This year, within my genre of Fantasy, the popular trend is NOUN of NOUN. THE NATION OF SAND AND STONE, perhaps?

Example: Chek out Best Fantasy Books HQ's: ULTIMATE 2016 FANTASY BOOK READING CALENDAR

4) Does It Fit: 
Literally, on the cover of your book, does it fit while still being legible in a thumbnail view?

5) Is It Memorable:
This one is the most subjective. This is the criteria that leads to spoofing popular titles or pop-culture events. It's also the dark path to Ditto-Titles. Admittedly, LARCOUT is memorable to me, but I doubt it is to anyone else. So, this is my opportunity for improvement. Not one that will happen in this series, but perhaps in another.

So, there you go, Five Tips for Titling Your Book.


  1. Uniqueness as a search term is far more important in the world of digital releases. My working title (and I felt a very fitting title) for my fantasy novel was Sacrifice. I was rather disgruntled at first when Carina Press changed it to Gate to Kandrith but after looking at the huge list of books called Sacrifice, I've come around. Anybody who types in Kandrith is only going to get my novels.

    I have a different YA series, published by Pocket Pulse (Simon & Schuster) in 2001, the first book is titled Violet Eyes. I was rather upset to discover that Pocket Pulse published another YA book also titled Violet Eyes by a different author (admittedly a number of years later).

    1. "Sacrifice" such a wonderful word, but "Kandrith" is memorable and unique. Love it. Could you imagine releasing "Sacrifice" only to discover someone else had used it...and a similar stockphoto on the cover? ~runs screaming into the wilderness~

  2. Excellent post! And Nora pretty much *does* title her books A, B, and C - at least so far as my memory of them works...

    1. HA! She could totally get away with just doing like Metallica did on the Black Album. Or even Adele and just number them.