Completing a manuscript is a huge accomplishment, and it isn’t easy. When it’s time to choose a title, coming up with those few words can seem like climbing Mt. Everest after running a marathon. Follow this advice to make the process a little easier on yourself.
Do Some Research
Picking a title isn’t just about making you feel good. It’s about selling your book. Most people make decisions on what book to purchase based on titles, so it must catch their eye. Start by looking on Amazon for the top 20 or more books in your genre. Do you see any patterns? How do they compare to each other? What’s good about them?
Describe Your Book
You need to stop limiting yourself to thinking about a title. Begin by thinking about describing your entire book. Write down words and phrases that individually describe different parts of your book, from the plot to the characters to the overall feel of it. Think of as many words as you can that relate to your story; you’ll use them to help you and may come up with something you weren’t expecting.
Use those words and phrases to come up with as many possible titles as you can. Don’t be discerning when making the list – write down anything you think of, even if you think it sucks. Don’t censor yourself because you want as many options as you can, and you may be able to turn even the bad ones into something great with just a few tweaks.
Narrow It Down
Go over your list of possibilities and pick out your favorites. Pick out about 25 titles. Narrowing it down will help you focus on the elements you really like. What kinds of words are best? What kind of phrasing works well? Your final choice doesn’t have to be one of these titles at all, but you may derive your title from one of them after some refinement.
Begin really focusing on your favorite titles. If anything jumps out at you as being “the one,” that’s great! If it doesn’t, try to twist and tweak the front-runners. Use a thesaurus if you need to. Do some more research. Say the titles out loud, and notice how you feel and how they sound when you say them.
Take Your Time
When you’ve come up with a winner, don’t automatically send it to your editor or put it on your cover. Take a few days to think about it. Roll it over in your mind, and pretend it really is the title of your book. Are you still satisfied with it by the time the week is over? If you need to go back to the drawing board, do it and start the process over again from scratch.
Listen to Your Gut
The most important thing is to listen to your gut. If you aren’t sure about a title, don’t go with it. You can solicit feedback from your friends and family, but in the end you’re the one who’s done the research and the hard work, so you should know best. Your book is your baby, so pick the name you love.
Mark Weatherford is a high school English teacher and published author who loves to give aspiring writers advice on anything from original content to the use of grammar checkers.
Photo Credit: Adam Lyon