5 book title tips: Yes, you should judge a book by its title

Your book’s title is one of the first things potential readers and book buyers see when it comes to promotional material, book catalogs, and more. That means the title can make or break your book just as easily as the book’s cover. In fact, think of the book title as an extension of the book cover.

I know from my own work that choosing just the right title for your book can be difficult. Into the Darkness went through several working titles and one semi-permanent title before it became Into the Darkness. Most of those working titles were discarded in my mental recycling bin, but the semi-permanent title was Of Blood and Stone, a reference to Tynan’s curse at the end of the Prologue.

In the end, I decided that it just wasn’t a solid fit for the rest of the book, and I landed on Into the Darkness instead. This title also got the universal head nod of approval from other people, which is key to gaining reader interest.

Here are 5 things to consider when deciding on a book title:

  • Are there other books with the same or a similar title, and if so, can the market handle another book with that title?
  • Does the title fit the subject of the book?
  • What does the title mean to you vs. what might it mean to other people (aka. does the title have a double meaning)?
  • Is the title offensive or contain offensive language (this can affect whether certain retailers will list your book)?
  • Is the title something you will like 10 years from now, after you’ve repeated it several hundred times?

Ok, now I’m going to throw in a BONUS tip: how do other people react when you tell them the title you’ve settled on?

Once I have come up with a couple working titles and I’m trying to settle on one, I find it best to pitch the titles to other people. And, by pitch, I don’t mean try to sell them on my top choices. I give a summary of the book (if they’re not already familiar with it) and then my top 3 title choices (no more than 3). I never explain why I’m considering those titles. I recommend you try this out when you’re deciding on a book title of your own.

If your favorite gets the head nod of approval or some other sign of approval (”Ooh, that’s good”, “I’d buy that book”, gasping with joy, etc.), then you’re good to go. If the person you are pitching makes frowny faces or some other sign of disapproval (vigorous shaking of the head, “Really, that’s the one you like?”, “Explain that?”, etc.), it’s back to the drawing board with you.

And, one final note. If after a while, you decide that the title you chose just isn’t working for you, that’s ok. Writing books is meant to be a long distance race, not a sprint. Take the time you need to make the title the best it can be for you as well as your audience.