How to Write a Book Title: 7 Crucial Steps (& Mistakes to Avoid)

by Sarah Cha


Ever pondered how to write a book title that’s both catchy and compelling? 

You’re not alone.

A title isn’t just a few words slapped onto the cover — it’s a reader’s first impression, an instant marketing tool, and a tiny teaser of your manuscript’s soul. 

Crafting that perfect title is a blend of art, science, and a splash of intuition. 

From understanding the core essence of your book to avoiding cringeworthy mistakes, every detail matters. 

Whether you’re penning your debut novel or sprucing up an older title, this guide promises to steer you through the intricate maze of book titling.

Ready to get started? 

Let’s begin.

The Critical Importance of Book Titles

Think of a book title as the wrapping paper for a much-anticipated gift. 

While you wouldn’t solely judge the gift by its wrapper, a captivating wrap sure makes you eager to unwrap it. 

That’s why a strong title serves as your beacon, drawing readers toward your book from among countless others. 

And when it hits just right, it not only intrigues but also sets the stage for what’s to come, promising an adventure or experience that readers won’t want to miss.

In other words, a book title isn’t just a label.

It’s your first pitch, your initial handshake with your target audience. In the vast ocean of available reads, it sets the tone and genre for your work and tells readers why they should give your book a chance. 

The right book title will resonate with the right crowd. And that’s why understanding book titles is key to marketing your book

The 5 Key Attributes of a Winning Book Title

five die, numbering one to five

Every great book deserves a title that does it justice — a title that pops, resonates, and most importantly, sells. 

But what makes one title forgettable and another iconic? 

Here’s a deep dive into the core principles of a winning book title…

1. Eye-Catching

We’ve all heard the age-old advice: don’t judge a book by its cover. But in reality? We do. 

That’s why, in a world of endless choices, your title needs to grab attention. 

Consider Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Its title is both raw and mysterious, compelling the reader to delve deeper. 

And titles like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or The Poisonwood Bible immediately grab reader’s interest and attention.

However, attention-grabbing doesn’t mean being inauthentic. It’s about striking a chord with genuine curiosity, not just being loud. 

2. Memorable & Searchable

In today’s digital age, where a Google and Amazon search can make or break a sale, the memorability and searchability of a title are paramount. 

Consider The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Fault in Our Stars. These titles are not only evocative and memorable, but they also possess unique elements that make them easily searchable. 

To enhance searchability, avoid generic terms. Instead, opt for unique phrases or words. Techniques like alliteration or rhyming can also help your title stick in readers’ minds.

3. Clear & Informative

In a world overloaded with information, clarity in a title can be a beacon for potential readers. It should hint at what to expect without giving everything away. 

Take The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for example. The title is straightforward, hinting at beneficial habits while intriguing readers enough to discover what these seven habits are. 

So when crafting your title, aim for that sweet spot between informative and mysterious. Make sure it provides a glimpse into the book’s core message, enticing readers to delve deeper.

4. Rolls Off the Tongue

Ever stumbled over a title that just felt… awkward? Ensure yours isn’t one of them. 

Consider titles like Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, or Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. Both use alliteration and rhythm, making them memorable and easy to pronounce.

On the other hand, consider a hypothetical academic text titled Polytetrafluoroethylenation in Modern Chemistry. While this might be a fascinating read for chemists, the title can stumble the average reader.

Remember, even if your subject is complex, your title doesn’t have to be. Aim for a title that doesn’t trip up the reader. 

When someone shares your book’s name during a fleeting chat, it should flow smoothly, ensuring your book finds its way into more hands and minds.

5. Concise 

In many cases, less truly is more. 

In a world overflowing with information, brevity can be a beacon. A concise title not only makes an immediate impact but also ensures easy recall. 

Just think about it: It, 1984, Ulysses – all brilliant one-word titles that pack a punch. Then there’s Eat, Pray, Love which encapsulates the essence of the author’s journey in just three words. 

On the flip side, while The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is intriguing, it’s quite a mouthful and might be challenging to recall in its entirety during casual conversations.

And in the vast sea of literature, being memorable can mean the difference between getting picked up or passed over.

Crafting Your Winning Book Title in 7 Super Simple Steps

a golden book on a golden background

Crafting a winning book title is much like preparing a gourmet dish: it requires the right ingredients, preparation, and presentation. 

By following this methodical process, you’ll be setting your book up for success right from the get-go.

Step 1: Understand Your Book’s Core Message

At the heart of every great book title is a clear and compelling message. 

It’s essential to distill this essence into a few words. Think of it as summarizing the soul of your narrative. 

For instance, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is a perfect embodiment of the book’s exploration of exceptional individuals. It’s crisp, to the point, and hints at the unique stories contained within.

Step 2: Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Brainstorm

Every successful title starts with a whirlwind of book title ideas. 

Set aside dedicated time, grab a pen and paper or your favorite digital tool, and let your thoughts flow. Think wild, think unconventional, think simple. There’s no wrong answer at this stage. 

To spark your creativity, you might try practical techniques like word association or even drawing inspiration from personal experiences or the broader cultural milieu. 

Another pro-tip?

Using a book title generator. They’re readily available online and can serve as a wonderful starting point. They can throw out unexpected combinations, and while not all suggestions will be gems, they might just generate a few book title ideas you hadn’t considered.

Step 3: Consider Elements from Your Book

two children reading books in a sunlit forest

When you’re knee-deep in the content of your book, you’re surrounded by a treasure trove of potential titles. 

Characters, settings, literary devices, and even opposing themes or subjects can provide rich inspiration. 

For instance, To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t just a captivating phrase; it draws from the very heart of Harper Lee’s narrative, touching on innocence and injustice. 

Another method is to lean into memorable lines or dialogues from your book.

Remember, the title The Catcher in the Rye? It didn’t just magically appear; it’s rooted in Holden Caulfield’s misinterpretation of Robert Burns’ song, underlining the protagonist’s naivety and misdirected ambitions.

Step 4: Genre Pairing and Sticking to Your Lane

Every genre has its conventions. A romance novel will have different title expectations than a sci-fi thriller or a historical narrative.

As a writer, it’s crucial for you to understand these nuances. 

If you’re penning a gritty crime novel, a title like Rainbows and Unicorns might not be the best fit, unless you’re going for irony.

On the flip side, Eclipse perfectly complements the dark, moody love triangle in Stephenie Meyer’s paranormal romance saga.

Step 5: The Relevance and Specificity Matrix

It might sound complicated, but at its core, this is all about ensuring your title resonates with your intended audience. You want a potential reader to pick up your book and think, “This speaks to me.” 

Consider J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. It doesn’t beat around the bush. The title immediately sets expectations about regional culture, personal tales, and socio-economic insights. It’s specific, relevant, and directly targets those who’d find interest in such a narrative. 

In short, always ensure your title isn’t just catchy but also gives a potential reader a clear glimpse into the world they’re about to enter.

Step 6: Practical Tests for Your Potential Titles

Before you get too attached to a potential title, it’s essential to give it a good old-fashioned road test. 

Start by checking its discoverability. Does your title drown in a sea of similar ones when you punch it into a search engine? If yes, you might want to reconsider. 

Next, don’t forget to gather feedback. Float your potential titles to a select group, preferably your target audience. Their insights can be invaluable. After all, what might sound catchy and relevant to you might not resonate with others. 

It’s like test-driving a car — you wouldn’t buy without trying it out on the open road first, would you?

Step 7: The Power of Subtitles

Subtitles are like that extra sprinkle of cheese on your favorite dish — they add depth and flavor. They allow you to expand on your main title, offering additional context or clarity. 

Consider The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson. The subtitle piques the curiosity further, emphasizing the book’s unconventional approach to self-help and well-being. 

When you feel your main title might be a bit cryptic, or if you’re itching to add more nuance to the topic without making the main title cumbersome, a well-crafted subtitle can be your best friend. 

It’s all about striking the balance between intrigue and information.

Crucial Mistakes to Avoid When Crafting Your Book Title

man with glasses frowning and holding up a finger

Navigating the world of book titling can feel like a minefield, but being aware of common mistakes can save you a lot of headaches. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Copycat Syndrome: It’s tempting to ride the coattails of a bestseller, but choosing an identical title to an existing book is a no-go. It’s misleading, potentially infringing on copyrights, and ultimately confuses your readers.
  • Derogatory Diction: Sure, edgy titles can grab attention, but if they dip into negative or derogatory language, they can also alienate a chunk of your potential audience. Respect and inclusivity should always be on the menu.
  • Overcomplication: While “The Existential Crisis of Post-Modern Neo-Gothic Protagonists in 21st Century Novellas” might precisely describe your essay, it’s a mouthful for a novel or short story. Simplicity often trumps verbosity.

In the end, your title is a handshake with your reader. Ensure it’s firm, fitting, and doesn’t leave them confused or disappointed.

Now That You Know How to Write a Book Title…

a book cover with no title

When it comes to learning how to write a great title, the pressure can feel as real as choosing a name for a firstborn. 

After all, your book is your baby, and its name matters. You’ve now got the tools, the steps, and the know-how to craft that perfect title. 

With the writing tips and tricks you’ve garnered here, you’re set to make a title that’ll make readers swoon.

So dive deep into those emotions, harness the energy, and remember: the perfect title is right there, waiting for you to find it. 

Trust your gut, let your creativity soar, and watch as your book title turns heads and captures hearts!

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Sarah Cha

Sarah Cha is an avid writer, reader, and lifelong learner who loves making magic behind-the-scenes at Smart Blogger. When she's not wrangling words onto a screen or page, you can find her strumming a guitar, tickling a canvas, or playing fetch with her favorite four-footed friend!


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Photo of author

Written by Sarah Cha

Sarah Cha is an avid writer, reader, and lifelong learner who loves making magic behind-the-scenes at Smart Blogger. When she's not wrangling words onto a screen or page, you can find her strumming a guitar, tickling a canvas, or playing fetch with her favorite four-footed friend!

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