Book Titles – 5 Things to Consider

I’m not even going to tell you how long it took me to come up with a title for this blog post. Which is about my experiences with creating book titles. Ironic, no?

As the author of ten books, coming up with a decent title for each story is something that I have wrestled with a lot. The title is usually the first thing that people know about your book, and so is the first thing to be judged. (If the title is okay, then the next judgement will be the cover art, then the blurb, then the first page or two, and then the price.)

Some stories come with a clear title, and it would be crazy to consider anything else. I know when I wrote The Elphite, I really didn’t even consider calling it anything else. But using a made-up word as a book title has its drawbacks, which I will come to in a moment.

I feel it’s important to get the title of your book right before you publish, and to try the title out on lots of people, search for it on Amazon and on Google, and to consider all the different ways it might be interpreted. With Indie and Self-publishing, it’s quite easy these days to change the title later on if you feel it’s necessary, but you might find that you confuse your readers (who will think it’s a new book) and the original versions will always be out there somewhere online, it’s difficult to erase them completely. So make sure you are absolutely certain before publishing.

So, things to consider when creating your book title:

#1. Weird or Mundane?

Some book titles seem utterly mundane, yet they have become bestsellers, and have appealed to people all over the world. However, the more mundane they are, the more likely it is that there will be several books with the same title. Now, if you’re the kind of creative who likes to be original, this idea will make you cringe, but having a mundane title has its advantages too.

3d 2When you have a title with ordinary words, or that is similar to other popular book titles, it is likely that people will come across it by accident when they are searching on Amazon or Google. For example, if I were to search for “I’m Here” on Amazon, I will find that in the books section, my book shows up halfway down page two, and in the Kindle section, it’s quite low down on page one. There are so many books with ‘I’m Here’ in the title, and even books with those words in the blurb will show up before my book. Which means that while searching for my book, there’s the possibility that the reader will stumble upon another book they might like better, and also if they were searching for someone else’s book, they might find mine instead.

When you have a weird or unique title, like The Elphite, then you can be sure that when you search for it on Amazon, it will be the only hit. Which means that the likelihood of someone stumbling upon it by accident are very slim. I like both weird and mundane titles, as I think they both serve a purpose. But from a marketing perspective, the mundane titles make more sense.

#2. Mysterious Titles

3d 2I’ve always believed that books titles and covers should intrigue you, and that it’s fun to work out the meaning of the title by reading the book. But when I used an acronym in one of my book titles, all I got were comments like – “What does it stand for? Why would I buy the book if I don’t know what it means?” The book was The Doorway to PAM. Which encapsulated the story perfectly, as the book is all about souls who find this doorway which leads them to PAM. I personally felt that by saying what PAM stood for in the blurb, it would spoil it, so I always insisted they just read the story. At one point, when getting the cover art redesigned, I considered changing the title, but everything I could think of – which used more mundane words – had already been used, and I couldn’t bring myself to use the same title as other books already in existence. Despite my decision, I do think that if you find that you really aren’t selling any copies of your book because your title is too obscure, then a re-naming might well be the way to go, even though it could cause some confusion.

#3. Is it a Series, a Trilogy or a Saga?

3d 2Another thing to consider when naming your book, is whether it is the first in a series, trilogy or saga. Which could very well influence what you call it. I read somewhere that when Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight, she originally called it Forks. Which makes you wonder what the others in the series would have been called – Spoons, Knives and Teaspoons? (just kidding!) I must admit, when I was trying to name The Earth Angel Training Academy, I was thinking that it would be a standalone book, and I had no plan for it to be a series. Originally, I had titled it ‘The Angels Calling’. Which had more of a non-fiction, spiritual journey feeling to it, so I changed it. It did briefly occur to me that if I did ever write more books and turn it into a series, I would have trouble naming the rest of them, because really, naming the first book after the Academy was akin to JK Rowling naming the first Harry Potter book – Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But even if I had the opportunity to go back in time and call the first book something different, I have no idea what I would have called it. If I went down the Harry Potter route, it would have ended up something like Purple Velvet and the Cube-Shaped Alien. Which is actually a pretty cool title…. hmmm…

Most series’, trilogies and sagas these days have an overall title, and again, that is something to consider more thoroughly. I must admit – The Earth Angel Series is not a particularly original or well-thought out title, it just sort of happened. When I had the covers of my other books redesigned, I wanted to tie them together somehow, and so created a collection – called the Visionary Collection – which made marketing the individual stories much easier. Their original covers were all very different, and disconnected from each other. It also make coming up with the cover art for the next stories much easier.

#4. Title Length

Coming up with the perfect title is really quite complicated. It needs to describe the story, intrigue and excite the potential reader, conjure up a feeling, or image, or emotion, and then sell the book. Sometimes, a single word will do that, and other times, titles end up very long. The length of the book title will affect the cover art, and also more practical things like custom URLs and how many characters it takes up in a tweet.

3d 2The longest title I have, is The Other Side: of the Earth Angel Training Academy. Now I usually shorten it to simply The Other Side, and put the second half as a subtitle, but it was still a mission to figure out the cover to fit the whole title on it. Something to consider is the memorability of the title. My first book is often shortened by readers to The Earth Angel Academy, or just Angel Academy. So I have taken from this experience that the title is too long really. You want the title to be memorable, and so getting the length right is important.

I really like one-word or two-word book titles, but coming up with one that’s unique is not going to be easy. When I was coming up with alternative ideas for The Doorway to PAM, and when I’ve brainstormed ideas for a new trilogy I am working on, I have found that almost every single possibility I can think of has been used already. Which could mean that I just suck at titles, or that quite simply, that’s what happens when there are over 1.5million books available on Kindle.

#5. Trends

I would never recommend or suggest that you write a book on a topic, purely because it’s trending, or name a book something that is similar to a bestseller so you can ride their wave with them. But if you are writing books about topics you are passionate about, and those topics happen to be trending, it’s a good idea to get the words people are searching for into the title.

3d 2I wrote The Earth Angel Training Academy in 2009, and at that time, there was very little around about the concept of Twin Flames, which is one of the main themes of the book. So when the Twin Flame concept suddenly became popular and I noticed that my posts on the subject were getting daily hits on my blog, I will admit, it affected my choice of titles for the new books in the Earth Angel Series, which were basically the stories of the reunion of the Flames between 2012 and 2032. Again, I had intended for there to be one book to cover those twenty years, and so I titled it The Twin Flame Reunion. But then it turned into several books (three so far, and four more to come) and so when it came to titling the rest, a pattern emerged of using ‘re’ words. So the subsequent titles were The Twin Flame Retreat and The Twin Flame Resurrection. (The Twin Flame Reality will be out this year.) Now, it might look very cool and clever, but I have to say – I would not recommend doing what I have done! You wouldn’t believe how many times I have got confused about which book is which, and I wrote them! Just as it’s not a good idea to name characters similar names, it’s not always a good idea to use very similar book titles in a series, either.

Of course, using the words Twin Flame in my book titles had the intended effect, and they are discovered much more readily by people who are interested in the concept. But I would only suggest using trending topics and words within your title if the book is truly, actually about that. Otherwise people will just end up being disappointed and you’ll get bad reviews.

 

So there you have it, a few things to think about when coming up with a book title, based on my experience over the last few years. I could write more, but I think I will save any further thoughts for another time, otherwise this post will end up as a book in itself!

Comment below if you have found this useful, and let me know the issues you’ve had with book titles.


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Michelle is the author and publisher of 10 Visionary Fiction novels, all available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. She spends her days helping Indie Authors to publish their books, taking photographs of mushrooms and making gluten-free cakes.

If you need any help with your publishing journey, please do get in touch with her by emailing theamethystangel@hotmail.co.uk. You can book a Skype session or a phone call with her, or ask questions via email. Please do follow this blog to receive more posts on Indie Publishing.


Disclaimer:All views, ideas and tips presented on this website are my own, based on my own experience and the experience of my clients. It is by no means the only way to do it, or the right way to do it, but it is the way that works for me. Please take what helps you and makes sense to you, and don’t worry about the rest for now. Please know that I take no responsibility for anything that happens as a result of you following my advice. I have created this blog as a resource for Indie Authors to help them make the publishing journey a little easier. I am not affiliated with any of the companies I mention, other than the fact that I use their services myself.

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3 thoughts on “Book Titles – 5 Things to Consider

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:

    A new blog post on theamethystangel.com, my experiences with creating book titles! It is at the forefront of my mind as I try to come up with a title for the latest book I am writing in a new trilogy.

  2. Good advice about titles! I’ll add more.

    Most online stores will include both the title and subtile in their description. I make the title short and catchy, usually no more than two or three words like you suggest. That also means the title can be prominent on the title page even when reduced to a thumbnail.

    Then I make the subtitle descriptive. That’s where I tell readers what the book is about in the fewest possible words while still being comprehensive. One example is:

    Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Hospitals.

    The title is a bit long, but I liked that fact that it connects being embarrassed with the most embarrasing part of hospitalization—those flimsy gowns. And if you check out the book on Amazon, you’ll see that I carried that hospital gown theme over into the cover picture. It is a girl in a hospital gown. Never forget that the cover is also a way to communicate what your book is about. Remember the old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words.

    Note too that I took care to include the most common search terms that potential readers might use: Hospital (twice) embarrassment, and teen girl. Search results on Amazon tend to raise the search rank when a word is in the title. Go for that.

    Doing that, you can be assured that, whatever else happens as your book winds it’s way through the distribution chain, that description will stay with it.

    Also, for a book in a series, it’s often good to make the subtitle something like “Book 3 in the Angels Caught Unaware Series.” That will not only make sure that readers doing search will find your all titles, it assures them that they’re buying and reading the books in the right order. Like I said, whatever happens in the distribution system, the title and subtitle will stay attached to it. Take advantage of that.
    ——
    Michelle has beautiful covers, but I might offer a suggestion for others who’re confused about what they can do for theirs. Creating your own cover from scratch can be very hard to get right. One trick is to search various stock photo services for just the right picture. It’ll be taken by a professiona photographer, so it’ll be well done and properly positioned. I typically use either Deposit Photos or Big Stock Photo. Most are under $10 for a high resolution image suitable for a cover.

    The key is spend spend hours if necessary finding the perfect picture. That’s how I found the picture for Hospital Gowns. She was one of literally hundreds of photos I looked at. Once you do that, the excellence of the picture takes over and makes your entire cover great. Then all you need do is arrange the title and author text tastefully.

    Print books have front and back covers, so you might also look for a back cover image that compliments that on the front, so the two provide a more complete description of the book. For Hospital Gowns, the girl on the front cover was deliberately selected to be alone and appearing a bit overwhelmed, while the girl on the back is relaxed and with a caring nurse (in real life, her mother). The front, I intended to say, is a girl before reading the book and the back is after reading it. They’re different ages too, so I wanted to make clear this was a book for all teens.

    A bit about the technicalities of cover images. Book covers are in portrait style, meaning they’re taller than wide. Keep that in mind when you look for a cover image. The image you use does not have to be portrait itself, you can extract the part you need from it. But the part you will use needs to be such that it fits well onto a portrait-shaped cover. If it doesn’t fill the front cover, you’ll need to find a way to deal with the unused space above and below and that can get complicated. One trick is to select a picture with a white background and simply leave the space above and below the picture blank. That’s space you can use for the title and author.

    Also, if you’re creating a version for print, for example through Amazon’s CreateSpace or Ingram’s Ingram Spark, think seriously about having a single background color that wraps from the front to the spine to the back. You’ll notice that Hospital Gowns has the same white background for all three. That means that when it prints, the spine alignment doesn’t have to be perfect. Even if the cover is printed a bit off center, as print-on-demand books often are, the misalignment won’t show.

    Finally, when your playing with a draft of the cover, see what it looks like when shrunk to a thumbnail about two inches high. That’s how it will look in search results and it’s as important that it look good there as in a much larger size. That’s another reason for keeping the main title short.

    I’ve evolved how I’ve done covers over the years. You can see examples of all of them at:

    http://www.InklingBooks.com/

    Remember, covers matter. Covers are often all a reader sees of your book before they buy. If you show professionalism and take care there, it speaks well of the rest of your book.

    –Michael W. Perry

    1. Hi Michael, thank you for all your suggestions! The idea of having the book number in the subtitle is an interesting one!
      Having a beautiful cover is really important when publishing independently, and can easily be overlooked. And yes, long titles aren’t a good idea – the title of my first book is way too long, and most people can’t remember it all! Short and catchy is definitely best if possible 🙂 Hope you find the other posts here useful too. – Michelle

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