“What’s in a Name?” Book Title Tips

When it comes to book titles, it usually works in two ways. One, the title (and/or concept) has already been imagined and the content needs to be composed and stretched to match. This often happens with cook books and poorly-written screenplays.

For example, if you have a dream to make an amazing Italian dessert cookbook, the title may be a pun or an allusion, but it will be extremely obvious what you are about to read. “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: Italian Dessert Recipes by Luca Sollozzo.” The title dictates the content—you must have Italian dessert recipes in the book. “Title first” is often used in Hollywood as well. Long before a screenplay was ever written, actors and producers began working on “Snakes on a Plane.” All they knew is that there had to be a lot of snakes roaming free inside of an airplane.

The second way a title is born is after much of the content has been composed. The prose gives rise to how the story should be labeled. Stephen King’s title “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” came after the sub-plot of the poster was written into the story.

With either title approach, it can still be very difficult to find the right wording and phrase for your book. For starters, much like it is preached in writing 101, understand your audience. If you are writing for a more conservative and older reader base, the title should not be too edgy or deal with youthful trends.

After you have determined your audience, decide your tone. Your title is the first impression your book is giving to your readers. There is a big difference between William S. Burroughs’ “Junky” and Billy Graham’s “The Reason for My Hope: Salvation.”

The final important aspect, after tone and audience, to keep in mind when trying to find a title for your book is making sure you actually like it. That may sound obvious, but all too often authors get advice and pressure and end up just settling on a title. Once you love your title you can expect others to as well.

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