You have an idea for a story. You may even have written the whole book. But how do you decide what to title your book?
Naming Your Novel
When you got inspired to write your book, you may have had the perfect title come to mind. But often, it's not that simple and we feel stuck. A book title is not just a fancy way to name your story, but also an integral marketing tool. The book title indicates to the reader what genre and kind of story it will be along with the cover.
Follow these questions below as a quick check-list to help you develop and ensure that perfect book title that encapsulates your story.
1) Is it memorable?
Your book title is better off sweet and simple than obnoxiously long and confusing. This helps make it memorable and more likely that a reader will finish reading the title at all to determine if they even want to read your book. Think of a few of the most popular paranormal romance series in pop culture: Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. Twilight is literally one word and evokes paranormal intrigue. The Vampire Diaries tells you exactly what you're getting -- a vampire romance teen drama. These aren't complicated titles, they're easy to remember, and they honestly and blatantly tell the reader what they're about to get themselves into.
I decided to title my first book in my Crescent Crown Saga series Blood Moon. It's sweet and simple, easy to remember, and as we'll get into with the next question, very genre appropriate.
2) Is it genre appropriate?
You may have the perfect idea for a novel... but it may be the wrong genre entirely! You don't want to name your urban fantasy or paranormal romance (or any other genre book for that matter) a title that better meshes with a different genre completely. This will turn potential readers off by confusing them. Your book title is an important marketing decision that will attract readers who prefer certain genres. Your reader probably wants some indication from your title that there are vampires, werewolves, or witches specifically or that it has a romance or is a mystery/thriller or kickass urban fantasy. While you can do so much more with your cover art, the title of your book is one of the first things readers will notice. Be cognizant about the words you're choosing so that it can market the appropriate genre you want to the right potential readers.
3) Does it evoke intrigue with readers?
Is the title of your book boring? Or does it actually evoke intrigue with potential readers? When they look at the cover of your book, would they think: I want to read that! I need to know more!
This one can be a little tricky because obviously different people find different things intriguing. But a reader should be interested in discovering the answer to a question from the title of your book... For instance, what exactly is the witch's key in Sarra Cannon's The Witch's Key? What does it do and how might a witch or someone else use it? What could go wrong? Blood Moon might have the reader questioning the significance of this celestial phenomenon. What happens under the blood moon? Why is it important?
4) Does it already exist?
Ok. So you've brainstormed the perfect title for your book. It's short and memorable, genre appropriate, and it evokes intrigue... but when you Google the title IT ALREADY EXISTS! Damn...
If the title of your book is used in a less popular media (book, music, video game), you have less to worry about. Especially if you have a series title where it's not a standalone book, you can get away with a little redundancy where readers can look up the series name alongside the title of your book without much issue. Ideally, you want to avoid this and have a novel name that hasn't been used for any media at all, but let's be honest... there are only so many good names out there and you may run into a problem where media with a similar name already exists. Sometimes you need to go back to the brainstorm board and other times there are workarounds.
Then obviously, you don't want to title your book Twilight or The Vampire Diaries. Whenever someone searches for your book, your book won't pop up in addition to readers not being interested in your knock-off title. That's a marketing nightmare!
When I searched for Blood Moon, there are many urban fantasy/paranormal romance titles with the same or similar title. None are exceptionally popular (like Twilight) however and because it's the first book in a series of other titles, I was less concerned if there were redundancies with other books. But it also prompted me to ask the next question...
5) Do you need a subtitle?
There are a couple reasons why you may want a subtitle for your book, the first being if there are other similar titles on the market and the other to further clarify the genre and content for potential readers.
I decided to subtitle Blood Moon with 'A Louisiana Demontale' because as I mentioned, there are many "Blood Moon" books on the market and because it further indicated to the reader the setting and content of the book. 1) Blood Moon is set in New Orleans and 2) it is an urban fantasy with a demon romance. I never use the subtitle when referring casually to or marketing the book as it clutters the book title. But when you look on the book cover and sales page, it adds a little extra to the title that helps the reader decide if that's something they want to read or not.
Some subtitles are as simple as "a vampire romance" or "a dark fantasy" indicating or pin-pointing exactly what kind of book it is quickly to potential readers. You may think at first that this is a waste of space -- couldn't the reader just click your ad or page as the book pops up? But why should they click on the page and waste their time if they can't determine whether the romance is with a vampire or werewolf and they specifically want one and not the other? And the next book on the search page explicitly says what they're looking for? Why not make it as simple as possible for the reader to make a decision so they don't choose another title over yours...
6) Are there multiple titles in a series?
If you're naming a standalone novel, this is often hard enough. But if you have multiple titles in a series, you need to think strategically about how those book titles will work with one another. There are a few good rules of thumb when naming multiple titles which ties the books together:
Same word variations. Blood Moon is a great example of this. Each book in the main Crescent Crown Saga series is a different 'moon.' The sequel to Blood Moon is Hunter Moon (go figure -- and it's about vampire hunters!) and the third installment is called Wolf Moon (werewolf drama of course) and the fourth and fifth are Thunder Moon and Rose Moon respectively. The reader will immediately know that they are all part of a series in addition to the series name. Another example would be Jenna Moreci's The Savior's Champion and companion novel, The Savior's Sister.
Cadence. You may want a little more leeway in titling your book where you will use a similar cadence or number of words such as Bethany Atazadeh's The Stolen Kingdom Series: The Stolen Kingdom, The Jinni Key, The Cursed Hunter, and The Enchanted Crown. Some book series blend the two such as with Harry Potter. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, etc. etc.
Theme. The Twilight Saga books are titled based on theme: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn, each having to do with light (celestial objects) or lack thereof in the sky.
Random or Content Driven. But still yet, some big name novels get away with titles that are specific to that story and really have no interconnected words, themes, or cadence from title to title. Take The Hunger Games Trilogy for example: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay are only tied to the story itself. A potential reader would have no reason to suspect they are from the same series except for the series title and cover art tying them together. Generally, big name publishers and famous authors can get away with this much easier because their marketing is already on point. I don't recommend this naming method for budding or indie authors.
Naming your novel can be a very fun and/or frustrating process, but when you've successful titled your book(s) it feels and looks amazing! Know that this is an important marketing tool for prospective readers in addition to creating a memorable and positive experience for your fans. Want more behind-the-scenes resources and exclusive updates? Sign up for my newsletter at www.schuylerwindham.com.
If you're struggling to brainstorm book name ideas try these two methods. 1) Research. Look up similar books in that genre and see how others are titling their books for inspiration. 2) Important words, themes, etc. in your book. Make a long list of important content words (magical objects, events), themes (what is your book about?), characters, and anything else that comes to mind. Rearrange the words in different patterns and see if anything looks good/stands out using the rules from this article.