How To Come Up With A Great Title

Last weekI blogged about the importance of a good title. So how do you come up with one? I’ve already mentioned the problem with titles that don’t give any idea what the book is about…or are so generic they could be plopped on a dozen books…or are so popular dozens of books already have that title. You want something that stands out, something that makes the potential book buyer pick your book.

But how do you come up with that great title?

(1) Go to your library, book store, or on-line and look at the titles available now. Look closely at the ones used on books similar to what you’ve written or are writing. Check out the bestsellers lists, but disregard the titles used by popular writers. Nora Roberts could title her next book BOOK 3 and it would sell well. If anything, look at the early works/titles used by those popular writers.

(2) Although titles can’t be copyrighted, you certainly don’t want to use some titles or title formats that are identified with certain writers; for example, Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird, or A is for Alibi or One for the Money, Harry Potter and….

(3) There are some title creating programs available on line. and or . They’ll give you some titles and one might stimulate an idea, but I wouldn’t suggest using what is suggested since others will see the same list.

(4) Try taking a popular title and change it around.  Not Dreaming of You by Nina Cordoba; Three Girls and a Baby by Rachel Schurig; The Non-Silence of the Lambs by Dr. Luke A.M. Brown and Mrs. Berthalicia Fonseca Brown.

(5) Do some brainstorming using the cluster or mind mapping method. In the center, write the main word, theme or key element of the story. In no order, at random, as quickly as you can see how many words or phrases you can come up with that you associate with the key word. Try opposites and comparisons. Then take a break. When you come back, look at what you’ve written down and see if it stimulates any ideas.


This is what I’m trying to do with my current wip. So far I’m not excited about any, but I’ll keep trying.

(6) Consider using a quotes from: the Bible; Shakespeare; nursery rhymes; children’s stories; song titles; lines of poetry. Or misquotes or twisted sayings: A Midwinter’s Tail by Sofie Kelly; It Happened One Wedding by Julie James; After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman; Missing You by Harlan Coben; Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis; Shelter From The Storm by Maris Soule.

(7) Use the name of your main character plus a key word. Rabbit Run, Rabbit is Rich, Rabbit is Redux all by John Updike.

(8) If your book is set in a foreign local, think about working that into the title. James Clavell’s novels were influenced by the location. Tai-Pan and Shogun. Mitchener’s Tales of the South Pacific.

(9) Utilize the goal or yearning of the main character or somewhere the main character goes. The Magic Mountains by Thomas Mann; Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote.

(10) If you’re writing a series, make sure the title you pick for the first book is one that will generate similar titles for the following books. Those titles often become synonymous with the writer. John Sanford’s Prey titles (Rules of Prey, Silken Prey, Field of Prey, etc.) Sue Grafton’s alphabet titles, Janet Evanovich’s numerical titles. I think Diane Burton’s newest edition to the mystery genre fits this criteria. The Case of the Bygone Brother can be followed by many other titles using The Case of the and then two words starting with the same first letter.

(11) For some books, using a strong verb in the title will give the title strength: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin; How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying) by Kerrelyn Sparks

(12) Look for words that have a strong emotional impact: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

(13) If you’re writing something humorous, try to make the title humorous. Perhaps a play on words or something unexpected, will catch the potential book buyer’s eye and interest: Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda James; The Cat, the Vagabond and the Victim by Leann Sweeny; Who, What, Where, When, Die by Amanda M. Lee.

(14) Create a title that makes the reader want to find the answer. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime by Mark Haddon; Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel; Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Once you have a title or some title possibilities

Ask others which title they think works best. Or ask them for some suggestions beyond what you have. They might come up with the perfect one


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5 Responses to How To Come Up With A Great Title

  1. Diane Burton says:

    I love your ideas for coming up with a title. It’s never easy. Thanks for the shout out on my upcoming mystery. You’re right about the 2 words beginning with the same letter, which I’ll use in future books. I used a thesaurus to find words that conveyed the idea of lost that began with a “b” to come before brother. A thesaurus is my best friend when coming up with titles. I’m still going to try your ideas.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Glad to mention your book. Your idea of using the thesaurus is a good one. I’m going to see if it helps in my search for a title for my wip.

  2. Paula says:

    Thanks once again for a blog with some really useable content. I’m using some of these suggestions for titles of the short articles I write as well. Will take more of your suggestions and put them to work in the future.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    Great ideas! I love with my series to use a similar theme in the title or word. It makes it so much more fun!

    I didn’t know about that site. I will have to try it! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Titles are difficult for me. I choose with care. Your suggestions are excellent.