What’s in a Title?

I’ve never given much thought to the titles of my books. For my first several manuscripts, they justpintip came to me during the beginning stages of the writing, and they seemed to fit perfectly (in my humble opinion).

The title of my latest book was more problematic. During the writing, I used a placeholder title I wasn’t crazy about because I couldn’t come up with anything better. Before the manuscript went on submission, my agent and I settled on a new title I wasn’t crazy about because we couldn’t come up with anything better.

And then last week, my editor said to me, “We need a new title.” I knew this was it — if I didn’t come up with something better, my book would be stuck with a title I wasn’t crazy about.

But how to come up with a new title — a title I loved — when I’d already tried and failed over the course of the last year?

Based on the advice of several friends, I used the following ways to brainstorm potential book titles:

1) I looked at the structure of popular movie titles and tweaked the words.

2) I read through my manuscript and pulled out interesting phrases.

3) I looked up quotes containing key words pertaining to my manuscript and jotted down interesting ways in which those words were used.

4) I read through song lyrics of the music I listened to (and was presumably inspired by) while writing the manuscript.

5) I looked at the communications contained in my book — a note from one character to another, a journal entry — to see if I could substitute a new phrase that would make a good title.

From these five methods, I compiled an enormous list of titles, many of which were terrible and could be discarded immediately. I chose the top forty and sent the list to my agent and editor.

My agent narrowed the list to nine titles, and then my editor narrowed it to three. Of those three, I campaigned for my favorite. My editor agreed, and then my agent agreed, and . . .

Voila! I think we have a new title! I don’t know if it’s final yet, so I won’t announce it here. But I will say that although the title didn’t originally stand out for me, it grew on me the more I thought about it.

And now, I can finally say: I’m pretty crazy about my title.

How do you come up with book titles? What is your favorite book title (yours or someone else’s)? How many times have your titles changed?

Please share!

19 thoughts on “What’s in a Title?

  1. I HATE, HATEEEEEEEE coming up with titles. Not as much as writing the synopsis, but pretty close. So congrats on finally picking one you love! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    One step you’re missing in the process is to put your proposed title into Amazon and see what comes up. A lot of romance titles have been used countless times so you want to make sure no one has used it in recent years.

  2. Some of my favorite emails are the ones where writing friends say, “Help! I need a title!” and then the hilarity that ensues from the fun and crazy suggestions. (Wink, wink)

    Pintip Mermaid, I CANNOT wait to have my very own copy of this book and it’s wonderful title.


    1. Aw, thanks, Carlene! And you are absolutely a big help when it comes to title brainstorming. You’re right — there have been some crazy suggestions on the mermaid loop…

    2. Aw, thanks, Carlene! You’ve been a great help in the brainstorming process, and you’re right. There have been some crazy and fun suggestions on the mermaid loop…

  3. Pintip, I abhor the title process. I’ve brainstormed with my critique group. I’ve looked through the book for phrases that pop. I’ve spent eight hours reading 19th century poetry and then, finding inspiration for an acceptable title, added to the book incorporating the new title and giving it meaning within the context of the novel. My most recent technique when “stuck” was to spend an entire day (I’m serious, I think I spent 8 hours) reading every historical title released over the past year–looking for trends. And I finally did come up with a great title doing that.

    For me, digging for a title is cruel and unusual punishment. But once I land that great title, every time I hear it/see it/say it, I’m lovin’ it!

    1. Sheri, no one can ever fault your dedication and research skills! You amaze me, and I love your titles, so your process certainly works! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I hate coming up with titles, and this post was just what I needed to read today! ๐Ÿ™‚ I would much rather work on the synopsis than a title, and I plan to try your method with my next book. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Oh, wow. Synopsis rather than title? Now that’s a big statement. Lol. Here’s hoping that your next title will magically come to you! Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Sadly, they never do. And for this new series I’ve started, it doesn’t even have a working title, LOL! I’ll have to try your tips and see if it helps me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Coming up with titles is the pits! I’ve only ever had one title come to me easily. The rest have been painful, and I haven’t been entirely happy with them even after the pain. I usually refer to the MS as character’s name (Ava’s story) while it’s in progress.

    1. Lol, Jessica. I’ve been referring to my book as Carlie for so long, that I still called it that, even after we had the new (now discarded) title. But I’ve been using the new title now — which should tell you how much I actually like it. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. So I had a title for my second mystery – The End Zone – someone is murdered at a football game, it’s punny, it follows naturally from The Deep End and then I started thinking about limiting myself. Did I want the word ‘end’ to appear in all my titles? What if I’m lucky enough to be writing a series that stretches to many books? I imagined increasingly ‘ends’. So, when friend suggested Guaranteed to Bleed as a title and reminded me of the madras labels, I added some madras pants to the book and changed the title. My editor seems to like it and I love it! Now I need my friends to come up with the third title…

    1. Julie, that’s so cute! I love it!! I also like The End Zone, but I see your point about limiting. Friends are great for naming books. Our friend Denny named my sequel for Fit To Die. Again, I don’t know if it will stay, but I think it’s perfect.

  7. I’ve been asked for at least 12 title suggestions, twice by my publisher. I think at the moment, it’s marketing and the editors that can’t agree. I’m both frustrated by the process and flattered that so many people are invested in making it right. At least they have agreed on the series title, so I can say that Book 1 of The Viking Warriors will be out in November. Hopefully with a title. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Asa, at least that’s a great series title! I can’t wait to learn what title you end up with! Good luck, and I hope you don’t have to come up with twelve more!

  8. Hi, Pintip! I feel lucky to be in on the secret book title, and all Iโ€™ll say right now is that itโ€™s *perfect*! Thanks for running through the process of finding a title. Iโ€™ll use this for my current WIP, which by the way Iโ€™ve struggled to give the ideal name. Usually, the title and first few lines of come to me first and I stick with them. I canโ€™t seem to stay away from โ€˜punnyโ€™ titles โ€” Iโ€™m lame that way!

  9. PIntip,
    I hate coming up with titles. I usually leave the dirty job up to my writing friends. Lol. Everyone I’ve ever known to publish says not to get too attached to your title because they almost always change. So, I don’t get too attached. haha.
    Can’t wait for you to reveal your title. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck!

Comments are closed.