FCTB: Finding a Title

Blog Post 30 FCTB TitlesWhat’s one of the most critical part of a book?  The opening paragraph?  The cover?  The text on the back cover?  All of those go into a good novel.  To me, the title ranks up there alongside the cover as a necessity to catch a reader’s attention.  The title, combined with the cover, can make a reader pick up or click on a book or pass it by.

That’s why selecting a title is so important.

If you’re like me, you probably have working title for your novel.  This can be for practical reasons.  It may be hard for you to work on a non-titled manuscript.  Or, you may use your title as nomenclature in naming your project files.  For Panama Deception, my working title was Ten Days.

Most likely, you’ll need to change your working title.  Do so only after you’ve finished your manuscript.

What’s the best way to find a title?  Below is how I recommend based upon the experience of working on seeing Exiled Heart, Hunter Hunted, and soon, Panama Deception, come to print.

  1. Brainstorm. Use a notepad and pen for this exercise rather than a computer because the act of writing can spur your creative processes. On the pad, jot down all words that you think describe your novel. I mean everything. Leave nothing out. Don’t be surprised if you come up with more than fifty words. As I started working on the title for Panama Deception, here are ten of the fifty-plus words I brainstormed: Death, Broken, Panama, Terror, Traitorous, Deception, Vacation, Choices, Heart, and Love.
  2. Link words together. Start linking words together to come up with different renditions of titles. I strongly suggest keeping the titles short, like a maximum of three words. Why? You want to avoid a mouthful of words for the title. Also, remember that the title goes into a cover design. A long title gives the designer a lot less size options to work with later. Here are some example titles I came up with while on the way to Traitorous Schemes, Knife’s Edge, Broken Loyalty, and Panama Deception.
  3. Cull the list. Take some time and strike the proposed titles that don’t fit your book. To do so, consider whether or not the title fits the overall nature of the book. For Panama Deception, here are some proposed titles I ditched: Dangerous Love (too romancy), Traitorous Secrets (can sound like a romance), and Covert Deception (sounds too much like one of my favorite television shows).
  4. Check up on your title. Now you have what you think is the stellar title. Do one last check. Take the proposed title and run it through Amazon. How many books, CDs, etc. come up under that exact name? I didn’t do that for Hunter Hunted, and in some ways, I wish I had because several titles popped up, including one for a book that was an erotic werewolf thriller (no kidding!). For Panama Deception, I did. The only thing that popped up was a VHS video documentary regarding the invasion of Panama that toppled Noriega from power. Realistically, can you expect your title to be totally unique? No. Strive to come up with one that has few other products of the same name, especially books. If you do have a title that will be common to many books, you can define it other ways, such as with a subtitle. This really works if your book is part of a series.

Now you know how to create a title.  The last bit of advice I can give is to have fun with this process.  It’s as creative as writing the manuscript and sometimes much more fun.

Next up:  The tagline.

Question:  What other methods do those of you who are writers have for deriving a title?

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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