Working Title

Book titles are funny things. For some writers, a title presents itself before the first word gets typed into their word-makers. Some pop up along the way. I’ve been lucky, I guess. For nearly all of my projects, the title has always been there. Dependable as the adult diapers of approximately the same name. Not that I would know anything about that, of course.

But I’ve been having trouble settling on a title for my next book. Loyal Spouse suggested, “My Next Book” or “Bestselling Novel.” (Thanks, dude.) So I asked some of my fellow scribes how they choose their titles. As I suspected, unlike predicting the blast radius of a nuclear device or the probability of indie authors arguing in a TwitFace group, choosing the perfect title for a book is more art than science.

Who knows what will stick in reader’s minds, what will look best on the cover, what will be the perfect intersection of catchiness, content, and comprehension?

According to some writerly types at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, it’s in the letters you choose. The lovely and gracious Rosanne Dingli, author of According to Luke, was lecturing there when a perusal of popular Aussie titles, such as Monkey Grip and Picnic at Hanging Rock, revealed a preponderance of G’s, M’s, and P’s in the titles, with G far and away the winner. Do these letters make people happy? Are they more attractive than other letters? Are the “less attractive” letters planning a class-action lawsuit? And could this bit of visual aesthetics be a factor in the popularity of certain current bestsellers, such as Hunger Games, Twilight, and a bunch of shades of a certain color?

Maybe I’ve been going about this title business all wrong. Instead of worrying if the title matches the genre and underlying themes of the book, or if the connotations will alienate my audience, I should have minded my P’s and Q’s (Rather, my G’s and M’s.)

For my own amusement, I went to my handy-dandy Random Title Generator and plugged in a few random G-words. It spit back these G-laden title possibilities:

Title One: Gorgeous Goggles During Gregarious Gaggles
Title Two: The Gregarious Genghis Khan
Title Three: The Gargoyle During Gorgeous Goggles
Title Four: Gorgeous Genghis Khan
Title Five: The Gargling Gargoyle
Title Six: Gorging Gaggles
Title Seven: Gargling Goggles
Title Eight: Gregarious Gorging
Title Nine: Gorging for Gaggles
Title Ten: Gargling and Gorging

Yeah. I’ll toss these out to the focus group and see how they fly. Not well, I’d imagine.

These same Aussie writers postulated that H is also a nice letter to include in a title. And why not? H is the start of all kinds of comfy words like humble, hugs, home, heffalump…and heffalumps sell a boatload of books. Well, a boatload of books with stuffed bears as protagonists.

Here’s what I got:

Title One: Handsome Headlines Through Hirsute Hippopotami
Title Two: The Hirsute Hump
Title Three: The Horseradish Through Handsome Headlines
Title Four: Handsome Hump
Title Five: The Hunting Horseradish
Title Six: Horrifying Hippopotami
Title Seven: Hunting Headlines
Title Eight: Hirsute Horrifying
Title Nine: Horrifying for Hippopotami
Title Ten: Hunting and Horrifying

I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling especially comforted.

Do you write comedy? One funny lady I know insists that the “K” sound is the funniest of all. Think about it. Pickle. Binkie. Tiddlywinks. Snack crackers. Now that’s some funny stuff. So, going back to my Title Transmogrifier, I plugged in a random assortment of K words. Here are some possibilities:

Title One: Kissable Kettles of Kosher Katydids
Title Two: The Kosher Ketchup
Title Three: The Kumquat of Kissable Kettles
Title Four: Kissable Ketchup
Title Five: The Keelhauling Kumquat
Title Six: Killing Katydids
Title Seven: Keelhauling Kettles
Title Eight: Kosher Killing
Title Nine: Killing for Katydids
Title Ten: Keelhauling and Killing

Something to keep in mind for the next book, perhaps. But for now, I think I’ll return to my tried-and-true method of title selection: waiting until something perfect hits me in the head.

How do you choose your titles?

Author: Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Learn more about Laurie at her website and her Amazon author page.

21 thoughts on “Working Title”

  1. Now you have me waxing nostalgic about Angus McGonigle, the Argyle Gargoyle who gargles Gershwin…

  2. With my Jukebox Heroes series, I use song titles as book titles. That narrows the field a little.

    For everything else, I wait until something perfect hits me in the head. 🙂

    Fun post. Thanks for a few smiles.

  3. My personal favorite is “bestselling novel” but in all seriousness, this is always an issue for me. Titles are terrible.

  4. ‘Title Conception’

    I guess I’m the old stuffed shirt here. Well, I’m old enough. I love to come up with titles. If only my writing could keep up with them.
    I have as much fun coming up with the titles as I do the Flash Fiction entries. This week’s is ‘Gullible.’ Coming up with a novel’s title takes some work. My fourth novel, which I have just started, has 264 names listed. Then I read each one, and highlighted the ones that piqued my interest. I finally selected ‘Fragrance of Revenge.’ Why?
    I tried to come up with a title that captured the essence of the novel. Fragrance because it picks up from the last novel, ‘Scent of Gardenia.’ The new novel deals with a very bad woman seeking revenge.
    I also take some of the novel titles and enter them in Amazon to see if there are any other novels by that title or close to it. It’s easy to do, and it gives you some instant feedback, or takes you down a different path.
    I personally like to come up with a title that leaves the reader with an ability to recall it. They might not remember the characters, but they should be able to recall the theme via the title.
    The naming process might be easy for some people, but there’s an art to it. I’ve written down more than one name while drifting off to sleep.
    I’ve even tried to help other authors select, or come up with a name for their novel. The best way to do that is to read the novel to get a sense for possible names. The thesaurus comes in handy to find alternative words that blend better.
    Obviously there are many different ways to come up with a title, and authors do it every day. I just wanted to give some input to another possible method of selecting a title.
    The bottom line is the process of naming your baby should be as much fun as conceiving it. Let’s call it ‘Title Conception.’

  5. Dick, that’s awesome. Despite my complaints, I am kind of having fun with it. Tossing out words in different combinations, checking them on Google and Amazon. Well, back to brainstorming, assuming I haven’t harmed my brain by banging it against the wall… 😉

  6. Yeah. Hirsute Hippopotomi…gotta write that one…LOL

    I used to take a line from each book and tie it into the title somehow. But, ya gotta wait til the book’s done, if ya do it that way.

    Thanks for the laugh, Laurie.

  7. Great stuff. Joe Cafe and The Biker are pretty obvious. ‘Please, no eyes.’ (my short story collection) I named because I used to keep all my stories in a folder on the comp I shared with my roommate and I didn’t want him reading my stories. 😉

  8. Great stuff Laurie. Fracture The Secret Enemy Saga was not my first choice for the title of my book. It started out Rip In Time (ugh), then Ripped Worlds (terrible), then Worlds Divided (yawn), until lightbulb!
    Now I wish I would have waited, The Hunting Horseradish sounds so much better:)

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: