Great advice on how to choose your book title - guest post by @thewritershouse


The following is a guest post by Claire Pickering and Rebecca Richmond at The Writers' House UK.


This can be quite tricky but it is not something you should get hung up on before writing your manuscript. Just go with a working title to start with and refine it later.

The general advice around choosing a book title for non-fiction is:

  • It should, if possible, tell them what it is about at a glance.
  • It should have a hook and create an intrigue, so they want to know more.
  • If possible, it should be something that can be serialised.
  • To assist with marketing, it should contain the words your would-be buyers will type into Google or Amazon, or other such site.
When choosing a book title you want to research your market. For instance, if you were writing a fantasy book called Eden, if you searched for this on the Internet, you would invariably bring back search results for the Eden Project. However, if you expanded on your title, like the Mists of Eden, you would be more likely to bring back search results for your book. As we have seen, single-word titles don’t always work, but they can also be effective.

When we were choosing the title for our book, My Guide: How to Write a Novel, we first researched our market and looked at what people were searching for. Having determined that the words ‘write’ and ‘novel’ needed to be in the title, we had a base from which to start. Initially, we came up with an extensive list, including some of the following:

  • Writing a Novel Made Simple
  • Write a Novel: Unlock/Unleash the Author Within
  • How to Write a Novel: The Course That’s Not a Course
  • How to Write a Novel – Step-by-Step Guide
  • How to Write a Novel People Will Want to Read
  • Teach Yourself How to Write a Great Novel
  • When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Writer
  • When I Grow Up, I Want to Write a Book
  • The Novelty of Writing (play on word ‘novel’)
  • Anyone can Write a Book?
  • You Can Write Your Own Book
  • Write Your Own Story
  • Secrets of Writing a Novel
  • Your Chance to Write a Novel
  • A Book, By You
  • Become an Author
  • Write a Book with Our Helpful Guide
  • Tell a Story
  • Write a Novel in Your Own Time
  • The Novelist’s Bible (has religious associations, maybe restricting your readership)
  • Your Own Little Blueprint
  • Novelist’s Blueprint
  • Share Your Story
  • Your Chance to Share Your Story
  • The Myth of Writing a Novel (thought not really a myth)
  • The Key to Being a Novelist
  • What Makes a Good Novelist
  • Unleash the Author Within
  • Novels, Writing and You
  • Your Story, Your Keyboard, From Home/Wherever
  • Home-made Novel
  • Grow a Novel (can be serialised)
  • Everyone’s Got it in Them
  • Cultivating a Novelist
  • Teach Yourself
  • Home-grown Novelist
  • Practical Guide to Writing a Novel
  • Writing a Novel Demystified
  • The Mystery of Writing a Novel Unravelled
  • Mythbusters: How to Write a Novel
  • Easyish Guides
  • Simplish Guides
  • Chapter and Verse (again has religious connotations)
  • Writing a Novel in 12 Easy Steps
  • Ingredients to Writing a Novel
  • Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel
  • Write a Novel Made Easy
  • Writing a Novel Made Easy
  • Write a Novel: Steps 1, 2, 3
  • Insider’s Guide to Writing a Novel
  • A-Z of Writing a Novel
  • Recipe for Successful Novel Writing
  • Write Your Own Story
  • Anyone Can Write a Book
  • You Can Write Your Own Book
As you can see from this list, smaller words such as prepositions and conjunctions do not take a capital letter. Book titles and published titles also take italics. We had great fun compiling this list and a lot of laughs playing around with words before choosing one.

Eventually, we settled on a title called When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Write a Novel. This was chosen for many reasons, including the fact that we wanted something we could serialise. For instance: When I Grow Up, I Want to Write a Chick Lit; When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Become a Pilot; When I Grow Up, I Want to Communicate with Teenagers. This was an incredibly long title and would have implications both on the design of the front cover and also the spine.

We then came up with It’s My Life, and I’m Going to Write a Novel. This could then be serialised into other books we may want to write: It’s My Life, and I’m Going to Become a Teacher; It’s My Life, and I’m Going to Write a Thriller; It’s My Life, and I’m Going to Coach People. The idea being that we could then become known for the ‘My Life’ series of guides. However, this was still a long title.

The penultimate choice was to have a My Guide series, and My Guide: How to Write a Novel is the first in a series.

It is very important to consider your title. This is because it is one of the first things that will get your reader to pick up the book in the first place. You also need to consider who else has written a book with the same title. For instance, you don’t want to ride on the back of someone else’s success if you don’t want to run into trouble for trying to impersonate them. Neither do you want to become associated with a poorly written book. So it can work both in the positive and in the reverse.

The title has got to grab your reader’s attention as it is invariably the first thing they will look at, before the image on the front cover and the blurb. Choosing a book title carefully is also important because if you were to use a title called Cheetham Abbey or Winchester Cathedral when it is a historical romance or a thriller, then you may disappoint your readers if they were expecting something religious. The same would apply if you were to write a book with the word celebrity in the title, which may put people off reading it if they are anti the world of Big Brother and how celebrities rise in popularity even for doing small, silly things just to attract attention, even if it is in the negative.

You could even consider choosing a book title which may come from some wording within the book, such as Shaking Hands with One’s Sorrow or some other phrase which is pertinent to the book, even if it only appears once. But again, if your book was about another subject or topic which was important for which there was a potentially large market, you may limit your sales as they won’t be able to find you or to associate it with what the book is about. You can always add a subtitle if necessary, like we have done with the words How to Write a Book.

If you don’t choose words that convey what your book is about, such as writing and book or novel in our case, or maybe cancer or some other subject, your SEO results will be more limited and the idea is to get as high up the rankings as you can.

Choosing a book title such as Eats, Shoots and Leaves can be interpreted in many ways depending on where the comma is placed and was in actual fact, although quirky and while it has sold well, a very effective title and it became their hook. Another example would be the Dummies series. Although not a lot of people would find this successful in their own writFcheing, as it doesn't really tell us what the book is about in the first instance. It is all about playing with words, making it original. Put words together in a new way and avoid clich├ęs.