Friday, December 12, 2008

Brainstorming Titles for Your Book

In Part 1 of this series on Book Titles, I discussed using a working title for your book if you couldn't immediately think of a suitable title. But what happens if you’ve completed a draft of your book and still can’t come up with a title?

Firstly, try brainstorming on the key themes of your book. Write down what your story is about and pull out the keywords from that blurb. What stands out for you? Can you rearrange the words to make a title? Draw a spider diagram of word associations based on your keywords, and keep rearranging until you find a combination you like.

What titles do you like of other books? Do you prefer short or long titles? Punchy or elegant? If you aim for the same number of syllables, you will probably enjoy the sound of the title more – perhaps you only need to add or remove one word from your keyword combination to get a perfect fit.

Continue reading:

Part 3: Checking Your Proposed Title

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or


  1. One thing (among many) that author Barry Eisler impressed upon me when he spoke at a conference I attended, was that the title of your book must convey what kind of book it is, at least as much as possible. His publisher titled his first book "Rain Fall", which is a clever play on the character's name (John Rain), but fails to even imply it's a thriller.

    The working title of my book started out "Hands of Time", since it revolved around finding a severed hand in a freezer. Then one morning I looked at the title and said, "This sounds like it could be a romance. I didn't write a romance." I promptly renamed it "Freezer Burn". I'm not saying that everyone looks at the title and thinks mystery, but it at least sounds more dangerous than a clock.

  2. Gayle, I like the title Freezer Burn. And I think you're right, Hands of Time sounds a bit like a romance -- or possibly an historical.

    I tend to like short titles, 2 or three words.

  3. Here's a dilemma for an author I know who uses the names of metals in each of her titles. The current one uses "lead" but is always mis-read with a long "e" meaning pull someone forward. So she is stuggling with some short combination of words that will make readers pronounce it correctly and take the correct meaning. Such a dilemma after writing 400 pages; you'd think it would be easy.


  4. Gayle:
    That's a very good point. Genre books do tend to have titles that indicate the genre, and readers do probably, consciously or subconsiously, use the title (and cover images, if visible) to judge what type of book it is.

    I'm the same. The shorter the better.

    Yes, that is a tricky one. Does she have to use "lead"? My first thought is to find a different metal. Otherwise she'd have to pair it in some way - "lead paint", "lead bars", "lead pencil" - or perhaps use the form "leaden", like "leaden skies"...


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