Thursday, September 30, 2021

Book titles — more than just a name

How do you choose the title of your book? Do you write the story, then give it a name? Or does the title come first and the story follows its lead? Or does the name evolve out of the developing WIP?

Over a period of more than twenty years, my first novel's title and cover went through a number of changes before coming to rest under its current (and final) appearance and designation. Why did I have such a difficult time settling on the right title and look? First, I was a newbie at novel writing. Second, this likely happened in part because I wasn't at peace with one of my main characters. To take credit for this realization would be neither fair nor truthful. Over a period of a few years, two special writer friends, S. K. Randolph and Maryann Miller, urged me to take another look at my protagonist. The result: Katherine Kohler loosed the shackles holding her captive and evolved into a strong, decisive, admirable woman capable of carrying the story on her shoulders. Does this make her perfect? Oh, no. She still has weaknesses and shortcomings, as we all do. However, she accepts the blows life deals her, allows herself to mourn, and moves on.

Does this relate to naming my book? Indirectly, yes. Some readers felt the original title, Katherine's Song, had misled them. They expected a tale about music—which this book is not. The second name, A Brother Betrayed, better represented the story, but "betrayed" appears in many titles on Amazon and therefore doesn't stand out as memorable. Nor had my protagonist yet learned who she really was. The third title—which is appearing on the final rendition of the story—has little competition. Its uniqueness in fiction genres should make it easy to recall and find in Amazon's massive bookstore. Katherine Kohler, more than 20 years later, has grown into her own.

Why did it take so long for me to (hopefully) get it right? I made the mistake of becoming too attached to my protagonist. This attachment exceeded my willingness to let her become the powerful woman she needed to be. I knew her so well in the earlier versions of the story that I was reluctant to meet her new and improved self. Lesson learned.

When I submitted this article, I didn't have my artist's first cover draft. I received it this evening and like it a lot. So here it is. Neither the art nor the font are decided on for sure, but the above may closely resemble the final draft. I included it for your comments if you would like to share your thoughts.  

I have several more novels —10 to be exact—in various stages of creation. Each one has a name and a few words under that designation to remind me of the story to be told. Of course, those names are working titles and may have no resemblance to the novels' final monikers; on the other hand, they may pass the tests of time and relevance to grace the covers with invitations to come inside and travel with the characters on their life-changing journeys.

Interestingly, I have never experienced the problems with later books that I had with this one. The sharing of its ups and downs is intended to encourage you never to give up. If you feel your story needs to be told, tell it. Be patient with yourself until you get it right.

How do you choose your titles? Please share the techniques you use to make your stories appear appealing and your covers memorable.

Linda Lane is currently updating two previously written novels and is laying the foundation for her new cozy mystery series with a twist, the first book of which should be out in late 2021 or early 2022. She also has a number of partially finished novels that are scheduled to make their debuts in 2022 and 2023. Although still doing some fiction editing, she now focuses primarily on writing and on encouraging beginning writers to hone their skills and read, read, read. You can contact her through her writing website,


  1. The cover is very nice, Linda. I would suggest having your name larger across the bottom. Looking forward to seeing a final copy of the cover and the new story. So glad that you found my input helpful on that earlier draft.

  2. BTW, I can't write a story without a title, and it usually sticks unless a publisher comes up with a better one. So far, I've been lucky to keep the original. Titles and characters usually come first, and then I just start writing to "answer" the title.

  3. Because it was my first attempt at writing a book, Katherine's Song (now The Accounting) proved to be a huge learning process. If there was a way to do it wrong, I probably found it. (LOL) When I think about it, my characters probably come first in all my stories -- or at least at the same time as the basic concept of the story. This doesn't mean there won't be alterations in both during the writing, but it's a place to start. Thanks for your comments, Maryann. I always look forward to your input. :-)

  4. The title and cover may be the only thing a reader sees before decided to look closer or pass. They really are the biggest selling points before the reader even gets to the description.

  5. Yes. It proves the saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.


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