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For Aspiring Writers

Readers Judge a Book By Its Title


Sometimes your title may inspire a whole novel, sometimes you could have polished your story for the final time but still be struggling to find a fitting name. Some people enjoy thinking of the title at the beginning, some writers leave this task till last. Whatever it is, the title of a story plays a crucial part in enticing a reader into reading your book. Readers will judge whether to read your book by its title.

A title has two purposes; to inform and to attract. The title should hint at a particular element of the story, e.g. a character or a theme or a object, and should be interesting enough to make the reader pick the book up e.g. a snappy alliteration or a play on words.

‘Rules’ for Titles

  • Titles should not be dull. For example, instead of writing ‘The House’ you may want to write something a little more peculiar and relative to your story such as ‘442 Brick Lane’. The effect of such a specific title makes the reader wander, ‘where is this place?’, ‘what’s so special about it?’, ‘what’s significant about 442?’ Details count.
  • A title should be memorable. If you go to a bookstore, have a look at the average number of words per title. You will find they are usually two or three words. Six words titles, for example, are very rare and should only be chosen in necessary cases and may also work well in sci-fi or fantasy series. A title might be an alliteration, a play on words, a catchy phrase so it stays in your readers head. Ensure that not only are they clear and simple, but also easy for your reader to pronounce.
  • A title should tell the reader something about the story. If you call a story, ‘13 Glen Avenue’ your reader may assume the book is a horror story, but instead you might have written a romance or a historical novel. Don’t mislead your reader. Let the title express a tone, a theme or a genre.

Ideas for Titles

  • a common phrase e.g. Gone for Good
  • a play on words or a twist of a common phrase e.g. You Only Live Twice
  • a characters name e.g. Rebecca
  • a hidden meaning revealed in the story e.g. Catch 22
  • a place e.g. Jurassic Park
  • a possessive e.g. Charlotte’s Web
  • an event or activity e.g. Pleading Guilty
  • a line from the story e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird
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4 thoughts on “Readers Judge a Book By Its Title

  1. Great post and thanks for the tips on titling a story.
    I heard a podcast some time ago from Steve Berry (steveberry.org) where he talked about the basis’ for the title’s he uses. He echo’s your sentiments of titles needing to be two to three words. He also mentioned something similar to you in terms of titles needing to be memorable, he called the “ooh factor.” This is where the reader upon hearing the book title begins thinking how interesting and wants to learn more. Then the other part of the title is what he called the “so what factor.” He states that a title needs to be relevant to the reader, that it is connect to today somehow.
    Now he writes international thrillers, so these may not work for all genres but I thought it was an interesting take on titling and like you have, put thought into the art of writing.

    SB

    • Hey there

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post, and I’m glad for a such a long comment. I’ve notice you mentioned Steve Berry a few times in your posts and comments and it seems as though he gives excellent advice, so I’ll definitely have to check his website out – thanks for that.

      I’d also read this book in which 20 random book titles were taken and 13 of them had titles of two or three words long – that’s definitely saying something!

      Thanks for his link again, I’ll check it out today! And as always I appreciate your comment

      ~ JLT

  2. Hi JLT. Thanks for liking my post “A Quote for Today” and for following my blog. Your blog is informative and helpful and I’ve passed the URL for the post on titles to some writer friends of mine. I hope they check it out.
    Tori McRae

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