Picking A Title For Your Fiction Book


The Silence of the Lambs (novel)

The Silence of the Lambs (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m one of those writers who generally slaps a title on a writing project before its finished. I guess there are pros and cons of selecting the perfect title that grabs hold of the meat of your story. For me, I can’t start writing without a title. For some reason I need to be able to reference my project by a name. At the end when I am finished I may decide to change it or add to it or maybe even scrap the whole project. Actually, I never really scrap the project I simply put it to the side and get back to it within months or could be years.

I promised myself that I would do more research on the web. So, my question is: How Do You Pick A Title For Your Fiction Book? Of course Google is my friend so I simply applied my title for this article and here are a few sites that popped up.

John Floyd at Writers World suggested not have a dull title and provided a list of well known authors and the themes they use to select signature titles.

A Few Rules of Thumb:

Titles should not be dull. When you browse a shelf full of novels, or a collection of short stories, aren’t you drawn first to the more unusual titles? So are editors, when they look over a stack of submissions. Not that “The House” or “The Tree” won’t be a good story; but titles with a bit more originality stand a better chance. Examples: Gone with the Wind, The High and the Mighty, “The Tin Star,”The Silence of the Lambs, The Maltese Falcon, Watership Down,”The Snows of Kilimanjaro,”Fahrenheit 451, The Color Purple, Atlas Shrugged. Read more here.

Apryl Duncan at Fiction Addiction has suggested listening to some favorite songs. You could mix and match the titles to come up with a the perfect one for your work. Another suggestion was to create a word basket and fill it with nouns, adjectives and the like to select your title. This sounds like fun.

Listen to your favorite music. Songs often contain beautiful lyrics you could use or even play off of for your own work.

For example, let’s pick a couple of songs at random.

Lyric: There’s a shadow hanging over me.
Possible Book Title: Hanging Shadows

Electric Light Orchestra-Turn to Stone
Lyric: The city streets are empty now.
Possible Book Title: Empty City

Or you could even mix the two songs to come up with really unique titles such as Yesterday’s Stone Shadows, Empty City Shadows or Stone Shadows. Read more here.

And finally, according to agent Rachelle Gardner the final decision for your title is ultimately up to the publisher, unless of course, you self-publish.

Let’s start by acknowledging a few things. The publisher is usually responsible for the final decision on title, and in the query stage, it’s not that important. In fact, some agents have said they don’t pay any attention at all to titles. But at some point, you’re going to want to think seriously about this. Your title is part of the overall impression you’re creating about your book. It can set a tone and create an expectation. Whether you’re pitching to an agent, or your agent is pitching to publishers, I think you want to have the strongest title possible.

Think of it this way: the better your title is, the better your chance that the publisher will decide to use it, rather than changing it. Read more here.

So basically, what I wanted to point out is that there are many different ways to select a title for your project. And at the end of the day, it is hit or miss as to whether or not you’ve hit the jackpot of all pots on what you’ve selected. As always, you should be writing for yourself and incorporating your own ideas. Write what you would want to read and let the chips fall where they may. Happy Writing.

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