How to Write a Book Title That Gets Attention

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Whether it comes first or last in your process — or anywhere in the middle — titling your book makes a huge difference in how readers perceive your work — and whether they decide to purchase it in the first place. A good book title grabs a potential reader’s attention and piques their interest, sets their expectations, and prepares them for the literary brilliance within.

Your book’s front matter should be grab attention, and a great title is one of the most important elements. Of course, you’re not aiming for clickbait, but it can’t be boring either, so deciding how to write a book title that represents your work and ticks all the boxes can be a challenge. If book title generators aren’t cutting it, here are some writing tips to help you hit the sweet spot when naming your book.

Choose the type of book title that works for you

Book titles can be short or long, literal or abstract, serious or funny, or anything beyond. Here are some of the many different types you can choose from — and a few book title ideas for inspiration.

  • Descriptions: The Five Hour Workweek, The Housemaid
  • Questions: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
  • Provocations: Steal This Book; I Am America (And So Can You!)
  • Humor: Super Sad True Love Story; Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • Puns: Wishful Drinking; The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Alliterations: The Boys in The Boat; Pride and Prejudice
  • Metaphors: Chicken Soup for the Soul; All the Light We Cannot See

Understand the core principles of a great book title

There’s a great deal of creativity that goes into writing a top-notch book title, but there’s plenty of craft to accompany the art. Here are some simple rules for writing a good title.

  • Be clear and concise. Nobody wants to read a book with a title that’s over-complicated or bloated with words that don’t need to be there. A good test for when you’re done is making sure that there aren’t any more words you can remove from a potential title without having it lose its meaning and power.
  • Use strong, evocative language. Remember that one of the primary goals of a book title is to grab the reader’s attention, so try to use powerful words, phrases, and images that will make an impact. This doesn’t mean to go trashy and use words or phrases that that will just shock — trust your gut to know the difference.
  • Be original and unique. Avoid clichés and overused phrases, and don’t follow the pack. Just because 50 other best-selling authors titled their books a certain way doesn’t mean you should. Your goal is to find the best title that fits your book, and when it comes to book titling, one size never fits all.
  • Make sure your title is relevant to your book’s content. This may seem obvious, but in an era of clickbait headlines, it’s very important to make sure that there’s a strong connection between the book title you come up with and the text that rests in between the covers.

Test your title

Once you have a draft title in place, or even a short list of potential titles you’re trying to decide between, it’s time to run your potential book name(s) through a thorough review process to make sure you’ve landed on the one.

  • Ask other people for feedback. Identify beta readers and other people in your network who fit the demographic of your target audience, whether that means kids, young adults, parents, etc. Then run the title by them and see what they think. Don’t base your decision solely on any one person’s feedback, but keep your test subjects’ overall impressions in mind as you make your final decisions.
  • Look at the best-selling books in your genre and see what kind of titles they have. This can be helpful for context, but again, make sure not to imitate anything too closely. You don’t want your book title to seem like a rip off of what’s already out there.
  • Do a search on Amazon to see if there are any other books with the same title. This is an important step. It may or may not be a dealbreaker if other books already have the title you want — so be sure to investigate. If you have questions about this, consult with a literary lawyer. Organizations like Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and the Author’s Guild can be great resources for this sort of thing.
  • Test your title on social media to see how people react. You can always try crowdsourcing reactions to your potential book title and see what people say.

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Tailor your title to your genre

There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to titling your book, and certain principles can help you make sure that your project both stands out and fits in with the standards of your genre.

  • Fiction. Book titles for fiction genres are often descriptive, evocative, or intriguing. The more vivid and interesting, the better.
  • Nonfiction. Book titles for nonfiction genres are often more straightforward and informative. You want your readers to know what they’re getting.
  • Self-help. Book titles for self-help genres often promise readers a specific benefit or solution. Make sure that those benefits are straightforward, attractive, and realistic.
  • Business. Book titles for business genres often focus on success, leadership, or innovation. They can also focus on achieving certain specific types of goals. Again, avoid hype and bluster and drill down to the value your readers will get by reading.

Trademark your book title

Once you land on the perfect title for your book, your next job is to protect it in the proper way. You can’t copyright a book title, so in most situations, that means engaging in the trademark process. Here’s how you get started:

  • Search the USPTO trademark database to see if your book title is already trademarked.
  • If your book title is not trademarked, you can file a trademark application online. If there already is a trademark on your dream title, but you still feel like it’s the one, touch base with a lawyer via the links above.
  • Once your trademark is approved, you will have exclusive rights to use your book title in commerce.

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