It’s all in a name – or title.

November 2, 2016

When I was pregnant and trying to find names for my unborn child, I remember someone telling me that when you finally choose a name, stand at the back door, yell it out twenty times and if you still like it after that, then you’ve found the right name for your child because that’s what you’ll be doing for the next fifteen years of your child’s life. Good advice because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.


When it comes to your novel however, it’s a totally different ball game. Titles are not born equal. You can’t stand at your back door and yell your title twenty times and make it a best seller – if only! Choosing the title of your book is one of the most important decisions you will make after the writing, editing, and all the other stuff that goes into producing a novel. The title is the first thing a potential reader will discover about your book, and in that split second will be the make or break of  your book being picked up from the millions of others out there – all before they even read the blurb! 


There have been several clangers in history (at least I’m not the only one), these three being some of the highlights:


Jane Austen’s, First Impressions, was rejected. As Pride and Prejudice, it did much better.


All’s Well that Ends Well was the original title for Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace — in fact, it was first released under that title until its publishers came to their senses. 


When William Golding’s first novel was called Strangers from Within. With a little editorial guidance, it is now Lord of the Flies.


So, what makes a ‘good title’? 


First and foremost - It’s all about what the customer wants! The first rule in any good marketing strategy is to think in terms of what your customer wants. So give it to them.


Most romance is sold as entertainment. As a writer, you are selling entertainment, just like TV, movies and computer games. The reader desperately wants to be whisked away into another world and live another life – that of your heroine – for a few hours. It’s even better when they ignore the climbing stack of dirty dishes and the hour of midnight because they’re so enthralled in your story that they don’t want to stop reading. Their first port of call to satisfy that need is your book title. If they think that they’ll achieve what they want, then your book will be selected for further review.


Use a descriptive title

The reader then actually knows what your book will be about before she opens any pages.  Think ‘The Billionaires Secret Baby’, ‘Sex and the City’, ‘The Virgin Bride’.


Use simple words

Avoid using words that only a few people will understand. It will not be as intriguing to a potential reader as you think it might. Use simple, clear words that the most humble of readers will understand. If your title is not clear and concise, your reader will move on.



What’s in it for me? Standard marketing question and it’s a question every reader asks themselves when looking at a book. Reading is actually a high involvement purchase. Not so much on the pricing level, but people are time poor. They need to have a good reason to give up hours of their lives that they could be doing something else. I liken it to purchasing a couch. It’s not so much the price, but the hours you’ll be sitting in it that ultimately make the decision. If your book doesn’t immediately answer the WIIKM question, a reader is likely to move on.


Brave enough? has a great tool for analyzing potential book titles and giving you a “percent chance of becoming a best-seller.” The tool is based on a study done by Lulu of over 700 best-selling novels and it’s incredibly accurate for predicting the success of novel titles.


You can access the tool here


If your book isn’t selling well, consider changing the title. In the world of self-publishing, this is relatively easy. It’s as simple as logging into your KDP account, going to your bookshelf, selecting your books and changing the title and cover art. If you’re with a traditional publisher, this process isn’t as easy, but I’m sure with a well written email, you might persuade your editor to make the change. Fingers crossed.


For now, happy writing fellow ‘romanciers’. May the creative bug be with you!


Charmaine Ross


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