How do you pick a title for your book? Having recently gone through this process for my upcoming book, I can tell you it isn’t easy. It is important. Your title needs to be easy to remember and spell, and it needs to reflect a character, mood or plot line in your story. I always have a working title for my novels if for nothing else to have a folder to put all my writing, research and images into. So far, the working title has never been the actual title.
For A Dash of Murder I had it in a file labeled “Cozy Mystery” which later became “The Coughing Corpse”. The last title kept reminding me of an old joke from childhood about giving a cough drop to a coffin speeding down a hill. That’ll stop the coughin'”. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I came up with the title for that story. To me there is no way to know what you might want in a title until you’ve completely written and rewritten a novel.
For Overdue for Murder, my working title was “The Quiet Please Murder” for most of the writing process. I didn’t actually want to use that one because it would involve putting “Quiet Please” in quotation marks in the title. The problem with that? Someone looking up the book may or may not think to do that. The last thing I want to do is give my reader something confusing to do when looking for my book.
I have already posted how difficult it was to title my upcoming book. I ended up with Doggone Dead, but my working title was….”The Old Lady on the Hill”. Nice, huh? No? You’re right, but when I started writing this book I was focused on scenes I was writing about the daughter of a cowboy star. She ended up in my head for my working title.
Here are some guidelines I use in choosing a title.
1. It needs to be fairly short. The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds might have worked once, but probably something that long wouldn’t sell books.
2. Cozy mysteries have their own kinds of titles. Many of the titles take a cliche and twist it around, for example “Chance of Ghost” instead of ghost of a chance. These clever titles often include things like knitting or baking or whatever the heroine is into. This method works because people remember cliches. Even if they don’t remember the title, they will rely on that memory of the cliche when searching for a book.
3. A book can be titled from a character, a setting, a mood, or a line from the story.
4. Keep a list of possible titles as they occur to you in the writing process.
5. Bounce your ideas off of others. Sometimes what you think is perfect is not. If someone doesn’t like it, make sure you know why. Is it confusing? Does it truly reflect the book?
6. Google your title. There might be ten other books with the same title. Your title needs to be unique! Check Amazon to see if there is anything using your title.
Note To My Readers: My second book Overdue for Murder will be free on Amazon on February 1st and 2nd.
This is the first time this book has been a free download. When A Dash of Murder was a free Kindle book a couple of weekends ago, over 22,000 people downloaded it. Thank you!
Also, a big thanks to for a mention in The Cozy Mystery Blog as a January recommended series. I love this blog and have been to it many times.
These are good tips! As a writer, you come up with so many names, bits of description, and lines of dialogue while writing a story that there’s bound to be a good title in there somewhere. So keeping a list while you work makes a lot of sense.
I’ve written a list of almost 30 ways to transform an element of your book (character, event, etc.) into a title:
You also mentioned checking Google for duplicate titles. Another practical tip is to avoid one-word titles, because a search for a single word will return every book with that word anywhere in its title.
For example, say you’re thinking of naming your book “Haunted”. A quick search on Amazon.com will turn up not only 12+ books titled Haunted, but also Haunted House, The Haunted, Haunted Life, and so on and so on.
Much better to go with several words and stand alone!