Tips on Creating an Effective Book Title

How good a acim is, if the title does not appeal to readers, they are never going to read your book. Picking a good book title is crucial and should never be done without a great deal of thought and testing. Here are a few tips for creating a book title that will capture reader’s interest, clearly convey the book’s subject matter, and be memorable.

Short and To The Point
If you’ve ever been in academia, you know that academics love convoluted titles, and a subtitle is a requirement. The problem is that no one can remember those long titles later. You want your title to be short and to the point so it immediately conveys your book’s subject. Titles should be no more than five words, and one or two is preferable. Remember, the longer the title, the more likely readers will forget it or substitute wrong words into it.

The Victorians loved short titles that summed up the content in a couple of words. Think of how many classics were named for their main characters: David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Dracula…the list goes on and on. Often a place name was also used: Mansfield Park, Wuthering Heights. In these cases, you knew the book was about someone named David Copperfield or a place named Wuthering Heights. Simple and to the point. That’s not to say you can’t have fun with the title, but it needs to be clear from the start. I’ll show you how to have some fun below with subtitles. (Note, for novels, subtitles are not recommended, but they can sell a reader on your book’s benefits for a nonfiction book.)

Alliteration and Rhythm
You want your title to roll off the reader’s tongue, so it is not only easy to say but a pleasure to repeat. Some of the best titles have alliteration in them, a repeating sound that gives the title emphasis and flow. Repetition of a word also works well to give the title a rhythmic sound. Here are a few effective titles that use alliteration:

He Knew He Was Right (repetition and alliteration)
The Way We Live Now (alliteration)
A Tale of Two Cities (alliteration)

For that last one, note that if it were titled “A Tale of Three Cities” it would not be as effective a title because the hard “T” sound is lost. However, “A Tale of Six Cities” sounds just about as good with the duplicate “S” sound, though it would have been one huge book to write.

Be Careful With Prepositions
Just in case you don’t know, prepositions are words like: of, in, at, on, between, and with. My seventh grade teacher told us they were anything that would describe a squirrel’s relation to a woodpile. A squirrel can be on a woodpile, in a woodpile, etc.

“A Tale of Two Cities” has a preposition in it. So does “The House of Seven Gables.” But we’ll view those as exceptions. Certainly, “The Cabin of Uncle Tom” doesn’t work as well as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” So use possession whenever you can instead of a preposition. However, “The Children of Henry VIII” works better than “Henry VIII’s Children” but “King Henry’s Children” would be effective-although readers will then ask “Which King Henry?” No hard rules exist with prepositions in titles, so just be conscious of using them only when most effective.

“The House at World’s End” has a preposition but is not a title easy to twist around. “Gone With the Wind” is another that works since “with” is a preposition. For the most part “of” is the preposition to avoid but think long and hard before you settle on any preposition in your title.

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