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How to come up with a title for your story

Updated on May 16, 2013

How to write a book title

How to write book titles

Writing a good story is the first step in becoming a successful writer. (See more help on writing well here and here.) But having a good book title is very important. It doesn't matter how great your story is if no one ever opens your book. Your book cover and story title are the main tools you have to catch the attention of readers. This article will you help you consider some items that will help you know how to write a book title.

Consider Genre

I once submitted a story that I thought had a great title. That is, until I got a note back from an editor. He said my title made him think it was for a completely different genre and that was off-putting for him. Remember, your title is meant to attract readers to your book. Romance readers will look for romance titles, science fiction readers will look for science fiction sounding titles, and so on. It can be helpful to look at the titles of other books written in your genre to get a feel for what kind of titles are used.

Book Title Length

One word titles are very bold and dynamic. Longer titles can be personable and filled with meaning. Think about what your story is about and what kind of title you would like to have. It can be as short as one word but you probably don't want a title longer than about six words.

Books with the same title

Titles of books can't be copyrighted or trademarked, so it's okay to use a title if another book already has the same name. However, it can be more difficult to market your book if it has the same name as another book. After all, you don't want the other book to be purchased instead of yours. Strive for originality. Search Amazon to see what titles are already in use. If a title you are considering is in use, can you change it slightly to make it unique?

Take lines from your story

The best titles come from within your story itself. Phrases or words from your writing will contain the flavor of your story and carry your voice in it. Look through your writing, and try to look for possible titles. Be creative, sometimes wonderful titles come from things you don't expect. It could be parts of a description or dialogue. Try everything.


You can borrow wonderful titles from history, other literary works, myths and legends. One of my favorite titles is Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlei. That title is actually a line from the bible. Mr. Heinlei's book is about a man being raised by martians, not about religion, but the title is perfect. The book Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury borrowed a line from Shakespeare. The book The Lovely Bones gets its title from this poem by Theodore Roethke:

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,

When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;

Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:

The shapes a bright container can contain!

Even the title for the famous book Of Mice and Men was inspired by a poem. It comes from the poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough”by Robert Burns

But little Mouse, you are not alone,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes of mice and men

Go often askew,

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised joy!

When you are really struggling to write a title for your book, read something else! Read other books, plays, poem, or listen to songs, and keep your eyes and ears open for that great book title.

Theme of book

See if you can come up with a title that represents the theme or message of your book. Don't say the theme specifically, but if there is something, perhaps an object, that represents that theme, it might make a good title.

Good luck!

Remember, a good title is appealing and attracts readers. Try to come up with a few title possibilities and then ask friends or a writing group which title they find most compelling. Best of luck in your title search!

I'd love to hear what some of your favorite titles of books have been. Let me know in a comment!

If you have found this article helpful, please vote it up. Thank you!


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    • AmandaLu profile image

      AmandaLu 4 years ago

      Thanks JenBarn and QueenBex! Glad it was helpful!

    • profile image

      QueenBex 4 years ago

      those are some great tips! Sometimes I can have real difficulty coming up with titles that are worthy enough for the content :)

    • JenBarn profile image

      JenBarn 4 years ago

      What a good idea to search Amazon for book titles that are already being used!