Whether you’ve finished writing a book or just getting started, you must have spent some time deciding on your book title.
Well, fret not. I encountered the same problem as you: I can’t decide on the book title. In fact, I’ve listed down numerous book titles before deciding on one.
If you’ve been in the same situation as me or simply have trouble naming your fiction books, here are some book title ideas and bonus tips~
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Purposes Of Book Titles
Before we check out naming tips for fiction books, let’s bear in mind the goals of book titles.
Book titles serve a variety of purposes
- Intrigue people so they’ll pick up the book & read the blurb
- Communicate what the book is about
- Convey the book genre
Simply put, your fiction book title needs to be attention-grabbing, memorable and informative.
Bear this in mind when shortlisting and deciding on your book title.
1. Your Protagonist
First, you can name your books based on your protagonist.
Think “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, “Jane Eyre” and “Frankenstein”.
By naming your books after your protagonist, you’re making your protagonist the focal point of the story. This makes sense, especially if you’re writing a character-driven story where characters are the force driving the plot forward.
Such titles also work for stories that highlight your character’s growth. Meaning that as the story progresses, your protagonist also develops. They could become more mature or wise. The key is that there is progress or change from how they were like at the beginning and at the end of your novel.
2. Your Protagonist’s Unique Trait
Besides naming your novel directly after your protagonist’s name, you could instead highlight something special about your protagonist.
Take for example, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.
Notice how the character names aren’t included in the book title? Instead, there’s something relatable and yet, unique in these titles. “Wife” and “Girl” are common. In fact, it could be you or just anyone on the street. But what’s intriguing is that they’re paired with “Time Traveler” and “Dragon Tattoo”. I’m sure you’re raising a brow now and getting curious about the story (cause I definitely am!).
By naming your novel based on your protagonist’s unique trait, you’re building a connection with your readers while evoking curiosity in them. Again, this brings attention to the unique trait of your protagonist.
3. Setting: Place & Time
If setting has significant importance in your novel, you can consider naming your book after that. Setting includes the place and time or when and where your story takes place.
In “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, the book title uses a certain year in the future to show a dystopian world. Such book titles inspired by the setting work well for dystopian and utopian fiction. It hints at this unknown time and world in the future. Also, such titles work well for time travel fiction where the traveler goes to the future and past.
In “Animal Farm”, the book title is inspired by the location. This hints at the unity or how united the animals are in the farm. It also forebodes how the farm animals will rebel against their human farmer. Setting is also great because of its symbolism. “Animal Farm” symbolizes human society where the animals represent humans.
4. The Main Event
If your novel revolves around an event or incident, you can name your book after it. This works well for event-driven plots and plot-driven stories.
An example would be “The Hunger Games” where the Hunger Games are the main plot event of the novel.
Besides bringing attention to the event, a novel named after the event emphasizes how the event affects various characters. In “The Hunger Games”, there’s an emphasis on this annual contest in which tributes must fight to their death. This contest affects everyone: teenagers are afraid of being selected while parents hope that their kids aren’t selected. Katniss, the protagonist, rebels against the Capitol at the end of the novel. In this case, the event also prompts the protagonist to grow.
This event doesn’t always have to be extraordinary. It could be an ordinary event that sheds light on how it affects someone. One example would be “The Trial” which depicts Josef K.’s struggles and encounters with the invisible Law and the untouchable Court. It’s not as extreme as “The Hunger Games”. The annual contest in “The Hunger Games” doesn’t exist in reality. But “The Trial” is something that could happen to you or me. You could have been an innocent man like the protagonist who is arrested and repeatedly interrogated for a crime that is never ever explained. By naming your novel behind this event, you’re magnifying the event and prompting people to rethink how this ordinary event could make such a huge impact on someone’s life.
Therefore, for such novels, you should highlight the event as well as the impact and consequences.
5. The Important Object
In addition to naming your book based on VIP (the very important protagonist), you can name it based on the important object.
Just think about “The Mortal Instruments”. I understand that each book title is named after a city. For example, “City of Bones” and “City of Ashes”. But the series title “The Mortal Instruments” is the one that ties all these novels together. And they revolve around these three divine items given by the Angel Raziel to Jonathan Shadowhunter, the first of the Nephilim.
By bringing attention to this important object, you demonstrate how this item can be used for good as well as bad purposes (depending on who gets their hands on it) and its special functions if any. This object could be a key or trigger to something bigger. Or it could be a symbol for something that is highly desired by the protagonist or all characters.
A theme is the central idea or ideas explored in the story. It could be a certain subject matter or a message within the story. You can also consider naming your book based on the theme.
Here are 2 examples. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” revolves around the philosophical discussion of lightness versus heaviness. “Love in the Time of Cholera” illustrates love as an emotional and physical plague where lovesickness is a literal illness, a plague comparable to cholera.
By using the theme as your fiction book title, you hint at the central idea that your story will explore and also remind readers to bear this in mind when reading your book. No matter if your theme is simple or complex, using such book titles will already prompt readers to rethink this idea and make them curious about your perspective and thoughts on this idea.
7. Pronouns: You, Me, Our etc.
When writing ad copy, the golden tip is to use “you” so you engage your target audience. (Trust me, I’ve worked in the marketing industry for years 😉)
Likewise, you can include pronouns in the title of your books like “Me Before You” and “The Fault in Our Stars”.
By including these pronouns like “you”, “me” and “our”, you’re closing the distance between your readers and characters. In fact, you’re pulling them in right from the book cover! This works well with first-person narrative where your protagonist is recounting events from his or her point of view. But even if you use third-person narrative, it still works. Readers will find the book title relatable because “you” and “me” could mean them. Then, as they read your novel, they’ll slowly discover who the “you” and “me” are.
Another reason why I like such book titles is that it closes the distance between the protagonist and characters. “Our” refers to Hazel and Gus in “The Fault in Our Stars”. And the story focuses on the love, friendship and support between Hazel and Gus. “Our” is thus like a clue to their upcoming relationship which will get stronger as the story progresses. This is a stark contrast to “Me Before You” where there’s a separation of identities. There’s no togetherness. It also forebodes the ending where Will still intends to end his life despite his relationship with Louisa.
Bonus Tip: Think About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
As a digital marketing specialist and a blogger, I do read up and research about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I think it’s a good idea to think about SEO when crafting your fiction book title.
Okay, this might come as a surprise, especially when SEO seems more suitable for non-fiction book titles. However, SEO also has benefits for fiction books.
Firstly, it allows people to easily find your book. Let’s imagine when people search for “romance books” on Amazon, your book might appear on the first page of Amazon’s search results because you included “A Small Town Love Story” somewhere in your book title.
But more importantly, it’s for the sake of readability. If you spent a lot of time on worldbuilding and included made-up invented words in your book title, most readers wouldn’t understand what those words mean and might actually choose to not even take the book off the shelf to look at the blurb. Therefore, it’s better to include at least a few familiar terms. For example, you could include genre-related words in your title.
In my case, Asphodelus is the name of the ghost school in the fictional world I created. However, readers who have not read the book or blurb will not know this. Hence, I added “School For Ghosts” in the book title so readers know what Asphodelus is. Plus, if they search “ghost school books” on Amazon, hopefully my book will appear on the first page due to SEO.
Bonus Tip: No Maximum Or Minimum Word Count
Bear in mind that there are no hard and fast rules. Your book title can be a one-word title or include many words (although non-fiction books are likely to have longer titles due to subtitles for SEO).
Think “It” and “No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain’t Never Coming Home Again”.
What matters is whether you as the author like the book title. But of course, you can always ask fellow authors and readers how they feel about your book title. Or even better, you can list a few book titles and ask them which title they prefer and why.
Bonus Tip: Brainstorm & Shortlist Book Titles
Just list down all the book titles you’ve thought of. Even if they’re book titles that suddenly popped up when you’re showering (this happens to me quite often 😅).
From this list, you might notice a pattern or trend. Perhaps, there’s a word that appears frequently. You can then consider including this in your book title.
Next, shortlist those that you like (you can bold or change them to a different color). Read them aloud. How does the book title sound? Does it roll off your tongue?
You might be able to choose one from the list and decide on the book title. But as mentioned earlier, if you’re still unsure, you can ask for opinions from authors and readers. Find out why they prefer certain book titles from the list, how they feel about the book titles and what they imagined the book to be like from the title. From their replies, you might have a better idea of which book title is more suitable.
Bonus Tip: Take A Break & Revisit Later
And one last tip, you can always take a break and revisit later.
As a writer, I understand what it’s like during writer’s block. During such times when you don’t know what to write, it’s recommended to just walk away and do something else then return to your manuscript again.
Likewise, if you can’t think of suitable book titles or can’t decide on one, you can always take a break and revisit later. This break gives you time to recharge and refresh your mind. This way, you can figure it out more easily.
Now It’s Your Turn
How do you name your fiction books? Do you have any tips for fellow authors?
Do consider getting novel planning worksheets. Etsy has many such printables, including word count trackers, novel outlines, character profiles, worldbuilding basics and more.
For more book publishing and marketing tips, consider joining classes like How To Write And Publish An eBook and Sell Your First 1000 Books. Or watch streaming broadcasts of free online classes at CreativeLive! You can also join online courses at Fiverr Learn~