How to Choose a Book Title That's Perfect for Your Story AND Good Marketing!

How to Choose a Book Title That’s Perfect for Your Story AND Good Marketing!

Like every author on the planet, I’ve spent endless hours mulling over creating the perfect book title for my work. One strives, of course, to be both memorable and honestly descriptive of the content.

There are also marketing aspects to be considered. The marquee value cannot be neglected since the book, especially fiction, must compete in the market place and be “discoverable” to the searching eye of the browser and the impulsive book buyer who scans bookshelves of those bookstores still remaining and interminable book cover images that clutter the e-reader “shelves.”

Another wild aspiration that motivates the author is the possibility of a movie production of their novel and the limitations of the actual movie marquee. Anything more than a four-word title could be a dream killer. Imagine any great movie or TV adaptation based on a novel where the title of the novel is changed. I have been lucky in that regard with three of my works The War of the Roses, Random Hearts, and The Sunset Gang.

How Your Book Title Affects Your Cover

The book  title’s suggestion to a cover artist was, and perhaps still is, an aspect that had to be taken into account. The book cover design and illustration has always been an integral part of the marketing process and many fine prize-winning designs have been an essential marketing tool for books in both fiction and non-fiction categories.

For books in categories such as romance, science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, zombie and vampire stories, young adult, and children’s books and all their sub-categories, the titles and covers must reflect the specific genre to clearly designate content.

3 Ways to Find the Right Book Title

For the author of mainstream fiction whose storyline is not in any genre category, he or she must face the agony of choosing the perfect book title.

1. Base Your Book Title on Your Main Character

Many famous authors chose to name their books after a main character, and one can point to many successes such as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Daniel Deronda, Nana, Mrs. Dalloway, Lolita, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, Rebecca, Tom Jones, Clarissa, Robinson Crusoe, and the most enduring of all Don Quixote.

Jane Eyre: Writer's Digest Annotated ClassicsDon Quixote by Miguel CervantesOliver Twist by Charles Dickens

2. Base Your Book Title on Your Setting

Some authors have chosen place names, countries, houses, streets, neighborhoods, destinations, bars, modes of transportation, and myriad other categories as titles, too numerous to mention; Wuthering Heights and Tales of the South Pacific are typical. Many of these, obviously, are classic novels that have stood the test of time but there are many character named titles that have passed on to obscurity.

Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte Penguine Classic


3. Base Your Book Title on Poetry

Then there are the titles that are lifted from lines of poetry that the author believes are an apt choice to illustrate a theme of the novel, some of recent vintage like The Lovely Bones. Among the better known are A Handful of Dust, Of Mice and Men, Far From the Madding Crowd, Remembrance of Things Past, Endless Night, and many others.

Lovely Bones by Alice SeboldOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

One book title that always intrigued me was Catcher in the Rye, which takes its inspiration from Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet whose “Comin’ Thro’ The Rye” was a poem with obvious sexual overtones, a subject much on the mind of the main character in the book. Another is To Kill A Mockingbird, which takes its title from a snippet of dialogue from its main character declaring that to kill a mockingbird is a sin. That title truly encapsulates the theme of that novel.

What’s the Most Important Consideration for a Book Title?

Believe me, I have had many sleepless nights trying to come up with titles that accurately nailed the content of my work. I’ve taken them from snippets of poetry and quotations from Shakespeare whose work is a gold mine of fantastic possibilities. Indeed, I found the title of my latest work The Serpent’s Bite, in that famous quote by Lear:

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!

It hits the mark about the content of this novel with deadly accuracy.

I’ve always admired the titles of Hemingway, masterpieces of accuracy, nuance and subtlety. Few are better than A Farewell to Arms and For Whom The Bells Toll, and an all-time favorite of mine is Gone With the Wind, which is beautifully said and chillingly accurate. Another all-time favorite of mine is The Red and the Black by Stendahl, subtly delineating the central focus of the main character’s ambitions, the red of the Army and the black of the clergy.

Thomas Hardy was a master of titles: Jude the Obscure and The Return of the Native to mention just two of many. Some wonderful titles stick in my craw, not because they are not brilliant but, for some reason, I could never fully master their content. They are One Hundred Years of Solitude and Under the Volcano.

But then, by and large, a great title is an art form unto itself. Indeed, a great book title does not necessarily signify a great book and vice versa.

Giveaway:  JOIN. PICK. REVIEW. Warren is giving away an unlimited number of his bestselling ebook titles that are slated to be made into movies in 2015 and 2016. To receive your copy, simply comment below with the title(s) you’d like to receive. Available titles are listed in the poster.



*Provide an accurate e-mail address for contact purposes and to receive ebooks.

*You may choose more than one title may be chosen.

*All Reviews may be sent to,m and we also encourage you to place reviews on Amazon.

Tell me your opinion: Does a book title help you decide what book to read?

How to Choose a Book Title That's Perfect for Your Story AND Good Marketing

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About Warren Adler| @WarrenAdler

Warren Adler is best known for The War of the Roses, his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated dark comedy hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. In recent development are the Broadway Production of The War of the Roses, The War of the Roses – The Children (a feature film adaptation of the sequel), and Capitol Crimes (a television series based on his Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series). Adler's forthcoming thriller Treadmill is slated to be released in September. Learn more about Warren Adler.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Warren!

  2. My first book was titled after a song called “Rock And Roll Children” because I thought it was right for the plot. My second one was called “He Was Weird” because I thought it made the title stand out a bit. Comparing it to other books I’ve read about school shootings, I think the only one better was “We Need To Talk About Kevin.” I’ve read Jodi Picoult’s “19 Minutes” and if I wasn’t looking specifically for that type of story, I would have passed it by.

  3. Yes, I think a title is essential in making a decision to read the book. I dislike ambiguous titles that don’t really give any information. Even titles with character names are now often followed by a brief description (Harry Potter AND the Sorcerer’s Stone, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief).

    I do like title’s that are taken from text. Especially when you’re halfway through the book and you read the inspiring line and go, “oh, so THAT’S where the name came from.” It might be harder to sell the book with those kind of titles, but I enjoy that moment of discovery as a reader.

  4. I’m struggling with title myself. When I first started “Safety”, I thought it was a perfect title for telling Sally’s Story. Then, I decided to try for a 2-for and I began Kate’s Song. How to title them both so that an agent can get a publisher interested in working two novellas into one volume (not to mention what to do with the cover art).The themes match and I have a common POV character in both.

    Perhaps inspiration will hit after I finish the currect draft of “Kate’s Song”. Who knows?

    • Hmmm, I’ll all for simple, one word titles (my WIP is titled FORGIVENESS). However, even Kate’s Song a little broad. Is there any specific adjective you could use that might tell us a little about more about the story? That would give the reader a clue about safety from what? Maybe even a word that hinted as to the genre, whether the book woman’s fiction or YA or romance…

      I’m sure a really awesome cover would go a long way to help describe the story, too. Maybe a one word title leans heavier on the cover artwork to display the message of the story.

      Good luck in whatever you decide!

  5. I’m personally usually more interested in the genre the book is in and whether the blurb piques my interest over the title. Every once in a while, I’ll be attracted to a book based on title alone, but more often than not it’s because I’ve gotten a feel for who the characters are, and whether it’s in one of my preferred genres. Pride & Prejudice is probably one of my favorites based on title (because I read a lot of series books, titles are not largely influential.) P&P really gets to the heart of the story.

    But having to keep in mind that not everyone is like me has made titling my own work tricky. My next release should be out in the next month to six weeks (I hope!) and I’m still batting around whether I’m sticking to the title it has right now. :p

  6. thomas h cullen says

    Since the beginning (the very beginning!), ‘The Representative’ was my title:

    And for so much of the time since that beginning to the process’s very end, I endeavoured to make sure of a final result worthy of that title.

    In Croyan – believe!

  7. I appreciate your spelling the various options out so clearly. I go more for the genre or what I’m hearing about a book, or what someone has recommended more than title, but as someone has already commented above, since others do pick by title, we must not neglect this aspect of story-telling.

  8. I’m very happy to have decided on the title(s) for my current WIP

  9. I just published a blog post a few weeks ago about three things to consider when choosing a title for your novel or series, and I wish I had read this first! While our topics are similar, we wrote in two separate directions. However, this is perfect advice. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  10. Fantastic examples, thank you. As a reader, I’m more easy to please. I don’t put books down based on title, unless they turn me off. As a writer I’ve been lucky to be inspired by my title from the get go, and written my novel around it. I don’t know if that’s backwards, but it worked for me.

  11. As a reader, I definitely judge a book by its title. Maybe it’s shallow of me, but I firmly believe that a title reflects the main plot of a book and if it doesn’t hold my interest, the book won’t, either. On the rare occasions when I’ve read a book with an unappealing title, that has always held true, to my regret.

    I don’t mean, though, that the title must be as great as For Whom The Bell Tolls or Pride and Prejudice. But anything that’s cliched, overly sentimental, unoriginal or otherwise makes me roll my eyes is something I’d really rather not expend my time on.

    As a writer….I’m still agonizing over my WIP’s title 😉 I don’t want to give my work a title that would turn me off!

  12. I like the titles of my three book in the trilogy a lot, but I always thimk, if the trilogy will ever be published, the titles will probably be changed. They all come from the same song of a very popular singer (although not of his most widely known), so I really don’t think I’d be allowed to use them.
    Such a pity, they’re perfect for the story.

  13. Steve Mathisen says

    Choosing a title is one of those impossible things to get right. No matter what title you settle on, someone will not get what you mean. That does not mean that it is not worth the effort to get it right. The better a title suits your book, the better it will draw readers who get you and will enjoy your writing.
    I also labor over titles and never know if I’ve gotten it right or not. Ultimately, you have to just go with your gut and hope for the best.
    If we are choosing books, I would like to receive Washington Masquerade – the Kindle Version.

  14. Great article, as always! I struggle with book names and this article will come in handy.

    As a fan of War of the Roses, I would love to read War of the Roses – The Children. Sounds like a fun book! Thank you for the opportunity.

  15. Terrific article from one of the go-to authors for choosing great titles (and enticing covers, too). I appreciate the excellent examples, since I’m about to embark on a title choice myself. I am interested in politics and history, so I’d enjoy reading and reviewing Washington Masquerade and Target Churchill. Thank you for the opportunity.

  16. Great tips here! I’m currently mapping out my book, a set of memoirs from childhood until present about growing up in a broken home, dealing with the deaths of my parents as a teen, drowning in depression and ultimately facing the choice of whether to live or end it all. It will also touch upon what it took to repair myself and how we the past few years I’ve begun fulfilling my dream of traveling the world.

    I’m thinking of either “Memoirs of a Lost Boy” or “Halfway through the darkness”

    • Sounds like an interesting and worthwhile story, Ryan. People need to see that you can go through terrible darkness and come out the other side. I’d go with Halfway Through the Darkness….

    • Halfway through the darkness is definitely the book I’d choose if it were on a shelf. Great title!? I wish I were that good with picking titles for my books. ?

  17. I didn’t use any of those sources for my book titles. Well maybe one, my first book is The Unenchanted Princess, which is the descriptor for the main character. The second book is Playing on Yggdrasil which is either a brilliant title or a really awful one depending on who you talk to. Since Yggdrasil is a minor character in the book, it may be category one, but that’s stretching it. Third book By the Book, the title describes how people live in the book and sets up a tension with the plot. I have a fourth ready to go and it’s title comes from a Tarot reading terminology. Also, I hope providing tension with the plot. I haven’t named any books after places, wait, I have, but it was boring. I’m thinking of changing to a more risque place name.

    Good article and I enjoyed the exercise of working through titles and their genisis.

  18. Thanks for these suggestions…!

  19. Currently I have the working titles The Woods, Crying In Ochre, and Nothing Lasts Unclaimed. The various genres (I understand I’m supposed to select one and stick with it, but I’m yet to query anything) are Historical Fiction, Dystopia, and Sci Fi (not in that order). Do you find the titles too ambiguous, or do you think each speaks it’s category? If so, can you please elaborate because the worst thing is having a book sound like it belongs in the wrong genre. Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think all three titles are fine–especially with the right cover art. However, at first glance, I would have associated each with the following genres:

      The Woods: Horror.
      Crying In Ochre: Historical
      Nothing Lasts Unclaimed: Literary

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.