Sunday, September 4, 2011

Choosing your book titles

Now that I have three mysteries on the market, it's high time to evaluate the marketing. Let's start with choosing a title. Of my three books, none has an original title. When Pigs Fly sounds like a children's book, and in fact it's several children's books. Search for the title in Amazon and 12 titles pop up. On the other hand, people tell me it's a clever title, so go figure. Although it fits the story well, it doesn't stand out in the crowd.

The worst title is Getting Lucky, which sounds like a steamy romance and doesn't even show up on the first page of an Amazon search. It's on the second page, languishing as item #15 out of about 50. Lots of covers showing passionate love scenes and cleavage show up before mine--even one with a picture of an 80-year-old lady! Like many middle children, my Getting Lucky hasn't gotten much attention, and the Amazon rankings prove it out. I published it through iUniverse and am thinking of reissuing it with a distinctive title using CreateSpace.

Little Mountain works out best, displaying prominently at #2. It's not unique, but it is a bit different.

The lesson is to choose your title carefully. At least search Amazon for any title you are thinking of using., and do it before you commit yourself.

Tip: If your book doesn't come up quickly on an Amazon search, find the link to it and create a shortened URL with either the title or your name in it. There are lots of tools you can use, but I like Tiny URL at It gives you two choices: either a random and meaningless (but short) URL, or the option to customize it. That way you ask everyone to visit

How do you choose your titles? Do you consider only the content of the story, or do you consider the market?


Anonymous said...

Choosing a title is a tricky endeavor. Of course it has to call back the story itself, but a writer who doesn't consider the market isn't going to writing for too many people. When I wrote Mediterranean Grave, a murder mystery set aboard a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, I had half my title already worked out. My sleuth, Henry Grave, provided part two.

My upcoming archaeological mystery, American Caliphate, tackles an illegal expedition by Spanish Moors to colonial Peru. Built in title! Will readers flock? I hope so!

William Doonan

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Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Often I have the title before I've written the book, when I don't, I can't figure it out until I'm done. It's always something from the book.


Bob Sanchez said...

In the past, I've come up with titles first, then thrown them out when the story no longer matched. My novel When Pigs Fly was going to be Day of the Dead, but the story took off in a different direction. Someone else has since used Day of the Dead anyway.

Morgan Mandel said...

My first book was going to be called Dead Wrong, but someone else had a recent book by that title. Girl of My Dreams and Killer Career weren't claimed, so I had no problem.

Forever Young-Blessing or Curse was going to be Forever Young, but then I remembered a movie by the same name, a song, a singing group, and then lately, a short book by the same name. I added more to the title to make it stand out better, and to emphasize the concept may sound good, but may not be so.

Morgan Mandel

Marian Allen said...

My first novel, a fantasy named EEL'S REVERENCE, comes up first on an Amazon search for that title. It's named for the setting (a coastal area known as The Eel) and the good priest/bad priest part of the central conflict. But now people tell me, "Eee! Eels!" ~sigh~

My second novel, a cop/sf/farce named FORCE OF HABIT, comes up #11, which could be worse. It's appropriate because it's about a tangle that happens when staff from a teaching ship run by the Terran space academy and the Jesuits go off-limits on another planet.

I name my books for the content of the story, but I'm going to have to start thinking about the market as well!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Bob Sanchez said...

I wonder, though, how much it matters. You can't copyright titles, and if you have one that fits your book well, maybe it's okay that someone else has used it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

CassaStar was the original title when I first wrote the story over thirty years ago. It just stuck. Lucky for me, it's the ONLY book that comes up with that title search. Had no idea what to call the second one, so my publisher named it. I think CassaFire will enjoy the same uniqeness.

Sharon - coping with a loss said...

Lots to consider in choosing a title. I learned something by reading this post and the comments. I was under the impression that you couldn't or shouldn't use a title that was already taken, but I guess I was wrong. Sometimes even our best research and best guess turns out wrong!