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Let’s Talk About Your Book Title

What’s in a book title?

Well, words. Obviously. Hopefully descriptive words. A book title is – or at least should be – something that speaks to your main character, your plot or your purpose.

That something might look like the following if you happen to be one of the lucky few authors to land on The New York Times Best Seller’s list as of December 4, 2017…

In the Combined Print & E-Book Fiction category:

  1. The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson

  2. The Midnight Line by Lee Child

  3. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

  4. Origin by Dan Brown

  5. Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich

In the Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction category:

  1. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

  2. Obama by Pete Souza

  3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

  4. Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

  5. Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

Now, as a potential reader, I have an automatic opinion of each one of those book titles. Admittedly, I also have an automatic opinion about most of the authors, including four out of five of those in the Fiction category. Yet even if I set aside my personal prejudices about them, I’m still going to form automatic opinions that go like this:

  1. The People vs. Alex Cross – interesting

  2. The Midnight Line – maybe interesting

  3. The Rooster Bar – sounds like an utter snoozefest

  4. Origin – could be interesting, but I’m probably going to forget about it just as soon as I finish this blog post

  5. Hardcore Twenty-Four – nope. Can’t do it. My personal prejudices are just too strong here. Janet Evanovich, get some authorial dignity already.

And then for our (or rather, The New York Times Best Sellers’) Non-Fiction book titles…

  1. Leonardo da Vinci – interesting

  2. Obama – eh

  3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – ooh!!

  4. Sisters First – eh

  5. Promise Me, Dad – eh

Incidentally, upon editing my responses to those Non-Fiction category placers, I realized I hadn’t set aside my personal prejudices after all. Because while I forced myself to not care about the authors, I totally forgot to forget about the genres they were writing in.

Political biographies and autobiographies of anyone still alive just do not interest me. Actions speak louder than words, and I get to see these characters’ actions far too much as it is.

Of course, you’re a different reader with different personal prejudices and different interests. So you might very well have completely different reactions to the book titles above, which is something we’ll discuss further in Thursday’s Writing Challenge.

For now though, here’s your official Definition.


This is the name of either your fiction or non-fiction manuscript, or your published book.

In manuscript form, it’s what’s going to intrigue a literary agent or make him go “meh” before he reads past the first paragraph of your query letter.

A title is your book or book-to-be’s name: its initial introduction, which is supposed to say nice and loud, “Hello, my name is (insert your title here) and I’m ready to rock your world.”

There’s really not much more to it than that. Other than everything we have to talk about on Thursday and Friday.

So stay tuned for a whole lot more discussion about book titles and what you want yours to say.

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