As my second book starts to take shape, I’m increasingly aware that I haven’t chosen a title yet. Scratch that. I’ve chosen several, none of which seem to quite fit. So, how important is a book title?

Last month I read an article by a leading UK agent who said it was the title and opening of a novel that draws her initial attention. No pressure there then… At a recent book signing a reader informed me the cover art, title and blurb (in that order) makes her decide whether or not to purchase a book by a new author. Hmmm.

I’ve spoken to authors who cannot start a novel without deciding on a title, and others who leave it to the very last minute, allowing the plot to develop, the characters grow, the full extent of the story to mull over in their mind before creating a headline.

An Unfamiliar Murder was my working title for book one. I admit I never intended it to stick. When I asked my agent why he was so keen for me to keep it he said, ‘Because it’s original.’

Maybe there is something in that? Do an Amazon search and you only come up with one An Unfamiliar Murder. Yet, with no copyright in titles, many authors write successful books with similar or same titles. Perhaps I should call my next book 40 Shades of Grey, or 60? It would certainly boost sales!

Some schools of thought argue that you should analyze the story and come up with something short and snappy that sums the novel up and identifies the genre. Online marketing companies suggest, as a new writer, you should check the key words people use to search for a novel in your genre and incorporate these.

I considered some of my favourites: Catch 22 immediately poses a question, the contradiction of The Lovely Bones draws a reader’s attention, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is intriguing.  

The challenge is to come up with something short, catchy and unique; something that poses a question, pulling a prospective reader in, urging them to read on; a heading that also sums up your story.

It’s back to the drawing board for me, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. What makes that all important title shine?

Jane Isaac’s first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, is out on, and Kindle worldwide now. Jane is still very much a Newbie and with a day job, a family and a very demanding black Labrador, she squeezes her writing into every spare moment she gets. You can catch up with her at


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    Posted on July 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Jane, Thanks for sharing. You and you alone must use your intuition. My only suggestion, Keep it Short since most folks have short attention Spans. If I knew what the book was about, I may better assist you. Best Wishes with this project. Hopefully, a title will just pop into your head, MG

  • James Garcia Jr
    Posted on July 10, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Yes! I never thought I was going to use my working title, either. I always assumed I would find something better by the time I was done. Nope! Never did. I fall in love with covers first, then check out the blurb. I don’t think I’ve ever given much thought to titles. You’ll be fine, Miss Jane. No worries!


  • Dionne
    Posted on July 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I had a few different titles and found it one of the hardest things to come up with. I just tried to come up with something that had the feel of the book, while fitting in with the genre. I also brainstormed dramatic words that pertained to my book’s themes. I then had 2 or 3 titles that I put to people and then made a decision. I left it to the last minute, literally. The cover art was half done before I knew what I was calling it lol. If you still haven’t got a title by the time it’s finished I’d be glad to try and help 🙂

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on July 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks MG – good advice.

    Hey James! Nice to know I’m in good company. Yours is a great title. It is interesting you find covers more appealing:)

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on July 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Dionne! Good idea. I read somewhere about brainstorming related issues. Might try that. And thanks very much for your offer. I could be knocking on your door soon, LOL.

  • Salmaan Dewar
    Posted on July 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    heh listen to you all! old hands, talking shop! i have enough trouble working out what comes next in my story let alone what I’m gonna call it! LOL 🙂

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on July 11, 2012 at 2:45 am

    Hey Salmaan! Thanks for chipping in. I’m writing a shortie at the moment and having exactly the same problem, LOL

  • Cathy
    Posted on July 11, 2012 at 3:03 am

    As I read your post I thought again about why I buy books. It depends where from. At Paddington Station in the dismal WH Smith, I go for the least worst … On Amazon, the world’s my lobster in theory but the choice is so vast, I almost never go on there to browse. If I buy from Amazon, it’s because I’ve heard about a book (word of mouth or review or whatever).

    Anyway, titles. I imagine that as with all these publishing issues it’s entirely subjective and personal to each agent/editor and that their views are significantly at odds to many of the buying publics’, witness 50SOG. That’s where we are if you ask me. Still don’t nobody know nuthin, as whoever it was said.
    Cathy x

  • Cathy
    Posted on July 11, 2012 at 3:04 am

    PS At Daunt books, I do browse. It’s such a lovely shop. Cx

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on July 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks Cathy, for your lovely comment. I think we have the same habits – I browse in store, but head straight to what I’m looking for on Amazon.
    You are right, of course, titles are subjective, and often an agent/publisher will wish to change. Just hoping I can come up with something I’m happy with when I submit.
    Thanks again. Jx

  • Anne
    Posted on July 12, 2012 at 9:00 am

    HI Jane,
    In my experience you can spend all your waking hours thinking about it, drive your family and friends mad, have all the ideas under the sun and finally choose the perfect title, but (unless you self-publish) at the end of the day your publisher will decide.

  • Jane Isaac
    Posted on July 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Hi Anne, Thanks for your comment. Useful input as always. It would be nice to choose a title a publisher is happy with & doesn’t wish to change. Ah, back to the drawing board…

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