I am a fan of book titles.

I jot them down, I roll them around my mouth, I overthink my own. To summarise the essence and vibe of a book in a few words is magic. I think a title should feel good when said aloud and have flow. I like the words to sound right together and it needs be enticing.

I was chatting to a fellow writer about the title of my debut this week, and recalled how it has changed over the 5 and a half years I’ve been writing this book.

THE SECRET DEEP is a YA mystery thriller set on a desert island exploring a secret hidden deep in the beautiful waters. So my title is self explanatory. I love it for that and the sound and simplicity.

But I loved my previous titles too…

Ex title 1. THE BREATHING SEA. Me, my agent and my publisher were attached to this title, but agreed it wasn’t quite right for the book. We wanted to emphasise the mystery element for the readership. I didn’t want to let this one go at first, so at the suggestion of my brilliant editor, I integrated it into the last line of the story. This title landed me my agent and my publishing deal so I am a little sentimental about it. And breathe…

Ex title 2. SUN CHASERS. This is an example of when an title (author) tries far too hard to be clever. It refers to abstract themes in that draft. The story was not really about the sun or chasing. This title did not land me an agent. Huh.

Ex title 3. CLAMOUR. I just liked the word, I have no idea why. It looks like Glamour. No.

Ex title 4. LONE LAND. First ever title. I still like this and at least it’s got an island vibe. Don’t know why I dropped this one. Other people didn’t like it probably.

Words do have power and titles have power to make someone pick up your book. Pressure!

Advice if you are trying to pin your own title:

  1. Write down all evocative words that even remotely relate to your book. I had dive, deep, ocean, blue, depths, breathe etc. And hidden, beyond, capture, below…etc. Hundreds.
  2. Sometimes two opposing ideas, or things you wouldn’t normally combine make a great title. See The Book Thief.  It raises a question.
  3. Take your time and build up a bank of possibles. Your publisher or agent might want to change your beloved title. This can happen for many reasons, but to fit with your cover design is one. Have back ups.
  4. Research titles of comparative books. This didn’t take me long as there aren’t many for mine! But it helps if your title ‘fits’ with comparative titles.
  5. Say it aloud. You will have to do this a lot when published. If it doesn’t roll of the tongue with a proud flourish now…
  6. Check it on amazon and google. It needs to be original. And not also the name of something dubious!

My favourite titles:

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness.  This one is oblique, but captures essence perfectly. Say it. It’s as brilliant as the book.

Stranger Things – that show is perfection and the title says it all.

The Book Thief – pure intrigue.

What is your favourite book, film or TV title?