Catchy Book Titles

Prizewinners win Prizes!

Motivation? Inspiration? Dedication? Perseverance?

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I've just finished reading a crime thriller by Chuck Hogan. He's a highly capable award-winning author, and though I enjoyed Devils In Exile. I thought that the title was terrible—at least, for the story he wrote.

There was one allusion to devils in the entire 312 pages when the protagonist contemplated his crime gang colleagues who were ex-army veterans bringing vengeance on drug dealers. The strange thing is, Hogan missed what I think is a catchier title, for the team are referred to throughout the story as 'The Sugar Bandits.'

Also, and I'm being picky here, the cover design did the book no favours by being dull and generic.


There are a number of factors that attract readers to a book. The first is the title—that's the barb on the end of the hook—the plot summary on the front flap, endorsement blurb from other authors and maybe the author bio sink the rest of the hook in.


I previously posted about how crucial a book's title is on an old thread, after overhearing two readers talking to two library assistants at my local library. I almost fell off my chair at the computer terminal, when they all said that they choose a book solely on its title—forget the blurb, plot synopsis and author's photograph—if they didn't like the title, they wouldn't even pick up the book!

This made me much more careful about choosing titles for my own novels. I attempt to make them provocative in some way, hopefully nudging a potential reader into wanting to find out more. Who Kills A Nudist? was approved by Colony members as being intriguing. The Perfect Murderer might make a crime fan wonder how the murderer is perfect, for, after all, everyone makes mistakes. The title An Elegant Murder initially plays on a murdered pensioner being found floating in a flooded quarry wearing a 60-year-old ballgown, but the elegance really comes later in how a murder has been artfully concealed. Sin Killers is ambiguous in meaning and consists of two stimulating buzz words. I'm currently in the planning stages for my fifth Cornish Detective novel, which will be called The Dead Need Nobody.

Just think of memorable book titles and what they have in common. One thing is brevity, as once the title is more than four words it's harder to recall—a problem worked around in a series of stories such as Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket and Percy Jackson by making the protagonist's name the brand label.

There have been some astonishing examples of famous novels having inferior working titles. Gone With The Wind was originally going to be called Tomorrow Is Another Day, while Dickens initially called Little Dorrit by the unmemorable title of Nobody's Fault. Clumsiest of all was F. Scott Fitzgerald's original title for The Great Gatsby—Trimalchio In West Egg hardly rolls off the tongue!

I originally thought to call my first novel something like Death of a Good Man, until the nudism element suggested something more salacious.

Have you ever changed the title of your book?

Does the title come first for you, or later once the work is in progress?

A lot of times an author has little choice in the title. Publishers will change it to suit their needs, or to fit what they believe will sell. Evernight has advised me multiple times to change my titles to something they feel will better draw in readers, so I've learned not to become too attached to the title I give the story. :)
I changed the title of my second book from The Sins of the Mother to Secrets, Lies & Homicide, although I still like the first title better, and think it fits the plot better. BUT the publisher draped a big flower over the skeleton on the cover , which, IMO, combined with the original title made it look like an anti-abortion poster. They agreed to shrink the flower, which probably was enough, but I still changed the title. I've since taken the rights back and self-published with a new cover.


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I have a hard time with titles. I get stuck on my working title, then can't come up with another, even if the first is a bit lame. Maybe we need a thread "pimp my title", where we put up a synopsis and our working title and get ideas for alternate titles.
I like coming up with ideas for titles. My problem is writing the sodding books :) One title I pitched for a feature on a woman's magazine made everyone laugh: Penile Dementia – about men whose hormones drives them crazy... But yes, I think publishers don't give authors much say in titles or covers. It's whatever they think will sell, even if they get it horribly wrong, which sadly they do.
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Prizewinners win Prizes!

Motivation? Inspiration? Dedication? Perseverance?