What's In a Name? Why Titles Matter

Book titles matter. They must be memorable, intriguing and above all, they must say something about your book or story. Think of Wuthering Heights, Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, War Horse . . .

Name titles are also good – when the name is perfectly chosen of course - Matilda, Skulduggery Pleasant, Charlotte’s Web, Judy Moody, Artemis Fowl, Huckleberry Finn . . .

But how do you find the right title for your book or story? And how do you know that it is the right title?

I’ll try to explain using some of my own titles.

Always the Bridesmaid was a strong title – it describes the main character’s situation and it’s short and easy to remember.

When the Boys are Away is another good title – it’s about Meg and what she gets up to when her boyfriend, a professional sailor, is away. Both these titles are for adults – I write for both adults and younger readers.

The Loving Kind/Anything for Love/Some Kind of Wonderful – I’m not so keen on these titles – again all novels for adults. They don’t say much about the individual stories or characters – in fact they are pretty much interchangeable – and they’re a bit vague, a bit lazy really. In retrospect, I should have tried harder! But coming up with a good title isn’t easy, especially with deadlines looming.

Ask Amy Green – I love this as a series title. It’s simple and it has a nice ring to it. Amy is my Everygirl, an average 13 year old girl that readers can identify with I hope, so I gave her a name that I love (my daughter is called Amy) and a surname that lots of girls have – Green. She’s an agony aunt and likes to solve problems, so I though that ‘Ask’ was appropriate – as in you can ask her anything and she will try to help.


I also like the individual book titles very much – especially Boy Trouble, Summer Secrets, Bridesmaid Blitz and Dancing Daze (out in September) – which each give a good flavour of what the book is about. I’m not so hot on Love and Other Drama-ramas – and boy did we have trouble with that title! It was originally to be called Party Drama-ramas but as the book changed, the title had to change too. I would have liked to get more of Bailey’s story into the title (the book is largely about his struggle to find his place in the world), but it was really difficult.

I quite liked Mystery Male as a title, but it wasn’t quite right. Other titles we tried were Dates and Other Drama-Ramas (too like Cathy Hopkins great Mates, Dates series), Double Drama-rama (too vague), Dublin Drama-rama (again a bit vague). So we decided on Love and Other Drama-ramas which we were all happy with (my editors, Annalie and Gill help me with titles if I’m stuck). And the book is about love – family and romantic - and the problems it can cause, so it does fit nicely.

So, in short, make your title simple, memorable and make it say something about your book. When I’ve cracked it 100% myself, I’ll let you know!

What’s YOUR favourite book title and why? I’d be most interested to know.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

(A version of this post first appeared on the Girls Heart Books blog)

More on Titles

The title for the next Ask Amy Green book – book 4 in the series – has recently changed from Party Drama-rama to Love and Other Drama-ramas. And it was difficult enough to find a new title. The story changed quite a bit at editorial stage, so the old title didn’t really fit anymore. Originally Sylvie’s hen party (Amy’s mum) was a big part of the book, but now it plays a less important role. So ‘party’ didn’t work. Back to the drawing board.

The book is mainly about a boy called Bailey Otis who is Mills’s new boyfriend in the first few chapters, but (spoiler alert!) something happens and he changes utterly and lets her down.

So it’s about family ties, boys, the nature of friendship, and loss. Here are some of the titles I came up with:

Friends and Other Drama-ramas (from the start we were all keen on the word drama-rama) Double Drama-ramas Dublin Drama-rama The Friendship Drama-rama Dates and Other Drama-ramas Disaster/Dizzying Dilemma (and a lot of other d words!) Double Dilemma Friends and Frenemies Boys and Other Drama-ramas

But none of them were quite right. So then my lovely editor, Annalie came up with Love and Other Drama-ramas. And I breathed a sigh of relief. It just seemed . . . right. The book is – at its heart – about love and all the drama that goes with it. The search was over.

Some titles come easily. From the very start the first Amy Green was Boy Trouble, simple. The next one – Summer Secrets – again, easy. Although the word ‘Summer’ can be a tricky one as sometimes bookshops won’t stock ‘summer’ books in the depths of winter. A discussion for another day. And Bridesmaid Blitz – again easy!

Books 5 and 6 are (at the moment) called Dancing Daze and Wedding Belles. But book 4 was always a sticky one for some reason. Sometimes titles are just difficult. Doesn’t mean the book isn’t brilliant of course. And I ADORE Amy 4. Hope my readers will do. It’s out in September so we’ll have to wait and see. With a brand new cover look for all the titles.

I think the best titles are simple, catchy, easy to remember and either sum up the book perfectly or give a taste or a mood of the book.

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece is a recent example of a memorable title. It’s about a teenage who literally lives on the mantelpiece – in a jar – as she was blown up by terrorists. No, not subtle, but very, very strong image don’t you think?

Wuthering Tights – another good one.

Billionaire Boy – simple yet effective.

Names work well – especially unusual, funny or odd names – Skulduggery Pleasant, Judy Moody, Coraline. Alliteration can also work well – Bridesmaid Blitz.

For romantic comedy, song titles or well known sayings can be good – Always the Bridesmaid, The Loving Kind (yep, I borrowed them both!). My latest adult one (out next spring) is called The Shoestring Club. It’s about two sisters who run a second hand designer shop called Shoestring (designer clothes on a shoestring is their slogan). It’s simple and I think it works.

Above all, make your title interesting and make it say something about the book. The one title I’m not all that keen on of my own titles is Some Kind of Wonderful. It doesn’t really say anything about the book. I should have put more thought into it to be honest.

So do think carefully about your title, it’s important. And if you’re having problems coming up with something good, ask for help. Sometimes us writers are too close to our own work to see the wood for the trees.

Good luck with finding the right title for your own book.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX