Most of us have a working-title whilst we’re writing, whether it be a short story, novel or a work of non-fiction. Usually it’s the first word or phrase that came to mind as we sat down to begin our masterpiece.
And that’s the way it should be. Too many writers waste time trying to find the perfect title before starting to write – and then never get anything down on paper. A scrappy working-title is fine but take some time to refine it before sending the manuscript out into the big wide world.
If you’re intending to go through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), it’s worth bearing the following points in mind:
- For non-fiction don’t be too clever, simply focus on the benefits the book will bring to the reader – for example, Fast Weight Loss or How to Grow Cacti.
- The title should give an indication of what the book is about. In 1925 ‘Fleece of Gold’ by Gautier sold 6,000 copies. It was then re-titled ‘The Quest for a Blonde Mistress’ (which is a much better description of the story) and in 1926 it sold 50,000 copies. (I know this was way before KDP but it illustrates the importance of choosing the right title)
- Try a brainstorming session with a couple of friends and note down all the ideas that come out. Review them a week later and see which still seem good.
- If possible, try to include in the title any keywords that a reader might use on Amazon to search for books, for example if your work is similar to Fifty Shades of Grey you might want to include ‘Billionaire’ in the title
When you’ve dreamt up something plausible, put your title to the test using a clever tool provided free by Lulu.com. Go to lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php and simply fill in the boxes. The tool will give your title a score of between 9% and 83% chance of bestseller success. Obviously there are no guarantees but it’s worth a try if you can’t decide between two or three different titles.
Anyone else have any tips on how to create a great title that will respond well in Amazon searches?
Finally, a writing prompt for you based on something I saw this week. On a visit to the supermarket, I used the ladies’ toilets. In the cubicle was an empty pregnancy test packet – someone obviously couldn’t wait until they got home to find out if she was expecting. Who was she? What was the result of the test? Was it the result she wanted? What happened next?
#1 by Tracy Fells on February 2, 2014 - 12:05 pm
Some great tips here, Sally. Thank you 🙂
#2 by Sally Jenkins on February 2, 2014 - 7:35 pm
A pleasure, Tracy.
#3 by swanview on February 2, 2014 - 12:13 pm
I too saw an empty pregnancy testing kit in the supermarket. It definitely makes you start thinking who, why, what’s she going to do next. I meant to write something about it when I saw it a few months ago but I forgot. I’ll have a go later. Thank you
#4 by Sally Jenkins on February 2, 2014 - 7:41 pm
It’s a story just waiting to be written isn’t it, Swanview? And it seems like there’s been more than one woman who couldn’t wait until she got home to find out if she was pregnant – a supermarket toilet cubicle doesn’t seem like the best place to do it to me.
#5 by swanview on February 2, 2014 - 7:44 pm
Nor me. Smacks of desparation.
#6 by P. Douglas Hammond on February 2, 2014 - 1:48 pm
I find it so exciting there is a title buzzing around in my thoughts. To me it is like seeing my name on Christmas present; all I have to do peel off the paper (start tapping away on the keyboard) and see what is concealed within (explore the story that I am sure is already written in my head).
The inspiration comes from such strange places too; must admit that I have never picked up any ideas from a public toilet – however, I was digging in a garden recently, and unearthed a small gold ring. Even before I had picked it up to examin it, the the basis of a story was already in my mind.
I am making notes for a non-fiction book also, and wil have a go at checking my chosen title.
#7 by Sally Jenkins on February 2, 2014 - 7:44 pm
I like the possibilities behind the gold ring, Douglas! And it sounds like titles don’t pose you a problem – I love how enthused you get. Thanks for passing it on!
#8 by Wendy Clarke on February 2, 2014 - 4:03 pm
That’s brilliant advice, Sally – thank you.
#9 by Sally Jenkins on February 2, 2014 - 7:44 pm
Hope you find it useful, Wendy.
#10 by hilarycustancegreen on February 2, 2014 - 10:15 pm
Hmm, I had a go on Lulu and the same title (Border Line) scores 26% if it is figurative and 41% if it is literal. Mine is intended to be both.
#11 by Sally Jenkins on February 3, 2014 - 4:30 pm
Hilary, I guess you either sum the two scores (giving a very good 67%) or take a figure somewhere between the two. But what do I know! – I think it’s a good title and sums up what your novel is about.
#12 by Linda on February 3, 2014 - 3:47 pm
I love the titlescorer (thanks for the link, Sally). According to that, my novel has a 69% chance of being a bestseller – not bad seeing as I haven’t finished writing it yet!
#13 by Sally Jenkins on February 3, 2014 - 4:30 pm
Sounds a very good score to me, Linda!
#14 by susanjanejones on February 4, 2014 - 10:14 pm
Will have a go at that Sally, thanks.
#15 by Sally Jenkins on February 5, 2014 - 10:18 am
Hope your novel gets a high score, Susan!
#16 by MM Jaye on February 5, 2014 - 8:08 am
Great tips, Sally! Especially the lulu tool. I’ll definitely try it out. For my contemporary romances, I’ve opted for puns. The first one (complete but unpublished) is “Fate Accomplis” and the second (WIP) “Fate No More”. I only hope Americans (who are maybe not so French-savvy) won’t think it’s a misspelling! 🙂
#17 by Sally Jenkins on February 5, 2014 - 10:20 am
They sound pretty good titles to me MM Jaye, especially if one follows on from the other.
#18 by Mina B. on February 5, 2014 - 1:55 pm
Great post. That lulu tool is amazing. I’m bookmarking this post. Thanks.
#19 by Sally Jenkins on February 5, 2014 - 2:28 pm
Glad you found it useful, Mina.
#20 by raengel543 on March 4, 2014 - 5:49 pm
I tried the Lulu title scorer link, and while the page came up, it would not work. I contacted Lulu which told me it was an old link that should be deleted as they no longer offer that feature. Just sharing this so no one else has the frustration of trying out a title on it with no results given.
#21 by Sally Jenkins on March 4, 2014 - 6:39 pm
Thanks for letting us know, Rebecca. I’ve just tried it again and got a percentage score for the title I put in, so I don’t know what’s going on now. Unless it depends on the browser you are using. Sorry it didn’t work for you, Rebecca.
#22 by raengel543 on March 15, 2014 - 2:45 pm
Maybe I’ll try it using a different browser and see if I have any better luck. I do know that when I went to Lulu, a search for a the title scorer on their site had no results.