Brainstorming a Book Title for Independent Publishing

Moleskine Notebook - CC photo by Paul WorthingtonDuring the days when novels were only available in print and the publishing houses held a monopoly on which authors would sell their books or not, a book title was often chosen by them and not the author. The title would be short, easy to fit on the cover and the spine of the book, and would be something catchy to catch the attention of a browser in a book store. The combination of color, detailed artwork and title would make a novel marketable. Today, the model of selling books has changed. More authors are bypassing the publishing houses altogether and are independently publishing their novels to sell directly on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes or other alternate sites. There, the book is not physically present; it is simply a tiny image in a vast ocean of choices. It is easy for an author and her book to become lost at sea unless simple SEO techniques along with classic novel naming methods are used.

Intuitive Process of Generating a Book Title

Everyone brainstorms differently, but I will put down my method of thinking up SEO friendly titles for stories. My method is intuitive and will not work for everyone, but I find that it produces solid titles for my stories and articles. I prefer to use paper and pen for my brainstorming, however if you are more electronically inclined, feel free to use the word processor of your choice. Digital notebook systems such as Evernote or OneNote might be good options to use in this process too.

Step 1

Go to the genre category that your book would belong in on Amazon. Look at the titles of the novels that are already there. Try and gain a feel for what seems appropriate as a title for your genre. Pick out twenty titles that would be a close fit for your book or are similar in style to what you would want to name your book. Write these titles into a notebook and set it aside for later.

Step 2

Sit with a pen and notebook and free-associate words, making lists related to your novel. Put the words in columns: nouns, verbs, adjectives.


    List words that would describe or suggest the setting.
    Think about each of your major characters and write down words that relate to them.
    Ponder about the action in the story and write down verbs that capture it.
    Add character or place names with unusual spellings related to your novel.
    Write down any word or short phrase that conveys your book’s theme.
    Seek out visual words that suggest a scene.
    Use words that evoke emotions, a sensation, a question, or a location.

If you have a writing critique group, ask them to help you put the combinations of words together. Write the combinations of words out in a white board session. You should have no fewer than 100 words to choose from. Aim to create around twenty possible titles based on words related to your book, whether you do it on your own in your notebook or via your writing group. Write these into another list and set it aside.

Step 3

Once you are done brainstorming, put your list of newly created titles away for 24 hours. It is critical to take this down time to allow your subconscious to continue to work on the title project. When you return to your brainstormed list, you will be able to see it with renewed perspective. If new ideas have come to you during this short down period, add them to the brainstormed list.

Step 4

Take the generated list of twenty or more book titles and narrow it down to five possibilities. Take your short list back to your writing group and ask their opinions. Perhaps run a poll to find out which one is their favorite for your project. Take their opinions, but remember that it is your project and in the end, you are the one that is responsible for titling your book.

Step 5

Wait another day or two while you close the notebook on the title finalists. Allow your subconscious to work on the choices. Deep down, you know which title is the best one, but sometimes it takes a little while for the subconscious to filter up to our conscience minds. After this passage of time, narrow the list down to your final decision. Congratulations. You are now the proud owner of a titled novel.

Step 6

Pull out that list of titles you had gathered from the catalog at Amazon. Ask yourself if the title you’ve chosen would fit in this list, without being a clone of any of them. Titles of novels are not copyrightable and you could possibly copy another author’s title without risk of being sued. However, in the world of search engines, you will run the risk of readers being sent to this other book instead of your own as they search for you. It is always better to be unique and fresh when titling your novel.

Conclusion

When your ebook is nothing more than a tiny image on a catalog screen, you must make search engines work for you. Therefore, it is good to build keywords into your title along with traditional naming methods. Good keywords could be ones that are unique in spelling, but still instantly recognizable. While many authors still cling to the idea of a single word title, I personally feel that a slightly longer title works better in the digital age. You need to give the search engines more information to help differentiate your novel from that of your competitors and you must make it easier for your dedicated readers to find your book when they are looking for you. Find a balance between enough words to work with the search engines and short enough to be easily memorable to your readers. That will prove to be the perfect book title for an independent publishing author.

4 thoughts on “Brainstorming a Book Title for Independent Publishing”

  1. Thank you for this article. I am trying to write and was wondering if you have any blogs that will help with getting started and do’s and don’ts about the story itself. I really loved reading this about the title and it also gave me a few ideas about how the main story should or should not be done, vaguely though. If you have any blogs that would help a hope to be new writer it sure would be wonderful to read them. Thanks for this. Linda

    1. Thanks for stopping by Linda. I’m glad you liked my article about brainstorming. 🙂 I also post links to writing articles that I like once a week on Mondays. It is called the No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links. I would recommend going through these links and not only read the articles, but have a good look at the blogs that they came from. Chances are you’ll find other interesting writers to follow. 🙂

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