How I Title My Books

I recently got a slew of new reviews for It’s Over or It’s Eden on Amazon and Goodreads. As a reader, I find reviews incredibly helpful when choosing what to read next. As an author, I have to be careful.

It’s in poor form for an author to respond to reviews and sometimes they can be hard to read, but I check to them to know, simply, if anyone has read my book recently.

I understand literature is subjective, so I try not to let reviews sway me, either good or bad. My job is to keep writing and get critical feedback from people I trust.

However, one positive review caught my eye recently. It ended with, “The title of this novel “It’s Over or It’s Eden” is horrible. I sincerely hope it gets a new title!”

The reason these words caught my eye were that several other readers recently told me they loved the title.

No one is wrong here. And no one is right–especially not me!

But, I thought you might like to know more about the process for titling a book.

A title must work on multiple levels

There’s a lot of possible places an author might draw from to title their work:

  • Choose an important phrase from the story
  • Borrow the main character’s name
  • Take an important piece of worldbuilding and add “The” to the front
  • Highlight the main theme of the story
  • Make the main source of tension clear
  • Hurl words at each other until something clicks

 

The truth is, many authors don’t have the final say in choosing the title of their book. Their opinion matters of course, but a publisher will ultimately choose the title they think will sell.

For me, as an independent author, I make a huge list of possible titles based on the methods above and then come back to it a few days later and see what feels sticky.

If it has potential, I do a Google search to see if there are any competing books. Woe to the author who feels like “The Fellowship of the Ring” is just the perfect title for their nonfiction book about a ring-making jewelry collective.

I eliminate anything I’m not satisfied with and sit with the list for a few more days and finally ask a few people in my life what they think.

So, is "It's Over or It's Eden" a good title or not?

Well, here’s what it does:

  • The length helps with my SEO
  • I’m not competing with any other same-titled media of any kind
  • It hints at the themes of religion and a post-apocalyptic storyline

 

Here’s how it’s not so great:

  • It’s a mouthful
  • It’s not as immediately telling and compelling as “Jurassic Park”
  • The acronym IOOIE has not taken off

 

I think generally Dangerous to Heal has a better title because it’s shorter and easier to remember. There’s an intriguing contrast (why would it be dangerous to heal something?), but only time will tell if it’s sticky enough.

My next book, the sequal to Dangerous to Heal has a two-word title. If this were a Wheel of Fortune puzzle, it would read:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _        _ _ _ _

But I’ll have to wait and see if it holds up over the next few months.

Picture of I'm Rebecca Zornow

I'm Rebecca Zornow

A science fiction author living in Wisconsin, I love traveling, eating good food, and reading long books.

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