Learn to Write: How To Name Your Book

I see a lot of new books come through this old timey library, and I’m starting to think that the actual writing may be the easy part of putting a book out, or at least the part that requires the least amount of thought. Nowadays, it seems like naming your book is the real challenge for today’s aspiring besteller author. As always, Stacked is looking out for up and coming writers. That’s why we’ve compiled this handy guide to naming your soon-to-be chart topping literary sensation.

Before you can come up with a name, it’s important to figure out exactly what kind of book it is you’ve written. Ask yourself this: Did you make it up? If so, it’s most likely a work of fiction. Let’s start there.

1. Does someone get murdered in the book? Congratulations! You’ve written yourself a mystery! The great thing about mysteries is that you can write a bunch of them using the same characters. In order to help your readers know whether they’re reading a book you’ve written, you should pick one vaguely sinister sounding word, then include that word in all of your book titles. Let’s say your word is “brutal.” Without even really thinking about it, you’ve got “Brutal Justice,” “Brutal Force,” “Brutal Brutality”… see how easy this is? Best of all, whenever anyone thinks about the word “brutal” they’ll think about reading one of your books.

2. Is your book about someone in the developing world? Perhaps someone coming of age, or experiencing the strains the rapidly encroaching modern world places on their traditional way of life? If so, you’re in luck, because this kind of book is extremely easy to name. Just look at something your character does or is, then describe it in an awkward way by using an unusual or outdated word order and/or little used vocabulary words or tenses. The idea is to make it sound like a foreign person said it. For instance, if I were naming a book like that based on what I’m doing right now, I’d call it “The Gazer of Screens” or “The Sitter Of Chairs.” Or possibly “The Typist of Snark.”

3. Have you written something “important” designed to be cooed over by the critical set? A work of “literature,” perhaps? You’re facing a challenge here. People have been writing literature for so long now, most of the good names are taken. Best to just string together a bunch of vaguely melancholy sounding words and hope for the best. I recommend something like “Mountain of Sorrow” or “Sighs of the Sparrow’s Progeny”

Did you only make up 50% of your book? If so, you’ve got a work of non-fiction on your hands. Good for you!

4. Titling works of non-fiction is laughably easy. Just remember one word: colon. In general, the more colons you have in your title, the better. Also, make sure one of the colon-separated sections in your title focusses on the words “how” or “why.” Try “Busted!: Why the Liberals Liberalize While Conservatives Conserve: A Mother’s Story” or “Land of Milk and Terror: How the James K. Polk Administration Ruined Our Values, and Why it Matters: A Roadmap for the 21st Century.” Did you see how I got bonus points for using how AND why in one of my clauses? Pretty clever, huh?

5. Have you written a self-help book? Sorry, friend. You’ve made a terrible mistake. It’s not that you won’t get rich, it’s just that you’ve done it backwards. You probably thought of a good thing people can do to make their lives better, then wrote your idea out in book form, and now you’re trying to think of a title for it. What you should actually do is to think of a clever (but not too clever) title, write a book based on your title, then hope people have already paid for the book before they realize it is absolutely useless. It’s also a good idea to use a title that is easy to turn into numerous sequels. My advice is to throw away the book you’ve written and see what you can do with “How Many Flowers Are In Your Basket?” (possible sequels: “Flowers In Your Basket At Work,” “Flowers In Your Basket In The Bedroom,” “Flowers In The Convicted Felon’s Basket” etc. etc.)

6. The final book type you run into these days is the wry memoir. These are easy and fun to name. Just come up with an outrageous or absurd sentence. You’ve nailed it if you can picture someone reading your title, then giving one of those bemused head shakes while saying “What the… ? That title is totally outrageous and absurd!” As with all works of non-fiction, a colon and a how/why bit never hurts. Try “Speaking French With Pigeons At The Cracker Factory: My Years As A Down-And-Out Rugby Referee And How I Learned To Love My Ankles”

There you go. Now all you need are a few hundred pages of words and you’re ready to climb the charts. In the next installment of our “Learn to Write” series I’ll be teaching you the proper facial expressions and dress for your dust jacket author photo.

-Norm De Plume

Published in: on June 13, 2008 at 10:09 am  Comments (66)  

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66 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a well-written, engaging and funny post! Thank you for making me laugh today. I especially like how you categorized non-fiction.

  2. Hey, thanks.

  3. Hilarious! I laughed, I cried, I did a little writing.

  4. Good to know that I did not blog in vain.

  5. It’s time for Nom de Plume to rise up from Merc blog anonymity and publish his how-to book on: how to name a book. Loved this!

  6. Oops – I meant “Norm” de Plume: sorry.

  7. where would I look if I was writing a young adult/fantasy/romance ?

  8. Sorry. I haven’t read enough of that genre to properly make fun of its book titles.

  9. I agree with Mallory. I am 12 years old and writing a fantasy. I’m having trouble thinking up a name.

  10. Woah! Maggie your like 12! AWSM. Im 14 and just finsihed my book. i need a title too.

  11. I am co:writing a sports/drama story but having trouble thinking of a name. Any ideas?

  12. this is the best advice ever! but i still don’t have any ideas what to call it. im writing a book about a person who goes on a quest. any ideas?

  13. by the way, your really funny. i like it. so does anyone have any ideas yet? thanks. :)

  14. Ok… I’m writing this awesome fantasy… not like traditional fantasy, it’s probably a mix of fantasy/mystery/fable/allegorical genres… I was thinking about PARASITE ROUGE. (Don’t steal it, or the antagonist of my story will kill you!)

  15. I’m writing a book about a teenage girl who goes through the difficulty of having a friend with dark secret that gets them both in danger what should the title be
    * Tell Me Why
    * Dangerous ways
    * Difficulties
    * Kille’s way

  16. This book is a very important one so please tell me what the title sould be. Oh and Kille is the one who is the friend with the secret!!

  17. HAHHA CRY CR&Y Cyjsndkekjkfdsllllllllllll

  18. this website gives me plenty of ideas of how to write my new book .I think I might name it The Prince and Sharon the teenage Girl.

  19. i’m 14 also and GOSH it’s hard to come up with a name for my story!!! it makes me sooo mad. all the good names for books are taken by other books.


  21. Hello. Yesterday I printed a page from your website entitled how to name your book. Noticed today the following: “This web log may be kept out for 14 days and may not be renewed. Fine for overdue web logs is 10 cents a day.”

    I dont know what that means. Please tell me how to pay any amount due and close out any account right away. Many thanks.

    Jane Hefti

  22. ^ lol… the blog author is being facetious. It’s a play on loaning a book from the library.

    Norm de Plume, this was a very engaging and funny blog posting!! Like someone before me said, I wish you were more familiar with the YA romantic fantasy genre so you could have touched on that. But I think the best way to name one of those books is often to put two juxtapositional words together (“Sweet Blood”, “Loving Vengeance”, etc), or the name of the main character (either alone if the character’s name is unusual, i.e. “Sebastien”, or with a word after it perhaps using alliteration, i.e. “Cassandra’s Candle”. Really any word would work!)

  23. Thanks, R. We don’t have any YA at this old timey Library, so I would have been out of my depth, but it seems like you probably nailed it.

  24. Totally awesome! This hwlped me out som much! SO funny!

  25. omg im 11 and im writing a mystery i already have a titke thnx!!!!!!!!

  26. I need a title for a heart warmer. Can you please give me a good name?

  27. I’m 9 and i am writing a fantasy polor bear book about 2 girl polor bears and they get captured by the enemy clan and 2 boy polor bears save them then a war starts against both the clans what should i name it i am frantic!!!!!

  28. i am writing a book about a girl who after her mother and father divorced gets adopted (but still living with the birth mother) and doesnt have a good childhood, goes through some really bad experiences, then 20 yrs later as an adult meets her real father who then starts dating (and will marry again) the real mom who divorced the step father that adopted her…I NEED A TITLE!!

  29. I need a title for a book of anecdotes about our small town of 100 people. Dating from 1920’s to now!

  30. I am 12 and writing a fantasy book about wolves. i need a title!!!!!!!!!!

  31. please send me those books names who read B.a literature.

  32. I’m 12(13 tomorrow :D) and writing a book about a 13 year old boy who moves from a big city to a small town on a lake and discovers many secrets about him as well as the town… Please help!! Email me titles! AndresGalvan98@gmail.com

  33. A small question… What would I do if I have a supernatural/dystopian novel?? Thanks.

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  36. You *completely* ignored speculative fiction/sci-fi/fantasy/horror. Of course, there are random title generators for fantasy fiction.
    http://nine.frenchboys.net/fantasynovel.html is just one.

  37. Hi, I read your blog on a regular basis. Your humoristic style is awesome,
    keep up the good work!

  38. I’m 12 and am writing a sequel. I have titles, but it’s fantasy/science fiction. I think I would like to maybe find better titles. Can anyone think of some??

  39. My title of the first book is Dark Souls, it has 20 chapters, but I’m thinking about making more. The second book is called Dark Hearts and I’m still working on it, right now I’ve written 6 chapters.

  40. Hi, I need a name for my book, it’s a guild for businessmen/women in Trinidad to help conform to govt and other legal requirements.


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