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  • Writer's pictureDale Thele

Where Do Book Titles Come From?

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Book titles are important to a book. First, the title identifies the manuscript. Two, the title helps to intrigue readers to purchase the book. Remember the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Be honest, when considering a new book, we make assumptions about its worth by its title and the cover image. Don’t deny it, we’re all guilty. Third, the title plays a significant role in the marketing of the book. So, just where do book titles come from? It’s not like they just suddenly appear out of thin air by magic. A book title usually originates from one of two places, either a book title generator or the author makes up a title. In my case, I make up a title. Book title generators are not my thing, I’ve yet to find suggestions from a title generator that have any true connection with my book manuscripts.

Since I come up with my own titles, I focus on creating something short. A short title is much easier to remember than a long rambling title like: The Unremarkable Life and Times of Thaddeus P Pumpernickel. Yes, the title is fun, but will you remember the title two days from now? Probably not the entire title, but portions of it, maybe. Considering the parts you do remember, can you put those bits and pieces into the correct order? See what I mean by the benefits of a short title?

When selecting a title, I prefer a two to three-word title. Words that relate to the story, maybe something symbolic. Take, for instance, one of my earliest short stories entitled: HARVEST MOON. The story isn’t about an autumn moon, but what happens in the light of a particular full fall moon.

MASKED IDENTITIES, one of my novellas has nothing to do with masked people, but rather how we put on airs and don’t project our true selves to others. The theme is presented in dual stories. The outer story is a contemporary tale of a faltering relationship between a college girl and a boy. The interior story is a Victorian tale between two young men. Although the circumstances between the two stories are different, there are similarities between the characters in both stories.

When I began to formulate the concept for the 6-book SHANE DAVISON CHRONICLE SERIES, I decided the titles would be two-word titles, even though at the time, I didn't have any idea what the six book titles would be. I decided I’d title each book as I wrote them.

The first novel in the series entitled CLIPPED WINGS, aligns perfectly with what happens to the protagonist. Also, the phrase “clipped wings” actually pops up quite naturally in dialogue toward the end of the book. The title isn't all that unique in that when writing this post I found 52 listings for books titled: CLIPPED WINGS on Amazon.

The second novel of the series, BLURRED LINES, is also the title of Robin Thicke’s highly controversial recorded song. Neither the song nor my novel share similarities, except for the title. This title was selected for the novel because the story blurs the lines between the undefinable gray area which muddles factual reality versus the reliable black-and-white concepts that can be logically explained.

The third novel of the series, CHASING UNICORNS (which will be released in the spring of 2023) isn’t a tale of hunting down unicorns in some mythological world. However, when one Googles “chasing unicorns”, one will get a wildly varied list of definitions. In the case of this novel, the chase is to pursue an unattainable object or impossible goal (unicorn). Yet, when one Googles the singular word “unicorn”, up pops numerous symbolic uses for the word. The title isn’t all that unique as it’s been used to title a lengthy list of books and a couple of commercial movies too.

I can hear you ask, Why use titles that have been used before? Why not come up with something that hasn’t already been used? According to Bowker (the authorized agent issuing ISBN numbers for published books in the USA), over 2,700 new book titles are registered DAILY in just the United States. Do the math (I know I’m asking a lot of you) that’s a whole mess of titles and the odds of title repetition is inevitable. I don’t intentionally search out titles of published books; I come up with my own titles. If someone else used that same title, I don’t sweat it. Just because authors may share the same book titles, our stories are unique to each author. Thank goodness, book titles can’t be patented, otherwise, it might take years to conjure up a book title that no one had registered.

So, to answer the original question, Where do book titles come from? I can’t answer for other authors, I can only answer for myself. I come up with my own short titles, which are symbolic of the nature of my stories.

I would like to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment in the Comment Box at the bottom of the page.

Dale Thele, Bestselling Fiction Author

Bestselling Fiction Author

Stories with an LGBTQ+ Twist

corrupting readers since 2008

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