How to Create a Great Book Title - and Why You Should Do It BEFORE You Start Writing

I always encourage my clients to choose a working title for their books before they start writing - and I think you should do the same. 

Why? Because a working title gives the ephemeral concept of an unwritten book shape, form, and meaning. It captures the energy of the book you want to create, and gives you a point on which to focus your creative visualization and manifestation work. Plus, it gives you a way to refer to your book when you talk about it with other people.  

But why create the title before you write? What if your themes change? What if your book evolves into something new and different? Well, that's why we call it a working title. It's an anchor, a still point in the ocean of words you're about to dive into - but its not immortal, or set in stone. You can always adapt it  later in the process. 

What Your Title Does

Your book title is one of three key components - along with your book's cover and back cover text - that will entice readers to pick your book off the shelf.

NOTE: If you read my recent blog post, 5 Things You NEED to Know Before You Start Writing, and downloaded your Book Clarity Workbook from the Resource Library, you're probably pretty clear on your book's purpose, mission, and target audience. Writing a catchy title is a great way to put that newfound clarity to work!


A book title does three things: 

  1. It grabs a reader's interest

  2. It gives a clue as to what's in the book

  3. It makes a promise to the reader

In other words: your title is a hook that instantly grabs your ideal reader's attention, creates an energetic association between their desired outcome and your message, and provides a snapshot of what they can expect to learn, feel, and create when they read your book. 

The last item on that list above is the most important. If you're writing an instructional, self-help, or inspirational book, but your title doesn't promise anything, your reader will wonder what's in it for her.

Don't believe me? Look at some of the most successful titles in the genre. 

  • Wishes Fulfilled by Dr. Wayne Dyer

  • Love for No Reason by Marci Shimoff

  • You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

  • Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck

  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Can you see - and feel - the promises? I thought so! 


What Makes a Title Great? 

A great book title should be: 

  • Short - seven words or less is ideal (not counting the subtitle, which we'll address in another post)

  • Easy to remember - so people don't struggle to recall the name of your book when they're trying to tell their friends about it!

  • Easy to say - try not to leave your promoters tongue-tied

  • Original - meaning, it hasn't previously been used as a book title in your target genre. (Book titles, like slogans, are not protected by copyright law, but if your title has been used before in any form, you'll want to create a clear, catchy subtitle so that readers don't get confused!)

  • Clear - When you're writing instructional nonfiction, ambiguous or "mystery" titles (aka, titles pulled from a single line of the book) are a no-go. Remember, your title is a promise.


Your title might also do one or more of the following: 

  • Identify a need (Healing ____, Letting go of _____, Overcoming _____.)

  • Offer a solution (How to ______, Three Steps to ________, Seven Ways to ______.)

  • Utilize a standard, recognizable format (The _____ Workbook)

  • Offer a call to action (Do _____ Now)


Finally, your title should match the overall tone, energy, and theme of your book. Putting a humorous title on a serious book, or giving a straight-up memoir a name like "How to Be Free"  (which implies instruction) is never a good idea. The only thing worse than an unclear title is a title that clearly doesn't match what's in the book! 


Put Your Working Title to Work

So, now you've got an amazing working title. How can you put it to work for you? Here are some fun ways you can use your title to support your creation process. 

  • Create a mockup of your book cover (or have an artistic friend do it for you). Post your cover in a place where you can see it while you write. This will help you visualize your book as completed, even as you write it!

  • Replace the #1 slot on the New York Times best-seller page with your book title. Put it on your vision board. Imagine what it will feel like when your book is out there in the world.

  • Share your book title on social media and your web site. "Hey all! Great news! My book, _____, will be out next year, so keep your eyes peeled!"


Of course, your title may change as you go through your book creation process - and that's perfectly fine. But your working title gives you a beacon in the often foggy space of writing, something you can follow when you get lost, and come home to when things get confusing. It's an anchor, a pillar, a foundation for your book's concept and purpose. So play with it, experiment, brainstorm, and see where your title creation process takes you! 

What is YOUR book title? I'd love to read it! 

Bryna René Haynes is the founder and President of The Heart of Writing, the chief editor for Inspired Living Publishing, and the best-selling author of The Art of Inspiration: An Editor's Guide to Writing Powerful, Effective Inspirational and Personal Development Books. In over a decade as a writer, editor, ghostwriter, designer, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband, Matthew, and their little Moonbeam, Áine.