If you are a writer or an author, you know that your book titles will follow you forever. They will define what kind of writer you are and the genre in which you are writing.
Finding the perfect title can be as important as the novel itself because the title will do a lot for you in term of attracting the reader, passing the name of your book around, advertising the content of your book and categorizing your novel.
Who is the writer who never thought of having the exclusivity of his title?
The bad news is you can’t copyright titles because they are considered slogans, not intellectual property. However, you can trademark titles like the “Dummies” series or “The Magic School bus.” You can still use them in your own title at the condition it cannot be taken for the original. Example, "The Dummies on the Run".
Selecting a title that is the same as or similar to the title of an already published book or series will, at a minimum, cause confusion for book distributors, retailers and consumers, and may result in a lawsuit for trademark infringement.” 1
You can only trademark a series, not an individual work.
But how do you choose a title?
Choose an unusual title. One that nobody is using. Even though you can select any title you want, you do not want people to have a hard time finding your novel. Check on Amazon or Goodreads if your title has been taken or if it is close to a popular title. Make sure your title does not sound dull. Titles with some originality are more likely to attract the reader’s attention. Think about Fahrenheit 451 or Beta or The vampire Academy.
Choose a title easy to remember. Long titles with complicated pronunciations are hard to advertise and they do not really mean anything to the reader. Consider: The Tallahatchie Backroad Honky-Tonk Boogi or The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Instead, keep it short and striking.
The title of a novel can reflect several things:
Many titles include the name of the main character:
- Only the name (Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, Matilda, Coraline, Artemis Fowl, Peter Pan),
- the name of the MC plus one attribute (Harriet the Spy, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Esperanza Rising, Ella Enchanted, Charlotte’s Web, Tuck Everlasting),
- the name of the MC plus a hint at the plot (When Marian Sang, Are you there God? It’s me Margaret, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, James and the Giant Peach),
- a characteristic of the MC (The Magician's Elephant, The Hobbit, My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Lightning Thief, The One and Only Ivan, Lord of the Rings, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
Some titles name an important place in the novel (Bridge to Terabithia, Holes, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Graveyard Book, The City of Amber, Redwall)
Some titles mention some kind of report or writing (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Diary of a Young Girl, Chronicles of Narnia, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, The Neverending Story)
Some titles mention the occupation of the MC (The Giver, The Lightning Thief, Liar and Spy, Wondertruck, So You Want To Be A Wizard)
Some titles describe an event (The Hunger Games, The Bad Beginning, Wait)
Some titles isolate a significant element in the novel (The Colour of Magic, Inkheart, Neverwhere, Eyes of the Dragon, Keys to the Kingdom, Hatchet, The Golden Compass, A Single Shard, A Wrinkle in Time, Breadcrumbs)
Some titles include something from nature (Good night Moon, The Wind in the Willows, Bud not Buddy, The Secret Garden, Number the Stars)
Whatever the title you choose, make a list of the possibilities and ask people around you if they would pick a book with this title. Make sure the title reflects the tone of your novel (comic, dramatic, etc.) and the genre (fantasy, romance, etc.) because most of the time readers pick only books in their preferred genre.
David Koehser, Attorney At Law. "Trademark and Publishing."
Karen Ball. “En-TITLE-ment: Findind the Perfect Title (Part One).” The Steve Laube Agency. Aug. 17, 2011.
Karen Ball. “En-TITLE-ment: Findind the Perfect Title (Part Two).” The Steve Laube Agency. Aug. 24, 2011.
Janet Kobobel Grant. "Before the publisher: Finding the right title." Books & Such.
Lulu Title Scorer