I Never Would’ve Guessed One of the Hardest Things About Writing Could Be Coming Up with a Good Title


I’ve become convinced that the title of one of my novellas (the one I’m currently trying to get published) is no good. In fact, I’m on the verge of saying it downright sucks.

Originally, I thought it was a clever little title. It’s actually one of the last lines in the book, and I thought that was smart. What I began to realize was that it was only a clever title if you’ve read the book. It wasn’t a title that made you want to read the book.

I was having my doubts about it, then I reached my tipping point: I wrote a query letter to a small, independent publisher, and found myself purposely not wanting to disclose the title. I felt like after reading the brief synopsis describing the book, the title just didn’t work.

So, now what? Being so new to the whole publishing thing, I’d never put that much thought into titles before. I would just slap a title on a story and move on. Luckily, Novella #2 has a working title that I think will stay, and I managed to stumble upon a good title for the novel I’m working on, so I just have this one that’s posing a problem.

Do I just think and think until a title comes to me out of thin air? Is there a book title version of the Wu Tang Name Generator? By the way, if anyone’s curious, according to the site my rap name would be Phantom Criminal. As cool as that sounds, it wouldn’t really make sense for the title of my book.

I’d love to hear any other writers’ ideas; what do you do when you’re stuck for a title? And any non-writers out there, what titles caught your eye and made you want to pick up a book you knew nothing about? Please let me know in the comments. Meanwhile, I’ll be brainstorming while I fill out the forms to legally change my name to Jobee, The Phantom Criminal.


Published by Kenneth Jobe

Kenneth Jobe is a writer, photographer, musician, and Native Californian living in the Midwest with his wife and son. His fiction has been published in Jitter, The Rusty Nail, Ghostlight: The Magazine of Terror, and the horror anthology Robbed of Sleep, Volume 2.

8 thoughts on “I Never Would’ve Guessed One of the Hardest Things About Writing Could Be Coming Up with a Good Title

  1. Jobe,

    I have had hits and misses here. But you’re right, the title is vitally important.

    Sometimes, the best solution is just to say what it is: The Brother’s Karamzov, Moby Dick. It seems people are tending to more ‘poetic’ titles lately.

    As for me, I usually don’t have a title until I’m done with a book. Then, I have to think and think and when I come up with something good, I usually know it. It just sticks and feels right. Wish I could be more specific, but that’s my unscientifc process.


  2. I love the absurd. I once read a book about the making of a dictionary (riveting stuff) simply because the title boasted the insanity of one of the contributors.

  3. When I paint and write, and i have trouble finding a title for my work, I just do something else for a while,, then return to my work and write down the first thing that comes into my mind.

    1. Now that’s an interesting idea…I never worried when I named songs, I would just give them abstract names that amused me. Naming a book seemed a little different. I think I’ll give your method a try!

  4. I guess a starting point would be to determine the theme of the writing? What you hope the reader would get from it? I have the same problem. But I guess personally that’s where I would start. Or if there is a major event in the story, you could try to condense the description down to its essentials.

  5. I understand your plight. My book is The Record Killer. Because obviously it is concerned about a serial killer who uses record (45’s) as a clue to his next killing. If you wish a couple of chapters of it let me know in e-mail and I would be glad to send them to you. It is intense and for adults. What I suggest you do is make up a synopsis for your book and send it to me and I will give it a try to come up with a few possible titles.

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