How to Title Your Novel (All Genres)

Diane Callahan
Creators Hub
Published in
23 min readOct 15, 2021

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Did you know that Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why started out with a different title? He had named it Baker’s Dozen, given Hannah Baker is the main character and she shares thirteen tapes, with the number thirteen being commonly known as a baker’s dozen.

Like most authors, Asher didn’t really want to change the title. But regardless of how you feel about the book, I think most of us will agree that Thirteen Reasons Why is the more enticing name. It creates intrigue — thirteen reasons for what? It promises a list, and with thirteen being an unlucky number in many cultures, it feels ominous, especially when the reader learns the novel is about suicide.

Titles can be short and simple, like The Shining, or they can be long and quirky, as with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. They can evoke the genre in an obvious way, as in Interview with the Vampire, or feature a title that doesn’t fully make sense until the very end, like with The Sense of an Ending.

Titles shine a spotlight on the heart of the novel, directing readers’ attention to an important element that thematically ties the story together. For some writers, coming up with a title is even harder than writing the book.

After analyzing a few hundred novels, I’ve noticed patterns that might help you brainstorm ideas for a musical, memorable, and marketable title — one that sounds like poetry to the ear, that readers will easily remember, and that captures people’s attention.

The blog Novel Writing Help recommends “naming your baby” early on because . . .

“1. It’s good for your motivation. When you give something a name, it always feels more real, more alive.

Diane Callahan
Creators Hub

Fiction writer and editor, a.k.a. YouTuber Quotidian Writer.