How To Come Up WIth a Name For Your Novel

I don’t usually have a problem coming up with book names, especially for novels and short stories because usually the idea comes to you. If it isn’t a phrase spoken in the story (like my novelette The Weight of Reason) you will come up with something suitably snappy, descriptive or amusing – or in some cases a play on words or an already well-known phrase.

Some Good Book Titles

The ebook I just read was called Aetna Rising and it fits with the sci fi thriller theme of the book. It is a title that will stick in my mind, not one I will easily forget. The “rousing” nature of the title immediately gives a good idea of the theme.

My own completed novel is called Dieu et mon Droit which is French for God and My Rights. That too is very thematic being the slogan of the monarchy of England, appearing under the official crest. It refers to the King’s/Queen’s divine right to rule (even if the monarchy these days is a constitutional rather than an absolute one). The theme of royalty and religion in the slogan should immediately put the idea of a much earlier time and concerning the Church and the Crown – it fits because it is a future medieval society with a tyrannical church at its centre. I am and always have been happy with this title.

Robert Rankin’s titles are usually a parody of something. My personal favourites are Sex, Drugs and Sausage Rolls, Nostradamus Ate My Hamster and The Da-Da-Dee-Da-Da Code. The first parodies a well-known phrase, the second a famous newspaper headline and the third a well-known best seller.

The Tricky Issue of Short Story Collections

But what about short story collections? How do we come up with something suitable there? You are stuck between creating something alluring and suitably descriptive. Some of the best titles do not make it clear that they are short story collections at all: Manhattan in Reverse by Peter F. Hamilton (which is actually named after just one of the short stories), Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman and Solaris Rising (various authors – named after the publishing house).

Or you can go with something uninspiring but descriptive like The [GENRE] Megapack, or the two collections I have read in the last year from independent published work: The End – Visions of Apocalypse (SFFWorld) or After the Fall – Tales of the Apocalypse by Almond Press.

My problem is coming up with a suitable title for my ebook collection. Earlier in the year when I released The Weight of Reason, a note I put in at the back stating that MG Mason: The Collection will be out later this year. That title is both uninspiring and feels a little pretentious – that’s the sort of title highly successful writers do 40 years into their career “what I think is my best work” sort of thing.

Then I thought about Herrenvolk and other Stories which is better. Again not very inspiring and it feels a little old-fashioned. That is not a bad thing though as a lot of my earlier short fiction which makes up most of the stories here are a twist in the tale which is common to short science fiction of earlier eras.

At the moment I am thinking of The Herrenvolk Saga and and other stories might be optional. Herrenvolk will be the dominant theme here because it is a cycle of three stories set over a 100(ish) year period.

Some other blogs discuss the problem:

Rachelle Gardner
Wiki How
Publishing About


2 thoughts on “How To Come Up WIth a Name For Your Novel

  1. Matt

    I really hate making titles. I’m glad that my latest manuscript has such an obvious option for the title ‘The Damsel’. So you can tell immediately what it is about and anyone familiar with my work knows it’s going to be subverted heavily. The rest were hard though. I spent about three months working on the title of my debut novel alone. Finally settling on ‘Better Off Dead’. Although it’s been used by other things, it best sums up my novel and hints at the humour within. My second novel is a parody title “No Technobabvle please, We’re Earthlings’ taken from ‘No Sex please, We’re British’. For my anthology I ended up settling for a very descriptive title which is a tad misleading but completely true; not all if then are about zombies. In fact, only a short poem is but again it hints at me upsetting expectations which I so throughout my book and I talk about the symbolism of the zombies in the intro.

    I really would like to work out a better system for generating titles.

    1. I really would like to work out a better system for generating titles.

      Because it is so personal there is never an easy answer.

      I love the “No Technobabble” one. By the way, I expect to start reading your book this week. I guess there’ll be no need to send you the link as you’ll spot it here 🙂

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