Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

This post is the thirty-ninth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

If you are going to publish a book, even if it is only an e-book, you will need a cover. If you are going with a traditional publisher, the design of your cover may or may not have your input. If you are going the self-publishing route, the cover design is up to you.

Before we go into the details of cover design, I want to go over two things that will appear on your book cover – the book title and your author name.

Book Title

Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. The title is a sales tool. It allows the reader to know something about your book. Your title needs to paint a picture for your prospective reader. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short, so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover.

Now some people know their titles when they begin writing, but others wait to complete their work before deciding on a title. Either way works.

Here are a few tips about selecting a fiction title.

Length – choose a short title – preferably six words or less. Besides not taking up a lot of room on the cover, short titles are easier to remember.

Make it easy to pronounce – Shy away from foreign or made-up words because these don’t give the person looking at your book any idea of what it is about. A title won’t tug at the reader if they can’t pronounce or understand the words.

Make it relevant – Ensure that your book title has something to do with what’s between the covers. Readers don’t like to be tricked. You shouldn’t name your science fiction masterpiece something that sounds like it belongs to an Old Western.

See how popular the title is – Go onto Amazon and type in your title. See how many other books come up with that same title. Yes, I know you can’t necessarily have a title that no one has used before but if tons of books come up with the same title, you may want to consider something a little more unique. And, of course, do not use a title that already belongs to a famous book.

Just remember there are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting a title. For every piece of advice you may get, you will be able to think of a title that goes against it. And while you may love a title, someone else may think it stinks. So in the end, I say to go with what you love. It is after all your book.

Author Names/Pen Names

I host authors every Friday, and I have seen some pretty hard to pronounce names and ones that I imagine are impossible to remember or spell correctly. How do you expect readers to recommend you or search for your books on Amazon when they can’t figure out how to spell – much less pronounce – your name?

Image result for Pen nameThis is where a pseudonym or pen name comes into play. A pen name allows authors to select a catchy, memorable name. It allows them to switch genders or even nationalities, which depending upon the circumstances could mean more book sales.

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masculine name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings, J.D. Robb)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he doesn’t begin to think you aren’t working hard at your job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Other Authors with Pen Names

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well-known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens). Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • Stan Lee (real name Stanley Martin Lieber)
  • George Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier, contemporary fantasy, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brian Coffey.

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Make sure the name you pick out is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check Amazon to see if there is already an author by that name. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. You can then figure out if you have a unique name or one that quite a few other people have.

Now some authors keep their pen names a secret while others proudly claim what other names they write under. And that is totally up to you. There is no shame in using a pen name. In fact, it might just help your book sales.

Now that we have covered your title and author name, next week, I’ll go over cover art and layout.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your Novel

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

4 tips on choosing a title for your novel

I am in the midst of writing my next book. And even though I am not at the stage yet where I have to decide on the title, I find myself occasionally thinking about it. This tale is about a young man and a dragon so for the longest time I just referred to it as my dragon novel. Now a turn of events within the story has me toiling with the name Blood Bond.

Picking a title for your book can be hard especially if you have developed a working title for it that you decide cannot be the actual title. This happened with my first book which I thought to publish as The Elemental. But when I decided to make it a trilogy, The Elemental became the trilogy title, and I had to come up with the names for each book. (Summoned, Quietus and Destiny)

book titleI know some authors have the title picked before they even begin writing, but I always leave the official title to at least after the first draft is written.

Here are a few tips about selecting a fiction title.

Length – choose a short title – preferably six words or less. It might help to pretend the title will be on a billboard. Would a driver going 65+ miles per hour be able to glance over and comfortably read it? Besides not taking up a lot of room on the cover, short titles are easier to remember and easier to Tweet/promote.

Make it easy to pronounce – Shy away from foreign or made-up words because these don’t give the person picking up your book any idea of what it is about. A title won’t tug at the reader if they can’t pronounce or understand the words.

Make it relevant – Ensure that your book title actually has something to do with what’s between the covers. Readers don’t like to be tricked. You shouldn’t name your science fiction masterpiece something that sounds like it belongs to an Old Western.

See how popular the title is – Go onto Amazon and type in your title. See how many other books come up with that same title. Yes, I know you can’t necessarily have a name that no one has used before but if tons of books come up with the same name, you may want to consider something a little more unique. And of course do not use a title that already belongs to a famous book.

One way to pick your title would be to create a long list of possibilities. Include everything you can think of even if sounds cliché or a variation of something already on the list. Then take a look at what you want the title to do. Look at the above suggestions – short, easy, relevant and not overused – and weed out the titles that don’t work. Finally, you will get your list down to the real contenders. This is where you bring in others to tell you which titles they like best. (I did this last step on my last book but ended up going with the title I liked best and don’t regret it.)

Just remember there are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting a title. For every piece of advice you may get, you will be able to think of a title that goes against it. And while you may love a title, someone else may think it stinks. So in the end, I say to go with what you love. It is after all your book.

If you are looking for something to help get your creative title-writing juices flowing, check out this website. And this website also had some more good tips for choosing your title.

 

 

The all-important book title and covers…

As I work on the second draft of my novel, I have begun thinking about the cover and the title. Even though I have written about both subjects before, I wanted to revisit them since they are so important to the overall impression of the book. They set the tone and create an expectation for the reader.

Titles

I never had any problem with picking a title for the books in my trilogy. box setOnce I decided that The Elemental would be the name of my trilogy instead of the first book, the title Summoned just seemed most appropriate. Quietus and Destiny also were easy picks after I decided to stick with one-word titles.

But my latest book isn’t as easy. The working title has always just been Alexandria. On this blog, I have also referred to the working title as Finding Alexandria.

The other day, my husband suggested Heir of Alexandria. I thought that sounded good. But a quick search on Amazon shows that Mercedes Lackey has a series called Heirs of Alexandria. Darn. I would rather not have my title the same as a series of five books.

Of course Summoned and Destiny are titles that others have used, but I try to stay away from titles used by popular authors. I mean I would never name my book Gone with the Wind or The Hunt for Red October.

So I have considered Alexandria’s Heir or The Search for Alexandria’s heir. I don’t know. Nothing is really clicking with me yet.

Covers                                                   

Covers are very important as this is the first thing the reader sees. You want to select something that intrigues them enough to click on your link and read the book description.

The SearchThis means you want a professional-looking cover. Now I know enough graphic design to design my own (and did so for my short story The Search), but I choose to let someone else with a little more experience do the covers from my trilogy.

Unless you are willing to pay someone to draw you a cover, most designers are using stock photos and graphics. The problem with writing fantasy is that many of the models in those photos are wearing modern clothing. Even the ones in “medieval” garb are not wearing what those in my story wear. It makes selecting artwork hard. And don’t even get me started on finding a decent dragon artwork to use.

So I have been spending some time looking at stock photo sites such as istockphoto and dreamstime. I would love to feature the necklace my character wears but again, there is no artwork that looks like it and I can’t draw. I guess I could look into someone else drawing it for me, but I am wanting to keep my costs low.

I also need to decide if I want to stick with the woman who designed my trilogy covers or go with someone new. She has raised her prices considerably since last time.

Ahh…so much to decide before proceeding. I don’t want to make any hasty decisions on such important topics, so I guess I will keep mulling over what I want to do.

Q is for Quietus #AtoZchallenge

QjpgOn the A to Z challenge, the letter of the day is Q. My first thought was to write about the second book in my trilogy, Quietus.

When trying to come up with a nemesis in for this book, I developed a small purple insect that devoured anything in its path. I was looking for a name for my creation which would be the bane of the Land. Thanks to a thesaurus I found the word Quietus which means something that eliminates or kills. Perfect, I thought. But I failed to look up the pronunciation of the word and assumed it was quiet us (kwahy-it-uhs).

QuietusFINALFrom Quietus:

“Yeah. Some storeowner I guess started it. Some out-of-towner described the area to him and how quiet it seemed. Hence, he called it Quietus. Or as he said ‘One that will quiet us all.’ Anyway the name has caught on.”

Of course later I found out that it is pronounced – kwahy-ee-tuhs.

Regardless of how it is pronounced, I thought the title was unique. But a quick check on Amazon shows that at least dozen other books with quietus in the title. Go figure.

Tips for choosing your novel’s title

I have written before about how important your cover is but even more important is the title you give your masterpiece. Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover. Your title is part of the overall impression about the book. It sets the tone and creates an expectation.

In other words, the title is VERY important and you shouldn’t just pick the first title you can think of. You need to spend a lot of time making sure you have the best title. Remember the title is a sales tool. It allows the reader to know something about your book. Your title needs to paint a picture for your prospective reader. 

Now some people know their titles when they begin writing, but others wait to complete their work before deciding on a title. Either way works as long as the title is appropriate.

Here are a few tips about selecting a title.

Length – choose a short title – preferably six words or less. It might help to pretend the title will be on a billboard. Would a driver going 65+ miles per hour be able to glance over and comfortably read it? Besides not taking up a lot of room on the cover, short titles are easier to remember.

Make it easy to pronounce – Shy away from foreign or made-up words because these don’t give the person picking up your book any idea of what it is about. A title won’t tug at the reader if they can’t pronounce or understand the words.

Make it relevant – Ensure that your book title actually has something to do with what’s between the covers. Readers don’t like to be tricked.

See how popular the title is – Go onto Amazon and type in your title. See how many other books come up with that same title. Yes, I know you can’t necessarily have a name that no one has used before but if tons of books come up with the same name, you may want to consider something a little more unique. There are lots of books called The Search, but I went ahead and named my short story this because it fit the book so well.

SummonedFINALI will say that when I wrote my first book, I had plans to call it The Elemental. But when I finished it and realized the story would become a trilogy, I switched the title to the name of the whole trilogy. It didn’t take me long to decide Summoned was a good title. Hey, it is short, easy to pronounce, very relevant and when searched on Amazon, there were not many books with just the world Summoned.

So when deciding on your title – take your time and choose one that will help you sell your book. If you want more tips on how to select your title, check out this website.

Crafting better post titles to draw in more readers

I wrote about Triberr recently and since every day I log in and approve the other blog topics I tweet about, I see quite a few blog post titles. And sorry Triberr tribe mates but I see some really bad ones.

Your blog post’s title is basically your headline for your post. It needs to draw the reader in.  Just like choosing an awesome book cover for your book can make the difference whether someone picks up or clicks on your book, so it is with your post title. Your headline is the equivalent of your cover for your book. Making it enticing will ensure that readers will read your post. Write a boring, complicated or confusing title and it doesn’t matter what you’ve written in the post – very few people will ever read it.

Now while I got the idea for this blog subject by looking at my Triberr feed, your post title matters not only because it appears there but other social media sites, as links from other bloggers, in RSS feeds, search engine results and on your own archive pages. Don’t just assume followers of your blog will see this title. Write it with other readers in mind.

Decent/Good titles

Advertise your KDP Select Days with The Masquerade Crew

Creating a book trailer on a budget  (mine)

How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog

6 tips for writing outstanding blog titles

Why I didn’t hire a proofreader for my novel (mine)

Bad/Need work titles

Catching Up, News, New Releases & More

Holy Mama! The TGE goes on

Get it While the Getting is GOOD!

ROW80: The first November check-in

Quote of the Week – Oct. 31 (mine)

These bad examples don’t tell the reader what the blog is about. Nothing about them draws you in or would make someone want to click on them. Now as you note, I listed my title for my Quote of the Week under bad/need work titles. I happen to label each weekly post the same thing just like on Fridays when I list “Featured Author: Your name here” as the title to my post. I do this for consistency and for ease of titling them posts. I leave the other three days to write better headlines to draw in the readers.

Now a few tips to help you out when designing your own post titles.

Length

Your best bet is to keep your headline short and simple. Not only is this easier to read and comprehend but also many search engines only show about 65 characters so if you have a long title all of it won’t appear in the search results.

While only a handful of words (think 10 words or less), these are the most powerful words that you will write because most of your readers will decide whether to read your post based on these words. If your current headlines are 10 words in length or more, have a look at how you could cut these down to make them more powerful and to the point.

Let the reader know what is in it for them.

When crafting your title, consider what benefit your readers will get out of reading this post. Are you giving them tips? Offering them something for free? Of course using the word “free” in your headlines is a proven method of getting people to take notice.

  • 6 ways to improve your writing
  • How to double your blog traffic
  • Free this week only – The Search (a short story)

Writing good headlines and titles is a skill bloggers need to learn. So take the time to write the best title with your target audience in mind and you will increase your blog traffic.