Carl S. Swisher Library at Jacksonville University

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MLA Guide 9th ed.

"Author." MLA Handbook. 8th ed. , MLA, 2016, pp. 21-25.

"Title." MLA Handbook. 8th ed. , MLA, 2016, pp. 25-29.

Formatting the Author

Formatting the title.

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APA Style - 7th edition: Specific Rules for Authors & Titles

Rules for Writing Author and Editor Information

Rules for writing titles.

There are certain things to keep in mind when writing the author's name according to APA style. Authors may be individual people, multiple people, groups (institutions or organizations), or a combination of people and groups. 

An item that you use may have an editor instead of an author or in the case of audiovisual materials a writer or director.

Zhang, Y. H.  (one author)

Arnec, A., & Lavbic, D. (two authors)​

Kent State University (organization as author)

Barr, M. J. (Ed.). (1 editor)

Powell, R. R., & Westbrook, L. (Eds.). (2 editors)

here are certain things to keep in mind when writing a title according to APA style.

Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (book title, American Psychological Association is a proper noun so it is capitalized)

Student perspective of plagiarism (book chapter title)

Internet plagiarism in higher education: Tendencies, trigging factors and reasons among teacher candidates (article title, Tendencies is the first word of a sub-title so it is capitalized)

Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education (journal title)

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Self Publishing Resources

How To Write Book Titles The Proper Way: A Complete Guide For Writers

Book titles within essays or papers can be tricky. There are specific rules that are given for how to include a book title in a way that sets it apart from the content of your writing given by the Modern Language Association. However, as with many other things in life, there are exceptions to the rules. This article will guide you through the rules of the writing style guides so that you can include a book’s title in your paper or essay correctly.

How to write book titles:

Style guides and book titles.

When it comes to book titles within text, there are a few different style guides that have rules you can follow, depending on your writing type. The three types that you will encounter most often are; MLA style, Chicago manual of style, and APA. A writing instructor will usually tell you what style guide you are expected to use for a particular essay or paper.

MLA Style Guide

The MLA handbook states that you should always italicize book titles when styling book titles within your text. The exception to this rule are religious texts. You would not italicize the Holy Bible or the sacred books or titles of other religions. Note the following example.

Pam had stayed most of the summer indoors, re-reading her favorite book series. She was already up to  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone , and she didn’t regret not being more active or going outside.

In the above example, the book title is italicized. Fiction titles and nonfiction titles alike must be in italics when within the text.

Series Titles in MLA

In the above example, a book from a series was used. But what if the text had not specified which book from the series Pam was reading? Would it still need to be in italics? The answer is: in this case, yes. In other cases, sometimes.

It’s really not as confusing as it seems. When you are talking about a book series but don’t want or need to include the complete series titles for the purposes of your work, you only have to put words in italics that also appear in the book titles. So, because  Harry Potter  is part of the title of all of the books in the series, you would italicize his name every time you mention the book.

However, if you were talking about Katniss Everdeen, you would not have to do this, as the book series she is featured in doesn’t use her name in the titles of  The Hunger Games  series. The same would be true of books like the Nancy Drew books.

Quotation Marks

There are instances in which titles should be placed inside of quotation marks within a paper or essay. This is done when you cite the titles of poems , a chapter title, short stories, articles, or blogs.

How To Write Book Titles

So, for example, if you were to write a paper that featured a poem from a book, you would put the book title in italics and the poems cited in quotation marks.

An example of an enduring love poem is “Annabel Lee” from  The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. 

Chapter Title

Another time that quotation marks should be used is when using the title of a chapter. If you are citing a specific chapter of a book, you would enclose the title of the chapter in quotation marks, and the title of the book should be in italics.

The desperation and sadness of a man on death row can be seen in the “Wild Wind Blowing” chapter of Norman Mailer’s  The Executioner’s Song. 

Short Stories

Short stories are another case. Much like the title of a chapter or poem, in which the title is placed in quotation marks, while the title of the book or collection it is found in is italics. The same can be said for sections, stories, or chapters cited within a literary journal.

Stepping away from his norm of horror and gore, Stephen King writes of trust, love, and regret in his story “The Last Rung on the Ladder,” which can be found in his short story collection  Night Shift. 

Punctuation Marks

If you are citing a story or title that includes question marks, you need to make sure to italicize the question mark when citing. Keep all punctuation, such as a question mark, comma, ellipses, colon, or exclamation mark, as it is in the original individual books.

If you want a funny and irreverent read, you’ve got to try  Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea.  Chelsea Handler has done a phenomenal job of being vulgar, relatable, and explaining life from her viewpoint in this hilarious and memorable book.

The Digital Age: Are Book Titles Underlined Anymore?

MLA style used to dictate that a book title should either be in italics or underlined. However, that is no longer the case. As computers started to take over as the major tool used in writing, it became unpopular to underline book titles. Therefore, this rule was dropped from the style guides.

However, it should be mentioned that when handwriting an essay or research paper, many instructors prefer that you underline book titles, as it’s relatively difficult to handwrite italics. If you are in a writing course or a class that is heavy on handwritten work, be sure to ask your instructor or teacher which method they prefer for citing a book title.

How To Write Book Titles

How to Come Up with Book Title Ideas

Now that quotation marks, italics, and style guides have been discussed, let’s move on to how you can come up with your own book title. If you’d like a title for your book that sounds interesting and will get a reader’s attention, you may find this article helpful.

Coming up with a good title for your book is a challenging yet essential marketing decision . The right title can make your target audience choose your new book off of the shelf instead of another writer’s work. Your book cover and your book title are quite possibly the most important marketing decisions you will make.

How to Choose a Good Book Title

Certain criteria should be met if you want to have a good book title , and there are specific steps involved in getting there. You may have assumed up until now that titles of books were just spur of the moment decisions made by authors or publishers, but a lot of work goes into writing good titles.

Grab the Reader’s Attention

As a general rule, you want your reader to remember your title and to sound interesting, even without the reader having seen the cover. There are several ways to do this. You can be a little dark with your title, be controversial, provoke the reader, or even be funny.

There are many examples of such works that use memorable and attention-seeking titles. The following are some different titles that are effective and would most likely provoke a reader to grab them from a shelf for closer inspection.

Shorter Titles

If your full title for your book is long, you may end up boring a reader or creating a situation where a reader tries to remember the title of your book, but it’s too long and ends up getting it confused with another book. Although you should always do your best to make sure that there aren’t books by other authors that share a title or have a title similar to your book (more on that in a minute), you don’t want a person to get confused and get the wrong book instead.

Research Your Title Ideas

It’s a good idea to take the titles you have considered for your book and make a list. Then, do your homework. You can use tools like Google Adwords to test out your title to see if there are others like it, or you can simply use any search engine and plug your title ideas into the search bar and see what similar or exact titles of the same words pop up.

Readers are generally busy people. They don’t have the time or the energy to ensure that writers get a title right. They’ll look for the book they are interested in, and if it proves to be too difficult, or if there are other books written that have the same title, they’ll move on to something else.

A writer really has to make sure that they have a title that isn’t going to be ignored, is interesting, isn’t too long, and isn’t too similar to other works.

The same goes for titles of short works within a larger body of work. Short works, like poems or stories, need to have unique titles as well when included in a larger body of work, such as a collection. If stories are similar in nature, be sure to title them differently so that readers will be able to tell them apart, as well.

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50 Famous Book Titles Taken From Literature

book author and title

What’s one thing that immediately marks out a literary novel as ‘literary’?  Having a title which declares I’m taken from a famous work of literature, of course. Shakespeare and the Bible are, unsurprisingly, the greatest works of titular inspiration, but here are 50 famous book titles whose authors drew on a wide range of predecessors to name them.

I’ve split up the books into sections for titles taken from the Bible, Shakespeare, poetry, and other novels. Though I have included women and authors of colour wherever I found them, the limitations of this article has meant that there aren’t as many of either as I would have liked.

book author and title

Famous Book Titles Taken from The Bible

#1. absalom, absalom by william faulkner.

This quotation for Faulkner’s 1936 novel comes from the Books of Samuel – more specifically, 19:4 in 2 Samuel, which is in the Old Testament and relates some of the history of Israel. Absalom, the third son of David, rebelled against his father and was killed in battle. The full Biblical sentence is  But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!  Faulkner was a big fan of borrowed titles: his 1939  If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem   is also from the Bible, Psalms 137:5. The line in question is  If I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.

#2. A Time to Kill by John Grisham

This one is from 3:3 in the Ecclesiastes, again part of the Old Testament. The anonymous author is a King of Jerusalem who relates and analyses events in his own life. This has resonated strongly with a lot of people: Abraham Lincoln quoted Ecclesiastes when addressing Congress in 1862, and the novelist Thomas Wolfe called it ‘the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known.’ Grisham’s 1989 title is taken from the line that  [To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:] A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…

#3. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Another Ecclesiastes quotation, this time from line 7:4. A brilliant sentence:  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.  One of Wharton’s best-known novels, it came out in 1905.

#4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck apparently considered this 1952 novel to be his magnum opus, the one which all other novels before it had merely been practice for. The title is suitably grand. Taken from Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, it refers to line 4:16, after Cain has slain his brother Abel.  And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

#5. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

More Ecclesiastes! This particular quotation is from 1:5, which states that  The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.  Hemingway’s modernist novel came out in 1926.

#6. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Waugh took the title for his 1930 novel from Philippians, full name Epistle to the Philippians, which is part of the New Testament and generally attributed to Paul the Apostle. Most scholars consider it to be a collection of letter fragments sent from Paul to the church of Philippi, a city on the Greek island of Thasos. The line in question is 3:21 and refers to Jesus Christ, [w] ho shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

#7. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

One of Dick’s most famous novels (published in 1977), its title is taken from the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Like above, it’s written by Paul the Apostle, this time to the church in Corinth. The line, 13:12, goes  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  It’s a particularly well-known one, and its opening words have often been used as famous book titles to other works, such as Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 short story collection  In a Glass Darkly   and Karleen Koen’s 1986 historical fiction novel  Through a Glass Darkly   (its sequel continues the quotation, being called  Now Face to Face ).

#8. Moab is my Washpot by Stephen Fry

Undoubtedly an odd quotation; it comes from line 60:8 of the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament, which reads in full  Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.  The context is that people would often use washpots to clean their feet of sand after roaming the desert, and Moab, a kingdom of Jordan which was often warring against the Israelites, needed to be overcome. The Israelites therefore likened these containers to the kingdom. Fry chose this as the title for his 1997 autobiography as he considered the book to be ‘scrubbing at the grime of years’.

#9. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Although she’s most famous for her dystopian novel  The Giver , Lowry’s 1989 novel  Number the Stars  focuses on the life of a Jewish family living in Copenhagen during World War II. In line 147:4, the Psalms declares that  He [God] telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.  The quotation is also used for its connotations of the Star of David associated with Judaism.

#10. Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal

Rizal, one of the national heroes of the Philippines, wrote this book in 1887 while the nation was under Spanish control in order to draw attention to the social ills which beset the country at the time. It’s now required reading in every secondary school in the Philippines and is considered the country’s national epic.

The title quotation is extraordinarily famous: it comes from 20:17 of the Gospel of John, part of the New Testament, and is Jesus’s response to Mary Magdalene when she encounters him outside his tomb after his resurrection. The translation from the Latin is  Touch me not.  It can also be found in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s famed Tudor-era poem  Whoso list to hunt (a close copy of Petrarch), as well as a painting by Titian. The phrase was used to refer to cancer of the eyelids, and Rizal – a medical student – chose it because it symbolised the people’s blindness to the misdeeds of the ruling Spanish government.

book author and title

Famous Book Titles Taken From William Shakespeare

#11. brave new world by aldous huxley.

This is possibly the most famous book to take its title from a Shakespeare play – in this case,  The Tempest . In Act V Scene I, Miranda declares:

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world That has such people in ’t! 

She says this when encountering new arrivals to her island for the first time in her life, and the ‘savage’ John repeats it when gazing at the corrupt, hedonistic society portrayed in Huxley’s 1932 novel. Huxley was a big fan of Shakespeare and quoted him in two more famous book titles, namely  Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1956) and  Mortal Coils (1921), from  Macbeth  and  Hamlet  respectively. Both are part of famous soliloquies; Hamlet’s in particular is the ‘to be or not to be’ speech.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. — Macbeth, Act V Scene V

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. — Hamlet, Act III Scene I

#12.  Rosemary and Rue (October Daye #1) by Seanan McGuire

The first installment of McGuire’s bestselling fantasy October Daye series, this title is taken from The Winter’s Tale . Rosemary signifies remembrance (very key to Toby’s character) whilst rue is for repentance. The lines are spoken in Act IV Scene IV by Perdita as she gives the flowers in question to Camillo and Polixenes.

Reverend sirs, For you there’s rosemary and rue; these keep Seeming and savour all the winter long: Grace and remembrance be to you both…

#13. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Timon of Athens  is one of Shakespeare’s less well-known and less-read plays, so it’s not often quoted. But Timon’s speech here in Act IV Scene III is an excellent one. Suitably for a 1962 postmodernist novel full of cross-quotations and complex footnotes, there’s also a possible secondary Shakespeare reference here. In  Hamlet , the Ghost states that the glow-worm ‘gins to pale his uneffectual fire.’  Lolita (1955) is of course Nabokov’s best work and one of history’s most famous book titles, but  Pale Fire  also received acclaim.

The sun’s a thief, and with his great attraction Robs the vast sea: the moon’s an arrant thief And her pale fire she snatches from the sun The sea’s a thief, whose liquid surge resolves The moon into salt tears…

#14. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

You could say this one is cheating, a little bit. Proust wrote his 1913 seven-volume masterpiece in French, with the title  À la recherche du temps perdu,  which more directly translates into  In Search of Lost Time . But C.K. Scott Moncrieff was its first English translator, and he released his version in 1922 under a title taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30.

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste…

#15. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Maybe I was wrong about  Brave New World  being the most famous Shakespeare-inspired title. With the novel that secured Green undying fame in 2012, we have a quotation from Act I Scene II of  Julius Caesar,  specifically by the character Cassius. He’s trying to persuade Brutus of the very real danger that Caesar wants to be king, and how dangerous that would be for Rome.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

#16. Cold Comfort Farm  by Stella Gibbons

Gibbons’s 1932 classic about a deeply unpleasant farm, a satire of typical Victorian rural fiction, has a title taken from Act V Scene VII of King John, spoken by the titular character.

…I do not ask you much, I beg cold comfort; and you are so strait And so ingrateful, you deny me that.

#17. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Here we have another  Timon of Athens  quotation. For his 1966 nonfiction account of a notorious family murder, Capote selected a line from Alcibiades’ speech in Act III Scene V – Who cannot condemn rashness in cold blood?  Committing crimes ‘cold-bloodedly’ has long been a staple of speech, however.

#18. Behold, Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer

This isn’t really one of the world’s most famous book titles; Heyer’s contemporary detective novels were far less popular than her historical romances. But  Behold, Here’s Poison (1936) has always been one of my favourite Heyers. Not because of its mystery plot, which is pretty standard, but because it has what I consider to be some of her best characters of all time, particularly ‘amiable snake’ Randal. If you’re a Heyer fan (or even if you’re not) I really recommend it! The title comes from a speech by Antiochus in Act I Scene I of  Pericles, Prince of Tyre .

Thaliard, behold, here’s poison, and here’s gold; We hate the Prince of Tyre, and thou must kill him: It fits thee not to ask the reason why…

#19. Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

This 1992 historical nonfiction book about World War II was later popularised by a dramatic TV miniseries in 2001, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. The quotation is taken from  Henry V,  Act IV Scene III, in a speech delivered by Henry himself to rouse his troops on St Crispin’s Day before the famed 1415 Battle of Agincourt.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother…

#20. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Reeve’s 2001 steampunk series has a name borrowed from Othello’s speech in Act III Scene III of  Othello . It’s particularly apt since it references cities which are constantly on the move and eating other cities.

And O you mortal engines whose rude throats Th’immortal Jove’s dread clamours counterfeit…

The 2006 fourth novel in the  Mortal Engines  quartet also has a literary title: it’s called  A Darkling Plain , a quotation from Matthew Arnold’s 1867 poem  Dover Beach.

Ah, love, let us be true To one another! for the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.

#21. The Dark Tower by Stephen King

This 1982 eight-book series by King has a title which  is  taken from Shakespeare, but comes by way of Robert Barrett Browning. In 1852, Browning wrote a poem entitled  Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came ; this line is spoken in Act III Scene IV of  King Lear  by Gloucester’s son Edgar. In his guise as Tom o’ Bedlam, he speaks a lot of gibberish, and this particular piece of gibberish has even older roots as a Scottish ballad.

Child Rowland to the dark tower came, His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum I smell the blood of a British man.

#22. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Another Faulkner! This 1929 title comes from Macbeth’s famed soliloquy in Act V Scene V, delivered as Scottish troops are approaching his castle. It’s the ending of the aforementioned ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ quotation.

… it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

#23. No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer

Another of Heyer’s detective novels, the 1939  No Wind of Blame   has a title from words spoken by Claudius in Act IV Scene VII of  Hamlet.

…I will work him To an exploit, now ripe in my devise, Under the which he shall not choose but fall. And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe…

book author and title

Famous Book Titles Taken From Poetry

#24. i know why the caged bird sings by maya angelou.

Angelou’s autobiography has, rightly, been hailed as a landmark piece of writing since it came out in 1969. The title comes from the poem  Sympathy  by African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who was born in 1872 and died young from illness in 1906.

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me, When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore, — When he beats his bars and he would be free; It is not a carol of joy or glee, But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core, But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings — I know why the caged bird sings!

#25. Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo

This 2006 children’s novel relates the story of a British orphan sent to Australia after World War II. The title comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous 1798 poem  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner . Though the poem is fairly long, it’s narrated in short stanzas of four lines each.

Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide wide sea! And never a saint took pity on My soul in agony.

#26. Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

This is the sixth novel by the bestselling Japanese author, who has declared it to be the one he most enjoyed writing. It was first published in 1988 but translated into English in 1994. The title comes from the final stanza of W.H. Auden’s 1937 poem  Death’s Echo.

Dance, dance for the figure is easy, The tune is catching and will not stop; Dance till the stars come down from the rafters; Dance, dance, dance till you drop.

#27. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Mitchell’s great 1936 American Civil War classic is one of my joint favourite novels (alongside   Wuthering Heights ) and, delightfully for me, its title comes from my all-time favourite poem! If you read my article on 22 gorgeous Victorian poems , you’ll know this already, but Ernest Dowson’s 1894 poem  Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae  is one I absolutely love. To be doubly literary, Dowson’s title is itself taken from a poem – specifically, Book IV of the ancient Roman poet Horace’s  Odes . It translates to ‘I am not as I was under the reign of the good Cynara’ and is evocative of lost, haunting love, perfect for  Gone with the Wind.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng, Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind; But I was desolate and sick of an old passion, Yea, all the time, because the dance was long; I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

#28. A Many-Splendoured Thing by Han Suyin

Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chou, who wrote under the pen name Han Suyin, produced a number of China-set novels which became very popular in the West. Chief among these is A Many-Splendoured Thing  in 1952, which narrates the tale of a Eurasian doctor and her affair with a married British foreign correspondent. The novel is strongly autobiographical; Suyin herself, a Eurasian doctor, had an affair with the married British-Australian war correspondent Ian Morrison who was killed in the Korean War in 1950. Its title comes from the 1903 poem  The Kingdom of God  by Francis Thompson.

The angels keep their ancient places; — Turn but a stone, and start a wing! ‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estrangèd faces,  That miss the many-splendoured thing.

#29. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Yet more Faulkner! This 1930 title comes from a translation of Homer’s ancient Greek poem  The Odyssey , published in 1925 by William Marris. In its Book XI, the dead Agamemnon tells Odysseus that  As I lay dying, the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades.  He is here referring to his murderous, adulterous wife Clytemnestra. Considering he SACRIFICED THEIR DAUGHTER IPHIGENIA just so he could go off and fight, one really cannot blame her.

#30. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Achebe’s 1958 novel narrates the story of life in southeastern Nigeria prior to its colonisation by Europeans during the late Victorian Scramble for Africa. This title comes from W. B. Yeats’s 1919 poem The Second Coming. It also serves as the source material for the title of The Widening Gyre , a detective novel by Robert B. Parker.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

Since I love Ernest Dowson so much, I feel impelled to point out that the particular phrase ‘things fall apart’ was not invented by Yeats himself. He took it from a Dowson poem of the 1890s entitled  Quid non speremus, amantes?  This quotation from Virgil can be translated as  What may we lovers not hope for?

Nay! She is gone, and all things fall apart; Or she is cold, and vainly have we prayed; And broken is the summer’s splendid heart, And hope within a deep, dark grave is laid.

The 1960 sequel to Achebe’s novel also has a literary title;  No Longer at Ease   is taken from T.S. Eliot’s 1927  The Journey of the Magi. 

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.

#31. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Hardy was himself the subject of a thinly veiled biography with a literary title.  Cakes and Ale , written in 1930 by W. Somerset Maugham, is ostensibly about a man named Edward Driffield but this is widely recognised to be Hardy. The title is a quotation by Sir Toby Belch to Malvolio in Shakespeare’s  Twelfth Night . As for  Far from the Madding Crowd  (1874), it’s taken from the 1750 poem  Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard  by Thomas Gray, where he muses on inhabitants in a graveyard.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife, Their sober wishes never learned to stray; Along the cool sequestered vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

#32. Tender is the Night by F. Scott FitzGerald

Fitzgerald’s final novel, published in 1934, takes its title from one of John Keats’s most memorable poems. The Romantic poet was born in 1795 and died young from consumption in 1821, but during that time he produced a collection of gorgeous poetry from which many well-known authors have borrowed famous book titles from. This particular quotation comes from 1819’s Ode to a Nightingale. 

Away! away! for I will fly to thee, Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, But on the viewless wings of Poesy, Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: Already with thee! tender is the night, And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

#33. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Like Faulkner, Steinbeck was a big believer in using quotations for his book titles. The one for 1939’s  The Grapes of Wrath  comes from a stanza in  The Battle Hymn of the Republic , written in 1862 by the abolitionist and suffragist Julia Ward Howe.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword His truth is marching on.

#34. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

Forster’s 1924 novel is often cited as one of his best works, alongside such classics as  A Room with a View . The title is a quotation from Walt Whitman’s 1855 poetry collection  Leaves of Grass . It isn’t actually one specific line from within the poems themselves, but the title for a section of verses which have this line as a refrain. One of the most famous lines from Leaves of Grass  is possibly  I sing the body electric , which gives its name to a 1969 short-story collection by Ray Bradbury (and a song by Lana del Rey!)

#35. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

This history of Native Americans in the 1800s was first published in 1970 and is immensely popular, having never gone out of print. Brown took his title from the poem  American Names  by Stephen Vincent Benet, himself a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. It is worth noting however that the poem isn’t about Native Americans.

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse. I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea. You may bury my body in Sussex grass, You may bury my tongue at Champmedy. I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass. Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.

#36. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

More Hemingway! It was published in 1929. This line is taken from the title of the poem  A Farewell to Arms,  written by Tudor poet George Peele to Elizabeth I. One of its themes is the swiftness of passing time; he died in 1596 aged 40, which was actually below the Elizabethan average of 42. Another of Hemingway’s titles, 1940’s For Whom the Bell Tolls ,  is taken from metaphysical poet John Donne’s famous Meditation 17.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

#37. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Naturally, John Milton’s incredible 1667 epic  Paradise Lost   has spawned a lot of famous book titles. One of these is Pullman’s beautiful and complex 1995 trilogy. From Book II:

Into this wilde Abyss, The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave, Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire, But all these in their pregnant causes mixt Confus’dly, and which thus must ever fight, Unless th’ Almighty Maker them ordain  His dark materials to create more Worlds, Into this wild Abyss the warie fiend Stood on the brink of Hell…

#38. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

This 2005 novel is another one borrowed from a W.B. Yeats poem, specifically Sailing to Byzantium,  first published in 1928. Here’s the first stanza:

That is no country for old men. The young In one another’s arms, birds in the trees – Those dying generations – at their song, The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect.

#39. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

An Indian novelist and journalist, Markandaya published  Nectar in a Sieve  to wide critical acclaim in 1954. It chronicles the life of a rural Indian rural woman named Rukmani as she and her family struggle to eke out a living. The title comes from the 1825 poem  Work without Hope  by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow, Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow. Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may, For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away! With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll: And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul? Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve, And Hope without an object cannot live.

#40. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini’s 2007 novel, the second of his career, has been hugely influential and popular since its publication. It’s now one of the most famous book titles in the world. In a departure from the sources in the rest of this article, the poem  A Thousand Splendid Suns  is borrowed from was written not by a Western poet but by Saeb Tabrizi, a 17th-century Persian poet. It is named  Kabul .

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls…

#41. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

From the 1785 poem To a Mouse  by Scottish poet Robert Burn comes the title  Of Mice and Men . This 1937 novella is one of Steinbeck’s most popular works, though not if you (like me) were obliged to study it for GCSE.

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!

#42. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald employed a poem by World War I poet Rupert Brooke,  Tiare Tahiti , to name his debut 1920 novel  This Side of Paradise.

Dive and double and follow after, Snare in flowers, and kiss, and call, With lips that fade, and human laughter And faces individual, Well this side of Paradise! …. There’s little comfort in the wise.

#43. Dying of the Light by George R.R. Martin

This is Martin’s very first novel, published in 1977, long before he gained fame for  A Song of Ice and Fire . The title is a line from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’s gorgeous  Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night , written in 1947 about his dying father. The phrase is repeated throughout the poem, but here’s the first stanza:

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

book author and title

Famous Book Titles Taken From Other Books

#44. the line of beauty by alan hollinghurst.

This 2004 novel won the Man Booker prize, and it’s extraordinary – the hard-hitting narrative of a young gay man studying English at Oxford during the Thatcher years of the ’80s and the AIDS epidemic. The title refers to the ‘line of beauty’, a curved S-shaped line described by William Hogarth in his 1753 book The Analysis of Beauty . 

#45. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

This novel was published in 1980, eleven years after Toole died by suicide. He had been suffering from depression linked to the book’s constant rejections by publishers, but once released it became one of America’s most famous book titles, winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The title is borrowed from Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting.  The quotation in question is  When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

#46. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This delightful 2003 novel about a boy investigating the death of a dog is named after  Silver Blaze , an 1893 short mystery story by Arthur Conan Doyle featuring Sherlock Holmes. Here’s an exchange between him and Watson featuring the quotation:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

#47. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

This 1922 poem is widely hailed as one of the most important poems of the twentieth century and a key part of the modernist movement. But the title – and, in Eliot’s words, ‘the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism’ – were inspired by  From Ritual to Romance   by Jessie L. Watson. The book, published in 1920, explores the origins of the King Arthur legends, particularly in terms of the Holy Grail and the Celtic trope of the Wasteland – a barren land whose curse must be lifted by the hero.

#48. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

This book was first released as a serial of 19 volumes between 1847 and 1848, and it sometimes considered to be the progenitor of later Victorian ‘domestic novels.’ Vanity Fair is a location described in John Bunyan’s 1678 allegory  Pilgrim’s Progress , where it represents man’s attachment to temporal distractions. Along with being one of the most famous book titles, it’s been the name for a large number of British and American fashion magazines.

#49. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Maugham’s 1915 novel is widely considered to be his best. Its title comes from  Ethics, Demonstrated in Geometrical Order ,  a treatise published in 1677 by the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Part IV of  Ethics  is named  Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of the Emotions , and is a discussion of how inability to control one’s emotions constitutes a form of bondage.

#50. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

This 1988 second novel in the Dirk Gently science-fiction series is a parody of  The Dark Night , a commentary written by 16th century Spanish Counter-Reformation figure St John of the Cross. The commentary itself is on a poem he wrote, which he did not name but is now referred to as The Dark Night of the Soul .

I hope you enjoyed these famous book titles! If you’re looking for similar posts, try this one about 100 must-read books with one-word titles .

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Book Title Ideas: Choosing Your Own & Generators to Use

Posted on Mar 6, 2023

by Chandler Bolt

I get how frustrating it can be.

Writing the book might seem like the most difficult part…and then you have to actually  title the darn thing!

When it comes to writing a book , coming up with reasonable book title ideas is surprisingly one of the hardest parts to complete. It’s difficult because titles are essentially short hooks that advertise your book using the fewest words possible.

It’s also what readers look for first when they discover new books, and can take less than 5 seconds to make a decision.

This is why it’s so crucial to craft a perfect name.

Nonfiction Book Title Generator

Tip: Use a noun or verb for best results.

Sps Book Title Generator Illustration

Enter your information below to get your customized Book Title recommendation! Need more than 1 title recommendation? Submit again!

Your Title Ideas:

Here’s how to come up with book title ideas:

To help spur your creative process, we’ve created a few essential guidelines for you to follow as you craft the perfect book title ideas for your masterpiece.

Since there are different title considerations for fiction and non-fiction, we broke these two topics down separately into:

How to Choose a Book Title for Non-Fiction

Let’s create your bestselling title!

Before you publish a book , you have to come up with an effective title. For some authors, this is easy and the most fun part. For others…it can be what holds them back from publishing.

As you begin crafting your book title ideas for your non-fiction book,  the key is knowing that non-fiction readers are looking for solutions.  

Whether it’s losing weight, becoming a master in sales, or becoming better at fostering relationships, they’re simply looking for a book that will solve their problem. After all, most people who write nonfiction books are looking to help people in some way.

To leverage this idea, here are a set of rules to consider:

#1 – Book Title Generator Tools to Use

There are a ton of book title generators out there. And if you’re someone who lacks even the inspiration for a title, these can help you big time.

Book title generators are great tools because they can give you a wide range of different names to choose from.

One thing many authors face when choosing a title is sticking too close to the name they previously thought of. This can blind you to potential other titles in various formats.

However, some of these tools can fall very flat, resulting in names that don’t make sense and should not be used as actual titles.

Therefore, we didn’t just round up a list of every book title generator we could find. Instead, we tested a huge list and decided that these are truly the only ones worth your time.

Here’s a list of the best book title generators:

Give these a try, and comment down below your favorite! Also, let us know if you want any book title generators we should add to this list.

#2 – Your Title Must Include a Solution to a Problem

Your title should be crystal clear on what your readers will achieve by reading your book. Experts say that a title with a clear promise or a guarantee of results will further intrigue your readers.

Here are some questions to consider when creating your title:

Here are our favorite book titles that offer a clear solution to a problem with promising results:

Book Title Ideas Example

ACTION STEP: Write down the best solutions or teachings your book offers and form these into potential book title ideas.

#3 – Use a Subtitle for Clarity

A great non-fiction title employs a subtitle to clarify what the desired outcome will be from reading your book.

In this video clip, Chandler explains in 5 simple steps how to create a compelling subtitle:

Here are some questions to consider when creating your subtitle:

Here are our favorite book subtitles that spell out what their readers can expect from reading their books:

ACTION STEP: Make a list of 10 attention-grabbing subtitles that promise big outcomes and other positive benefits.

#4 – Make Your Title Unforgettable

Make an effort to be more creative and fun with your book title! Use alliteration  to make your title easier to read and remember. A memorable and light-hearted title adds additional character to your book and is also a great way to attract readers .

Catchy titles are memorable, boring titles are not.

But also keep in mind: if your title is overly clever and not clear, it can cause more confusion than it’s worth. The key is using catchiness in a way that is clear. That’s what will make your book title stand out.

Here are some questions to consider when creating your memorable title:

Here are our favorite books that engaged us with clever titles and subtitles:

No matter which method works best on creating a compelling title for nonfiction books, a good thing to remember is to always test multiple titles with different audiences to determine which book title generates the biggest response.

Getting good feedback is the only way to know for certain which title is perfect for your book.

ACTION STEP: Experiment with different types of styles and poll your audience to determine whether a comedic, shocking, or even bizarre title will be the most appealing to your target audience.

How to Generate Book Title Ideas for a Fiction Novel

Generally, fiction titles are allowed more creative wiggle room than their non-fiction counterparts. That being said, an effective fiction title must still pique your readers’ attention .

And while it’s true that you can title your fiction book with random names, it still must catch the reader’s attention .

Here are some key guidelines to keep in mind:

#1 – Your Title Should be Appropriate to Your Genre

Your novel title should use language that resonates with both your book genre and target audience . For example, a romantic book can call for dreamy language whereas an action book can warrant strong and powerful words.

This means that you must know your book’s genre and words that best fit the style of title.

Here are some questions to consider for appropriate genre titles:

Here are our favorite fictional titles based on genre:

ACTION STEP: Based on the genre of your book, pick out a few keywords that best suit its category and evoke strong emotions in your readers.

#2 – Your Book Title Should Pique Your Reader’s Interest

Create fictional titles intriguing enough to  capture the imaginations of your readers , and get to them to read your story.

A great fiction title teases and leaves your audience wanting more. You want your audience to read your title and think, “I must read what’s behind that great book cover !”

Here are some questions to consider on how to pique interest with your title:

Here are our favorite fictional titles that drew our attention:

ACTION STEP: Choose a theme that will best draw your reader’s attention. Come up with 5 titles that will catch your reader’s attention and pique their curiosity.

#3 – Look to Your Characters for Book Title Inspiration

A great book title captures the spirit of the protagonist. Some authors simply use the hero’s name for their title.

Others have combined the names of their hero along with their special qualities to inform the audience about their protagonist’s accomplishments like Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

On the flip side, a formidable antagonist can also be an amazing book title.

A sinister name can convey a sense of dread and expectation for what’s to come like Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Both choices are great title ideas and should be seriously considered for your fictional book.

Here are some questions to consider when including a character as a title:

Here are our favorite fictional books that use characters for its title:

ACTION STEP: Determine which character best conveys what the story will tell in your title. You may also include creative words or themes to further showcase the character’s unique qualities or the journey itself.

#4 – Get Feedback From Your Target Audience

The people who will know if your title is a good fit best, are the people who would pick your book out of a lineup. This is why it’s so important to know the target audience for your book from the start.

This can be difficult if you’re not a part of a writing group or aren’t active on social media.

However, here are some tips for getting book title feedback:

Your Next Steps

Ultimately, the title of your book depends on you, the author. By following these constructive guidelines, you will be able to generate a number of book title ideas you can use to find the perfect one that grasps the attention of readers and soon become an Amazon bestseller in no time!

#1 – Join your FREE training!

This training was created just for you. Make sure to save your spot and sign up right now so you can learn exactly what it takes to write and publish your book within 90 days…or even less!

You won’t find this guide anywhere else. Take advantage of this offer so you can spark multiple book title ideas in as little as an hour!

#2 – Create a list of book title ideas

Now is the time to fire up that imagination and start brainstorming! We gave you a number of different actionable steps to help you generate book title ideas that work well.

Now is the time to make a list of every potential book title you can think of! The more, the merrier.

When this is done, you’ll want to go through and jot down any that really make you  feel something in a separate list. These are the ones you’ll use for the next step.

#3 – Get feedback about the top title

It’s hard to pick a title by yourself because you’re too close to the book. What will help you find the best title is putting the options out there for your target audience to choose.

A fantastic way to do this is to join writing and publishing groups online where you can post polls.

For example, our Facebook Mastermind Community has a very large number of experienced authors who respond to polls just like these on a near-daily basis.

Locate a group you like, join, and start polling about your title!

Want feedback from other authors and coaches on your book?

Check out our school to learn more! Free web class training on how to write your book in 90 days!

Write Your Book Workshop

Chandler Bolt

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We help you save time, money, and headaches through the book, writing, marketing, and publishing process by giving you the proven, step-by-step process and accountability to publish successfully. All while allowing you to maintain control of your book–and its royalties. Learn to publish a book to grow your impact, income, or business!

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O Romeo… ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy: Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. …  What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet;” –William Shakespeare

While a flower’s name won’t affect its fragrance, a book’s title can drastically affect how many copies it sells.

So how can you develop an amazing title for your book? 

Over the years, I’ve observed an ironic quirk among authors: The better an author is at writing a book, the worse they seem to be at titling their book. 

Authors Need an Outside Perspective on Book Titles

Here are a few prime examples. First is the original book title, followed by the publisher’s final title.

I could go on and on. If you search online, you’ll find many more examples.

You know too much about your own book to decide what’s best to feature in your title. It is hard to read the label when you are standing inside the bottle. 

The title, more than almost any other component of your book, needs an outside perspective. 

How can you get an outside perspective on your book’s title?

What is the purpose of a book title?

Back in the 18th century, the purpose of a book’s title was to describe the book’s contents. 

Things have changed in the last 200 years. Instead of publishing a few hundred books each year, authors and publishers now publish a  million  books every year. It’s no longer possible to read every new book, and a million books per year is a lot of books competing for attention. 

For these reasons, the purpose of a book title has changed, and the shift has confused authors.

If your book title describes the contents of your book, you will get lost in the noise.   Your title must attract attention rather than describe contents.  Click to Tweet

Book titles rarely sell books on their own, but they can attract attention and generate curiosity. 

This leads us to the first goal you should aim for when developing your book title.

Goal #1 Evoke Curiosity

Your title should make the reader curious about your book. Online, you want the reader to click on the cover. At a physical bookstore, your title should compel them to pull it off the shelf.

You want your readers to say, “I know something about that, but I want to know more.” 

The Curiosity Gap

The science behind evoking curiosity is called The Curiosity Gap. Readers are not curious about things they already know. For instance, you are not curious about what your middle name is. You already know it. 

But readers also aren’t curious about things too far outside of their realm of knowledge. Chances are, you are not wondering who was the highest-paid cricket player in 1979. 

People are curious about things that are just beyond their current knowledge. 

While you might not be curious about your middle name, you might be curious about  my  middle name. You know I am a “junior.” I say “Thomas Umstattd Junior” in every podcast intro, but I always skip my middle name. Why? Why, in seven years of recording this podcast, have I never once mentioned my middle name? 

I admit this is a lame example. If you’re new to the podcast, you probably don’t care, but that helps illustrate the point. 

Not everyone is curious about the same things because not everyone knows the same things. 

The more I learn, the more curious I become.  

Know Your Target Readers

To develop a title that generates curiosity and cross that curiosity gap, you must get to know your target readers. 

Are you writing a vampire book for people who read a lot of vampire books, or is it for people who typically read romance?  Twilight  is a better title for romance readers, while  Vampire Diaries  is a better title for hard-core vampire fans. 

If you have a broad target audience, you will have a harder time crafting a curiosity-generating title. Often, authors who struggle to create a book title haven’t done the work of getting to know their readers. 

You must get to know your readers in real life if you want to appeal to their curiosity. You must write for real human beings.

Goal #2 Encourage Word-of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth recommendation between readers is one of the most powerful ways for news about your book to spread. But if people can’t remember your book title, they won’t be able to talk about it or recommend it in a clear way. And if they can’t talk about it, it won’t sell.

We shorten the title of Adam Smith’s book to  The Wealth of Nations . We shorten Darwin’s title to The Origin of Species . The shorter versions are easier to remember and say. The longer your book title is, the harder it is to remember. (Also, the phrase “Favored Races” in Darwin’s book is obviously highly problematic.)

The trend is toward shorter titles. Now, that doesn’t mean your title has to be a single word like  Twilight ,  Emma,  or  Blink,  but shorter names are easier to remember than longer ones. Don’t be afraid to create a one-word title.

Your short and curiosity-generating title must also be clear. If you have a bad cell telephone connection and mention your title to the person you’re calling, will they write down the correct title? 

What if someone is listening to your interview on a radio station with lots of static? Will they be able to catch your title?

Avoid using words that are hard to spell or are easily confused with other words. A book titled “Plain Secrets” sounds just like “Plane Secrets” to a radio or podcast listener. Is it a book about travel or a romance that takes place in Kansas? The homophone creates confusion.


Simple ideas spread faster. If your title requires an explanation in order to make sense, you have a bad title. Sometimes authors are too clever with their titles. A title that only makes sense after reading your book is generally a bad title. Your title must intrigue someone who has not yet read your book. 


Your title should also be unique in an interesting way that causes people to remark. It can’t be too foreign, but it also can’t be too familiar. If you want people to talk about your book, its title must have an element of remarkability.

When I was in college, a successful CEO of several companies gave a guest lecture. He recommended a book called  The Simple Truth (Affiliate Link). This CEO was not the author, but he had purchased a case of the books and brought them along. He said the book was so good that if any student read it, he would ensure that the student received an interview at one of his companies.

I read the book, and it was amazing. It totally transformed how I interacted with my clients. Later, I made it required reading for some of my employees, and it made my employees better at their jobs simply because they read it. 

Here is the kicker. If you search for “The Simple Truth” on Amazon, hundreds of books with that exact title appear in the search results. Many of them are business books! The unremarkable title of this remarkable little book makes it nearly impossible to recommend.

Sometimes a title can be so good it is not good anymore. If many other books have your title, keep brainstorming ideas. You are not done. 


However, your title can’t be so unique that people don’t know your book is for them. You’ll also want to avoid words that are so unique that no one would be searching for them.

Authors must learn to manage the tension between familiarity and remarkability. One strategy is to use a single word in your title to connect with a concept that is already popular with readers of similar books. 

For example, when George R. R. Martin started writing epic fantasy, the number one series was the Wheel of Time. One element of those books was the Game of Houses, also known as Daes Dae’mar. It was the political intrigue that acted as the backdrop for what the story was really about. 

Fans of epic fantasy saw a book titled  Game of Thrones  and immediately knew it would be like the game of houses in the Wheel of Time books. Daes Dae’mar is a side aspect of Wheel of Time, but it is the focus of a  Song of Ice and Fire . 

In this way, the book title was familiar to fantasy fans in just the right way. It was both subtle and specific. 

Goal #3 Rank in Search

Most people buy most books through a search engine online rather than browsing physical bookshelves. Even a reader at the library is using a computer search engine to look for books. Your book must rank when people type search words into Amazon’s or Google’s search engine.

If you want to learn how Amazon’s search engine works, listen to episode  226 How to Rank in Amazon Search Results with Dave Chesson .

The title is the most important part of your potential for ranking in search engines. When it comes to how your book ranks on search result pages, Amazon and Google both give the title a lot of ranking points. In your title, include keywords that readers are likely to type when searching for a book like yours.

How do you include keywords when your title needs to be short and catchy? There are several ways. 

Identify The Keywords You Want to Use

What words are readers using when they look for your book?  Publisher Rocket  (Affiliate Link) is a tool specifically designed to help you research and identify the words your target readers are using. 

The temptation with Search Engine Optimization and keyword research is to paint a red dot around where the arrow lands rather than doing the research to identify a target first. 

Put a Keyword in the Title

It’s not always possible to include a keyword in your title, but you will have a much stronger title if you can include at least one. Titles that include keywords are easier for readers to find.

For instance, when people want to read about changing their habits, they search for the word “habit.” So it’s not surprising that a book like  Atomic Habits  included the word “habit” in the title. This is perhaps the most important keyword people use when searching for books on habit change.

By using the word “habit” the author got an edge in search results, which led to an edge in sales and reviews. It started a virtual cycle that made his book the most popular book on habits.

The author could have easily used words like motivation, discipline, behavior, custom, or pattern, but those would have been too clever. Most readers are not using those words in their first search on how to change a habit.

Use a Subtitle 

While book titles are getting shorter, the combined title and subtitle are actually getting  longer . 

A good example of this is Boundaries  by John Townsend and Henry Cloud. The title is simple, memorable, and easy to say. But the subtitle is long and full of searchable keywords:  Boundaries, When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. 

The subtitle uses a lot of keywords that people would type when searching for such a book.

If you are tempted to put “a novel” as your subtitle, don’t do it.

Which title do you think would sell better? “ Eregon: a Novel”  or “ Eregon: A Dragon Riding Adventure ?”

Unless you are writing literary fiction, you can usually do better than “a novel” as your subtitle. 

Use a Series Name

In fiction, sometimes a subtitle doesn’t work. In those instances, use a keyword-rich series name. 

For example, the book The Bake Shop  “( An Amish Marketplace Novel Book 1) ” uses the series title in the subtitle. Notice that the keyword “Amish” is included because readers of Amish books are using the word “Amish” when they type their search. 

Doing it Right

Here is an example of a novel with a unique yet familiar book title and a keyword-rich subtitle and series name:  Moon Dance: A Paranormal Mystery (Vampire for Hire Book 1). 

Let’s break it down.

Title :  Moon Dance  

It’s a remarkable title because it’s new but also familiar. The title is reminiscent of  New Moon,  which was one of the  Twilight  books. You want to create a title with this kind of subtle connection. If the title were “ Twilight Dance ” it wouldn’t have worked because it’s not subtle enough. It’s too “on the nose.” You want a subtle connection that people can’t quite put their finger on. 

This title is short, easy to say, and unique. The only other books that appear in search results with that title are a children’s book and a nonfiction book about fertility. 

Subtitle :  A Paranormal Mystery 

This “genre as subtitle” is a very good strategy for search rankings. Why put “a novel” when you can specify what kind of novel it is. “Moon Dance: A Novel” is not nearly as compelling as “Moon Dance: A Paranormal Mystery.”

Series Name : Vampire for Hire

This series name includes the keyword “vampire,” which is a powerful keyword for readers of this genre.

Notice that the subtitle and series name have different keywords so that they can work together. Someone searching for a “vampire mystery” is likely to find this book because the words “mystery” and “vampire” are in the title of the book on Amazon. 

Solid SEO is a major reason Moon Dance has sold so well and made the author very wealthy.

Goal #4 Heal a Pain

One tactic that works incredibly well for nonfiction is to use the title to include a promise to heal the reader’s pain. It can work for fiction, but it’s harder to pull off, especially for genre fiction.  

Step #1 Identify the Reader & Their Specific Pain

Identify a point of pain in your reader. To know the pain, you must know the reader. Authors who regularly interact with their target audience can identify pain points easily. Pastors, doctors, counselors, and consultants know their readers’ pain points because they interact with them personally.

Here are some examples. 

Step #2 Promise to Make the Pain go Away

Here are some titles that make a clear promise: “Read this book, and your pain will go away.” 

Step #3 Deliver on Your Promise

If your book can deliver on the promise, word-of-mouth marketing can take off, and sales will soar. 

The book  Getting Things Done  didn’t take off simply because it made the promise that if you read the book, you would get more done. It took off because it delivered on its promise. People read the book, applied the principles, and actually accomplished more! It delivered on its promise. That’s why the book outsold its own sales record for years and also why it has over 4,000 five-star ratings across its two bestselling editions.  

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity delivered on it’s promise.

Making promises and alleviating pain works better for nonfiction books. It can sometimes work with fiction, so keep it in mind as a possible strategy for developing your novel’s title.

Now that you know how to create a title that works, you must remember one more important step. It is critical to get an outside perspective on your title. A publishing industry professional or an experienced and successful author will be able to tell you if your label matches what you’ve put inside the bottle.

You can connect with label-reading friends by joining the Novel Marketing Facebook or MeWe groups.

You might even want to start your own group, so you can return the label-reading favor.

How to Start a Writers Group

Most authors want to join someone else’s writers group. When everyone thinks someone else will do something, it doesn’t happen. The result? Most authors are not in writers groups, even though writers group membership is one factor that separates bestselling authors from authors struggling to make it.

Don’t let that be you!

In this course, you will learn how to start a writers group.

Thomas has started nearly half a dozen writer’s groups over the last ten years, and he has learned a thing or two in the process. 

Patrons save 50%, and students of the  5-Year Plan  get this course for free! And that’s a good price! 

Learn more at . 

Featured Patron

Shelleen Weaver, author of the children’s book  Love Bird: Fruit Fables Series Book 1

The squirrel family has a new neighbor who is rude and mean. They devise a plan of action to restore peace to the backyard and learn that love is more than a fuzzy feeling.

You can  become a Novel Marketing Patron here .

If you can’t afford to become a patron but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a  review  on  Audible Podcasts  and Amazon Podcasts, where we currently have no reviews. Yours could be the first!

For those of you wondering and still reading, my middle name is Gregory. I am Thomas Gregory Umstattd Jr, but I omit my middle name to avoid being mistaken for my dad. I call myself Thomas Umstattd Jr., and he goes by Tom G. Umstattd, CPA. His firm has a sign on one of the busiest highways in Austin, and it would be easy for folks to get us confused if our names were more similar.  

book author and title



You never told us the actual author of the book: “The Simple Truth”

Thomas Umstattd Jr.

Sorry about that! It was Alex Brennan-Martin and Larry Taylor


This is good and timely. You are right, an author can’t see the title from inside the bottle. I write and publish fast. However, in my first 10 books I put far less effort in the title and subtitle as I should have. Working on this and involving others to help me. Thank you for this post.


Thx for this great info. Can you please tell us the author of the simple truth? Thx!

Alex Brennan-Martin and Larry Taylor. I’ve added a link to the book to the blog post.


Thank you for your insightful article. I once wrote 23 scripts of a series, each of them titled with one word. When a story developed over two episodes, their two one-worded titles made perfect sense combined. Equally well, it worked with a story stretching over four episodes. However, to come up with my novel’s title has been so arduous.

Marie Wells Cutu

As always, this was a great and informative episode. Any thoughts on the recent trend in fiction of vaguer, emotive titles, such as “Small, Great Things,” “Things I Never Told You,” “Truly, Madly, Deeply” as opposed to more concrete titles like “Redeeming Love,” “The Bridge,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Where the Crawdads Sing.” I find it harder to remember the exact title of some of these newer books where the title is more of an idea. Why do you think publishers are choosing these titles?

Linda McKain

Thomas, I love your work. You make it simple and to the point. I have been following you for quite some time. I have learned so very much. I am currently working on the name for my wip I plan for this book to be a trilogy. At this point I plan to name the series A Place called Wilbur.

Keep the blogs coming Linda

Ann L Coker

Thanks. This in-depth study of titles is especially helpful as I’m working to change the title of my husband’s book of prayers. My working title has been Pastoral Prayers: the How and the Why. But a beta reader suggested that this sounds like the readers would only be pastors. So I now have a sheet of possible titles to consider.


Great column Thomas! I’ve been helping a new author come up with a title, and your advice is spot on. Scott Tompkins


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Home / Guides / Book Publishing / How to Title a Book: 13 Steps to Choosing a Title That Sells

How to Title a Book: 13 Steps to Choosing a Title That Sells

To write the title of a book, craft a title that is:

Lots of writers struggle with how to title their book. There’s no shame in grappling with what your book title should be. It can be overwhelming to sum up your book in 1-5 words.

Second only to your book's cover design , good book title ideas can lead to sales conversions and high discoverability on Amazon.

Having worked with publishing companies and multiple The New York Times bestselling authors, I've been a part of the NYT bestselling titling process on many occasions.

To help you craft the perfect title of your book, I’ll go through 13 actionable steps to choose a title that sells, as well as the crucial elements that every good title needs.add a subtitle

Links in this article may earn me some commission if you use them to purchase products. There’s NO extra cost to you! I like to think of it as my coffee fund, fueling me to create articles like this one for you.

Yes, having the right book title matters because having a poor title hurts your sales, reaches the readers, and hinders your book marketing efforts .

Let’s look at a prime example of why book titles matter, from the book titling genius Emanuel Haldeman-Julius and his famous title experiments .

Haldeman was a writer and publisher in the early 1900s who ran a tight publishing company . If a book didn’t sell at least 10,000 copies a year, he’d send it to his “hospital,” where he would brainstorm new ideas for the right title until it performed well.

Here are his documented change, results, and reasoning:

You read that correctly. Haldeman’s publishing company sold over 44,000 additional units because they changed the name to something less broad and more to the point. People ate it up.

In the following example, you'll see that significant changes aren’t always necessary. Sometimes just a simple tweak is all you need:

His changes:

(I would argue extra alliteration also piques readers’ interest.)

His list of book title changes and their dramatic increases in sales goes on and on. These examples serve as empirical proof that book titles make a difference in your marketing and sales.

Even modern-day authors like Joanna Penn have discovered this .

Let's face it, writing a book is super expensive. Best to make sure when you publish, you do everything you can to make it sell, including re-titling it.

Before we get into the step-by-step process of how to write a book title, let’s talk about the crucial elements that should go into book title selection.

What makes a good title for a book? Here are 4 crucial elements that make a good title for a book:

Based on your situation, fan base, marketing tactic, and type of book, you may find that one particular element deserves priority over the others. I recommend using all 4 ingredients, but you may find the perfect title that only uses one.

You need to make sure your book title stands out for the right reasons. These 4 vital parts of a book title are proven to increase sales and draw in the right readers.

Intrigue Factor

Nothing draws a reader in more than creating intrigue with your title . The intrigue factor plays upon one’s curiosity and is a powerful motivator for readers to hit the “buy” button.

WARNING: On the path to creating intrigue, it’s easy to stray from the genre or get too broad, causing confusion. Watch out for this mistake!

3 examples of using the intrigue factor in book titles:

Title Discoverability

Bestselling authors have the luxury of not worrying about whether their titles are discoverable because their name recognition and author brand sell books.

The rest of us need to consider title discoverability.

That’s where Kindle keyword generation and research can come into play. If you want your book to show up on Amazon every time someone types in “How to train your border collie,” you should consider making that your book’s title.

If you'd like to see which words you can use in your title to improve the chance of discovery, you should definitely use Publisher Rocket . (Check out my full review of Publisher Rocket .)

Here’s a good book title that is very discoverable: How to Write a Children’s Book by Katie Davis. Straight and to the point, this book clearly tells both the buyer and Amazon precisely what this book is about.

(Check out Kindlepreneur’s free article on How To Write A Children's Book .)

Test it out. Go to Amazon and type: “How to Write a Children’s Book.” That’s discoverability!

Genre Pairing

Your title should match your genre. There are plenty of helpful tropes for fantasy titles, young adult titles, horror titles, mystery titles, non-fiction titles, etc. These tropes are not bad. Genre pairing helps the right kind of reader find your book.

A romance book should not be called Warborn: Battle for Arrakis . The cover may show images of love and passion, but the title screams, “epic science fiction military book.” In your effort to be different, try not to alienate your genre and potential readers.

3 examples of genre pairing in book titles:

Increase Your Book Marketing

See the Publisher Rocket effect, when you use the right keywords and categories to help get your book seen more on Amazon.

Relevance & Specificity

The title might be the only thing a potential buyer ever sees, so your title needs to convey what your book is actually about. The book title needs to be relevant and specific .

(I lumped in “relevance” with “specificity” because to be specific is to increase your relevance. The more specific your title is, the more relevant it is to your story, and the better a reader understands what your book is about.)

For non-fiction , you must title your book in such a way that a reader knows exactly what they’re buying. Often, non-fiction books will feature a simple, eye-catching title with a longer, more informative subtitle .

For fiction, relevance is still super important. Don’t mention dragons if there aren’t any dragons in your book. Don’t mention sexual themes if there are no sexual themes. Don’t mention corporate America if it doesn’t feature in the book. (Definitely do mention these if they show up in the book.)

Ensure your title helps the reader know what the book is about or what to expect from the get-go. That way, you draw in the right kind of reader instead of setting up the wrong reader for disappointment, leading to negative book reviews.

3 examples of relevant titles:

As far as specificity goes, a title tends to be more intriguing (and more relevant) if it offers specific details. Here are 4 examples of specific titles:

It's very important that these rules are followed, or your book may not be able to be published on Amazon.

Amazon has certain book title rules and requirements that authors must follow:

Many books violate this and don't get dinged by Amazon. But if you intend on making a name for yourself, keep it above board — follow Amazon’s book title rules.

Choosing a book title is more than just creating a catchy phrase or memorable title.

Try this proven, step-by-step process for crafting a great book title:

1. Use Parts of Your Story

For fiction, in particular, use parts of your story to come up with a relevant title that is both specific to your book and evocative to your target audience.

Look at these examples of book titles that use parts of their stories:

2. Look Up Famous Phrases

Consider using familiarity as a way to catch a potential reader’s eye. Look up famous phrases and words from poetry, classical literature, or popular culture.

This strategy is best to do before you write the book. Looking up a famous phrase for your title may feel tacked on if you simply… tacked it on.

Here are 7 examples of book titles that use famous phrases:

WARNING: Don’t use trademarked material, such as an author’s name or copyrighted work from the past 100 years or so.

3. Consider a One-Word Title

One-word titles are all the rage in today's fiction and non-fiction books. Consider a compelling one-word title for your book. I’m not recommending most of you should make your title only one word, but simply consider it.

Don't pick a random word. Select a powerful word that represents your book’s hook and themes and complements the strong imagery of your book cover.

One-word titles don’t necessarily need to refer to an event in the book, although they may. Sometimes, a robust emotional word, or even a word you make up, provides the power you need.

Examples of excellent one-word titles include:

WARNING : One-word titles can wreak havoc on your discoverability, particularly if they’re ubiquitous words or misspelled/made-up words. (Have you ever tried to look up Stephen King’s It ?) If you use a one-word title, make sure it is unique and easily searchable.

When it comes to search, many readers will add the word “book” to your title if it’s a single word. Before selecting your title, try searching for “Your Title” + “Book” to see what appears.

4. Keep It Simple

It’s a proven fact; people don’t like to feel awkward. Titles with inappropriate words or hard-to-say words can make readers feel uncomfortable.

Keep it simple. Don’t use overcomplicated words that people may have trouble saying (or spelling in a Google or Amazon search box).

Also, title length is important. Don’t make long titles that won’t fit on your book cover. Short titles aren’t just for short stories .

Pro tip: Imagine people saying your title out loud.

There are exceptions, of course. But those are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Long words, nonsense words, archaic words, and made-up words from your story have their place in titles, but make sure they are at least easy to say and spell. You want readers to be able to search for your book on Amazon or Google.

Intriguing, eye-catching, evocative titles can be simple. In fact, it’s easier to market a book that uses simple words to evoke powerful emotion.

5. Obey Your Genre

If you don't stick to the titling tropes of your genre, your readers won't know what to expect. This leads to unhappy readers and bad Amazon reviews.

You must obey your genre. Research your genre’s titling norms. Look at other books in your genre, topic, or niche. Analyze their title structure. Write down a list of genre-specific terms that sound right for your book.

If your book is a crossover genre, feel free to research all the genres that are combined in your book. To help your readers know what to expect, you should probably include terms and tropes in your title that apply to both genres, coupled with the powerful imagery of your book cover.

If you're still stuck, then this is where genre-specific title generators can come in quite handy.

6. Put a Hook in the Title

A good hook can get people to say, “I need this,” or, “What the heck? I better check this out!”

If done right, a hook in the title can stop the right readers dead in their tracks.

Turning genre tropes on their head tends to work.

You can also take a cliche title structure and turn it on its head, such as “The Art of [TOPIC].” This could sound cliche, but you could make it hook and surprise a reader with a twist: “The Art of Making Bad Art.” (I just made that up, but now I want to read it because it’s such a good hook.)

Hopefully, you wrote your book with an initial hook in mind — or at least a one-sentence synopsis to draw in readers. You should already have a hook for your story, so consider using it in your title.

5 examples of putting a hook in the title:

7. Use Relevant Keywords

This one's my favorite. By doing your Kindle keyword research , you can find what terms people are searching for. Once you know this, you'll be able to use relevant keywords to boost your discoverability and marketability.

Example: Someone writing a resume might call it a “CV” or a “curriculum vitae,” especially outside the United States. Research may also reveal that people writing resumes are writing a cover letter as well.

A non-fiction author notices this and includes relevant keywords , increasing discoverability and sales. They could insert “resume” in the title and “CV” and “cover letter” in the subtitle.

Now that you have a short list of keywords people are actively searching for, use them in your title and subtitle to make sure your book ranks for those searches. That way, your book has a better chance of being discovered and bought.

If searching for Amazon keywords seems rough or time-consuming, you're going to love Publisher Rocket.

With Publisher Rocket , you can achieve the following:

8. Speak in Benefits

Especially for non-fiction, it is often more compelling to speak in benefits the reader will receive rather than the problems you are solving.

In marketing speak, this is the argument of features vs. benefits. The features are what many companies (or authors) tend to focus on, but consumers tend to buy the product (book) they feel can offer the benefits they need.

As Krista Walsh of Honest eCommerce puts it : “Features tell customers what, and benefits tell customers why.”

Imagine you’re suffering from migraines. Which book would you prefer? Pain-Free Mind or 4 Ways to Treat Migraines ?

“Pain-Free Mind” makes you think of better days and more pleasant scenarios. “4 Ways to Treat Migraines” sounds like a dull pamphlet from your doctor’s office. Plus, using the word “migraine” may subconsciously remind the reader of their pain, which may sour them to your book.

In this example, Pain-Free Mind is likely the preferred title for most authors.

(Don't worry about it being too ambiguous; that's where the subtitle comes in. Pain-Free Mind: How to Completely Eradicate Painful Debilitating Migraines and Headaches .)

3 more examples of non-fiction book titles that speak in benefits:

9. Consult Book Title Generators

Book Title Generators use algorithms, Google, and Amazon information to create random titles that can inspire the perfect title. Did I mention that basically all of them are free ?

For a list of the best book title generators, check out my article on the Best Book Title Generators . In that article, I list the different book title generators and break them into categories and genres.

WARNING: When you consult book title generators, remember these are often generic story titles that reference random genre tropes. Some allow you to insert your own info, but most generators simply spit out general, randomized titles that are mainly meant to inspire you. Don’t take their suggestions as prescriptions.

10. Add Emotional Trigger Words

There are fundamental words that hold more weight in readers’ minds. We call these power words or emotional trigger words.

A few word changes can instantly evoke emotion in your potential buyer. These power words may elicit urgency, mysticism, intrigue, etc. They are proven marketing words that increase engagement and drive better conversions .

Switch out the weaker words in your title with the right emotional trigger words to drive a better mood or feeling.

Imagine telling someone that a book is good . Now imagine how much more weight your description would have if you said mind-blowing .

Here are a few other examples:

In writing your book, not just writing the title for it, watch out for common modifiers that try to strengthen “weak” words. Very strong is a weaker way of saying powerful . These modifiers, like the word “very,” help spot your weakest words and rewrite them.

Bonus download: Check out my personal list of 400+ Power Words to help improve your book titles and give you superb ideas.

11. Check Discoverability (Including International)

Check your book title’s availability and discoverability by doing a simple Google and Amazon search for your potential title. If there are no matches, you’re golden.

However, if your title is exactly the same or very similar to another book’s (or movie or board game), you may want to go back to the drawing board.

In the US, there are no copyright laws on titles . For this reason, you will see a lot of books and movies with the same title, like these .

(Check out Kindlepreneur’s article on How to Copyright a Book in the US — Written by a Lawyer to cover yourself legally.)

Don’t compete with a more-popular book of the same title. Some scheming people might think this would be a great strategy to trick readers. But if someone downloads your book by mistake, be prepared to earn a scathing review.

Self-publishing authors should also check discoverability and marketability internationally .

When J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK, her marketing team realized that the US market wouldn’t be as receptive to the name . To Americans, the word “philosopher” didn’t have the same connotation as in the UK and was perceived as boring.

They changed the name for the US market to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone .

As it turns out, many movies, TV shows, and novels change their titles internationally. Check out some examples here .

You should also check for your book’s domain name availability .

I don’t recommend creating a website just for a book. If you are going to make a website, it should be for you as an author, and you can showcase all your books there. This is author branding versus book branding. Some disagree with me on this .

If you intend to create a website just for your book, make sure you can get your book title’s domain name. This will really help the discoverability and marketing of the book .

Alternatively, you might buy your book’s domain name and turn it into a redirect to your author website .

12. Test Your Title For Success

You should be brainstorming multiple title ideas. All authors need to test their new book titles among their target market to set themselves up for success. This includes side-by-side testing, Facebook groups, SurveyMonkey, and more.

Just ask Tim Ferriss.

In 2007, Ferriss finished a fantastic book, and he thought he had the perfect title: Broad Bands and White Sands . Thankfully, he didn’t just go with his first impression. He tested his possible titles and found his third option, The 4-Hour Workweek , resonated most with his target reader.

If Ferriss had gone with his personal favorite, he would have missed the success that he soon found. He spent maybe $200 on testing, but it likely earned him a 1,000x return on investment.

Ask the experts. Instead of asking family, friends, and coworkers who may not fall in your target audience (and who may just want to make you happy), show your working title to individuals with experience in all sides of book publishing, including:

I say librarians and book store clerks because they see what people are reading and buying. They can tell you if your title (and cover) sounds (and looks) like something their customers would pick up.

Use PickFu to test your title for success. PickFu is a robust service that allows you to submit your different titles (or covers) to anonymous people who vote on which they prefer. It’s super easy to use and quick to set up. And it’s affordable when you use Kindlepreneur’s link to buy.

Steve Scott of credits PickFu for helping him choose the right book cover and ultimately helping his 10 Minute Declutter book become as successful as it is.

Use Facebook groups to test your title for success. Social media is a free and easy way to test your book title among potential readers.

Find a book group on Facebook and create a poll post. In the poll, list your potential titles and ask group members to vote on which they prefer. This is not a perfect system, but it’s free.

WARNING: One mistake many authors make with this is that they use just any old Facebook group. However, you need to ensure the group you use relates to your niche and contains potential buyers or professionals in your target market.

13. Check for Trademarks

While you can't legally trademark most titles, there are specific instances when someone can. That's why it is important to check your government's database of trademarks before choosing your title, just in case someone has trademarked it. Here are the links for the US, UK, and Canada:

But isn't it illegal to trademark titles? Yes…except when you can.

A trademark applies to branding, which is why you can trademark a series name instead of an individual title. That series name is an example of a brand.

But it gets tricky when you have a Title, or Title elements that are also part of a brand. For example, “Catcher in the Rye” is trademarked, because it is part of a larger brand beyond just the book title.

Many authors might remember #CockyGate , where one author tried to trademark the word “Cocky” in relation to books. That one ultimately didn't hold up legally, but you can see how this could be a problem.

The Bottom Line: Make sure your book title is not already violating a trademark before you use it.

14. Add a Subtitle

Regarding non-fiction, you absolutely should use a subtitle to help your book's sales conversions and discoverability.

For fiction, you may or may not use a subtitle. Your book cover and title should effectively tell potential readers exactly your book’s genre and target audience, without the need for a subtitle.

Some fiction authors put “a novel” or “a young adult novel” as a small subtitle to clarify any potential confusion.

Of course, book series often use the series title as the main title and the individual book title as the subtitle.

Ask yourself, if you gave your fiction book cover to a total stranger and asked them what genre it was, would they get it right? If yes, then you're good — no subtitle needed. If no, you might want to use your subtitle to clarify the matter.

To understand how to effectively create a book subtitle, be sure to check out my full article here .

Real life examples and why they're good, bad or just plain ugly.

Check out my video on the best book titles. Plus, at the end, we have a little fun covering some of the more horrendous, terrible, and absolutely ridiculous book titles out there.

Want more videos like this? Then SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.

There are a lot of great resources out there that can help you with this process. During my years of research on the topic, here are some that I would recommend you check out so as to build a stronger title selection.

Podcast Episode – When and How to Title a Book

What to watch out for.

When you're creating your title, there are a few things that can easily cause it to sink at the marketplace. So to avoid poor sales resulting from your title, here are a few additional things to avoid:

Thankfully, if you follow the steps above, you should have no problem creating an amazing title for your book.

What’s your title going to be?

Let me know if you composed the perfect title using this step-by-step guide.

After all, it’s how I title my books. It’s how The New York Times bestselling authors title their books. It’s how self-published authors should title their books.

Fun example: Although this book cover typography could use some work, I consider this book title a success because it catches my attention and makes sure that when I double-take, I see that it is actually about quilting:

Hey, you go, girl!

As you can see, crafting a perfect book title is not an exact science. Follow my 13 steps, and you’ll come up with an interesting, relevant, marketable title. It needs to convey the point of the book, not alienate the genre, be discoverable, and convert customers into buyers.

Dave Chesson

Related posts, how to write a nonfiction book in 2023: the ultimate guide for authors, black friday deals for writers 2022, launching a book: the ultimate step by step guide, sell more books on amazon, amazon kindle rankings e-book.

Learn how to rank your Kindle book #1 on Amazon with our collection of time-tested tips and tricks.

32 thoughts on “ How to Title a Book: 13 Steps to Choosing a Title That Sells ”

Excellent post Dave. And so rich with additional links out to other articles thanks Vicki

Cool post Dave.

Many people miss the 1900s book title experiment and believe that ebook titles are a “new thing” or just something that you throw together that makes it sound nice. Another way to test a title is to ssend people through Adwords and see which title they click on. it can be expensive in the long run, but a couple of hundred dollars can make a world of difference (search for Google $100 coupon for free Adwords cash). It will also gain a really good understanding of what exact searchers are looking for. Kind regards Jasonera

Very true. That’s how The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss got his title. It was going to be something like White Sands and Broad Bands until Ads told him otherwise.

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Table of contents, basic book citation format, ebooks and online books, citing a chapter from an edited book, multivolume books, where to find the information for an apa book citation, frequently asked questions about apa style citations.

The in-text citation for a book includes the author’s last name, the year, and (if relevant) a page number.

In the reference list , start with the author’s last name and initials, followed by the year. The book title is written in sentence case (only capitalize the first word and any proper nouns ). Include any other contributors (e.g. editors and translators) and the edition if specified (e.g. “2nd ed.”).

A citation of an ebook (i.e. a book accessed on an e-reader) or a book viewed online (e.g. on Google Books or in PDF form ) includes the DOI where available. If there is no DOI, link to the page where you viewed the book, or where the ebook can be purchased or accessed.

Since ebooks sometimes do not include page numbers, APA recommends using other methods of identifying a specific passage in your in-text citations—for example, a chapter or section title, or a paragraph number.

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book author and title

When citing a particular chapter from a book containing texts by various authors (e.g. a collection of essays), begin the citation with the author of the chapter and mention the book’s editor(s) later in the reference. A page range identifies the chapter’s location in the book.

Some books come in multiple volumes. You may want to cite the entire book if you’ve used multiple volumes, or just a single volume if that was all you used.

Citing a single volume

When citing from one volume of a multivolume book, the format varies slightly depending on whether each volume has a title or just a number.

If the volume has a specific title, this should be written as part of the title in your reference list entry.

Eliot, T. S. (2015). The poems of T. S. Eliot: Vol. 1. Collected and uncollected poems (C. Ricks & J. McCue, Eds.). Faber & Faber.

If the volume is only numbered, not titled, the volume number is not italicized and appears in parentheses after the title.

Dylan, B. (2005). Chronicles (Vol. 1) . Simon & Schuster.

Citing a multivolume book as a whole

When citing the whole book, mention the volumes in parentheses after the title. Individual volume titles are not included even if they do exist.

Eliot, T. S. (2015). The poems of T. S. Eliot (Vols. 1–2) (C. Ricks & J. McCue, Eds.). Faber & Faber.

All the information you need to cite a book can usually be found on the title and copyright pages.

APA book source info

The APA reference list entry for the book above would look like this:

Butler, C. (2002). Postmodernism: A very short introduction . Oxford University Press.

When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.

When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.

The abbreviation “ et al. ” (meaning “and others”) is used to shorten APA in-text citations with three or more authors . Here’s how it works:

Only include the first author’s last name, followed by “et al.”, a comma and the year of publication, for example (Taylor et al., 2018).

In the 7th edition of the APA manual, no location information is required for publishers. The 6th edition previously required you to include the city and state where the publisher was located, but this is no longer the case.

If you’re citing from an edition other than the first (e.g. a 2nd edition or revised edition), the edition appears in the reference, abbreviated in parentheses after the book’s title (e.g. 2nd ed. or Rev. ed.).

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MLA Works Cited Page: Books

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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

When you are gathering book sources, be sure to make note of the following bibliographic items: the author name(s), other contributors such as translators or editors, the book’s title, editions of the book, the publication date, the publisher, and the pagination.

The 8 th  edition of the MLA handbook highlights principles over prescriptive practices. Essentially, a writer will need to take note of primary elements in every source, such as author, title, etc. and then assort them in a general format. Thus, by using this methodology, a writer will be able to cite any source regardless of whether it’s included in this list.

Please note these changes in the new edition:

Below is the general format for any citation:

Author. Title. Title of container (do not list container for standalone books, e.g. novels), Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs URL or DOI). 2 nd  container’s title, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location, Date of Access (if applicable).

Basic Book Format

The author’s name or a book with a single author's name appears in last name, first name format. The basic form for a book citation is:

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book . City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date.

* Note: the City of Publication should only be used if the book was published before 1900, if the publisher has offices in more than one country, or if the publisher is unknown in North America.

Book with One Author

Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science . Penguin, 1987.

Henley, Patricia. The Hummingbird House . MacMurray, 1999.

Book with More Than One Author

When a book has two authors, order the authors in the same way they are presented in the book. Start by listing the first name that appears on the book in last name, first name format; subsequent author names appear in normal order (first name last name format).

Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring . Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

If there are three or more authors, list only the first author followed by the phrase et al. (Latin for "and others") in place of the subsequent authors' names. (Note that there is a period after “al” in “et al.” Also note that there is never a period after the “et” in “et al.”).

Wysocki, Anne Frances, et al. Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition . Utah State UP, 2004.

Two or More Books by the Same Author

List works alphabetically by title. (Remember to ignore articles like A, An, and The.) Provide the author’s name in last name, first name format for the first entry only. For each subsequent entry by the same author, use three hyphens and a period.

Palmer, William J. Dickens and New Historicism . St. Martin's, 1997.

---. The Films of the Eighties: A Social History . Southern Illinois UP, 1993.

Book by a Corporate Author or Organization

A corporate author may include a commission, a committee, a government agency, or a group that does not identify individual members on the title page.

List the names of corporate authors in the place where an author’s name typically appears at the beginning of the entry.

American Allergy Association. Allergies in Children . Random House, 1998.

When the author and publisher are the same, skip the author, and list the title first. Then, list the corporate author only as the publisher.

Fair Housing—Fair Lending. Aspen Law & Business, 1985.

Book with No Author

List by title of the book. Incorporate these entries alphabetically just as you would with works that include an author name. For example, the following entry might appear between entries of works written by Dean, Shaun and Forsythe, Jonathan.

Encyclopedia of Indiana . Somerset, 1993.

Remember that for an in-text (parenthetical) citation of a book with no author, you should provide the name of the work in the signal phrase and the page number in parentheses. You may also use a shortened version of the title of the book accompanied by the page number. For more information see the In-text Citations for Print Sources with No Known Author section of In-text Citations: The Basics .

A Translated Book

If you want to emphasize the work rather than the translator, cite as you would any other book. Add “translated by” and follow with the name(s) of the translator(s).

Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason . Translated by Richard Howard, Vintage-Random House, 1988.

If you want to focus on the translation, list the translator as the author. In place of the author’s name, the translator’s name appears. His or her name is followed by the label, “translator.” If the author of the book does not appear in the title of the book, include the name, with a “By” after the title of the book and before the publisher. Note that this type of citation is less common and should only be used for papers or writing in which translation plays a central role.

Howard, Richard, translator. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason . By Michel Foucault, Vintage-Random House, 1988.

Republished Book

Books may be republished due to popularity without becoming a new edition. New editions are typically revisions of the original work. For books that originally appeared at an earlier date and that have been republished at a later one, insert the original publication date before the publication information.

For books that are new editions (i.e. different from the first or other editions of the book), see An Edition of a Book below.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble . 1990. Routledge, 1999.

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine . 1984. Perennial-Harper, 1993.

An Edition of a Book

There are two types of editions in book publishing: a book that has been published more than once in different editions and a book that is prepared by someone other than the author (typically an editor).

A Subsequent Edition

Cite the book as you normally would, but add the number of the edition after the title.

Crowley, Sharon, and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students . 3rd ed., Pearson, 2004.

A Work Prepared by an Editor

Cite the book as you normally would, but add the editor after the title with the label "edited by."

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre,  edited by Margaret Smith, Oxford UP, 1998.

Note that the format for citing sources with important contributors with editor-like roles follows the same basic template:

...adapted by John Doe...

Finally, in the event that the source features a contributor that cannot be described with a past-tense verb and the word "by" (e.g., "edited by"), you may instead use a noun followed by a comma, like so:

...guest editor, Jane Smith...

Anthology or Collection (e.g. Collection of Essays)

To cite the entire anthology or collection, list by editor(s) followed by a comma and "editor" or, for multiple editors, "editors." This sort of entry is somewhat rare. If you are citing a particular piece within an anthology or collection (more common), see A Work in an Anthology, Reference, or Collection below.

Hill, Charles A., and Marguerite Helmers, editors. Defining Visual Rhetorics . Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004.

Peterson, Nancy J., editor. Toni Morrison: Critical and Theoretical Approaches . Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.

A Work in an Anthology, Reference, or Collection

Works may include an essay in an edited collection or anthology, or a chapter of a book. The basic form is for this sort of citation is as follows:

Last name, First name. "Title of Essay." Title of Collection , edited by Editor's Name(s), Publisher, Year, Page range of entry.

Some examples:

Harris, Muriel. "Talk to Me: Engaging Reluctant Writers." A Tutor's Guide: Helping Writers One to One , edited by Ben Rafoth, Heinemann, 2000, pp. 24-34.

Swanson, Gunnar. "Graphic Design Education as a Liberal Art: Design and Knowledge in the University and The 'Real World.'" The Education of a Graphic Designer , edited by Steven Heller, Allworth Press, 1998, pp. 13-24.

Note on Cross-referencing Several Items from One Anthology: If you cite more than one essay from the same edited collection, MLA indicates you may cross-reference within your works cited list in order to avoid writing out the publishing information for each separate essay. You should consider this option if you have several references from a single text. To do so, include a separate entry for the entire collection listed by the editor's name as below:

Rose, Shirley K, and Irwin Weiser, editors. The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher . Heinemann, 1999.

Then, for each individual essay from the collection, list the author's name in last name, first name format, the title of the essay, the editor's last name, and the page range:

L'Eplattenier, Barbara. "Finding Ourselves in the Past: An Argument for Historical Work on WPAs." Rose and Weiser, pp. 131-40.

Peeples, Tim. "'Seeing' the WPA With/Through Postmodern Mapping." Rose and Weiser, pp. 153-67.

Please note: When cross-referencing items in the works cited list, alphabetical order should be maintained for the entire list.

Poem or Short Story Examples :

Burns, Robert. "Red, Red Rose." 100 Best-Loved Poems, edited by Philip Smith, Dover, 1995, p. 26.

Kincaid, Jamaica. "Girl." The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories , edited by Tobias Wolff, Vintage, 1994, pp. 306-07.

If the specific literary work is part of the author's own collection (all of the works have the same author), then there will be no editor to reference:

Whitman, Walt. "I Sing the Body Electric." Selected Poems, Dover, 1991, pp. 12-19.

Carter, Angela. "The Tiger's Bride." Burning Your Boats: The Collected Stories, Penguin, 1995, pp. 154-69.

Article in a Reference Book (e.g. Encyclopedias, Dictionaries)

For entries in encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference works, cite the entry name as you would any other work in a collection but do not include the publisher information. Also, if the reference book is organized alphabetically, as most are, do not list the volume or the page number of the article or item.

"Ideology." The American Heritage Dictionary.  3rd ed. 1997. 

A Multivolume Work

When citing only one volume of a multivolume work, include the volume number after the work's title, or after the work's editor or translator.

Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria . Translated by H. E. Butler, vol. 2, Loeb-Harvard UP, 1980.

When citing more than one volume of a multivolume work, cite the total number of volumes in the work. Also, be sure in your in-text citation to provide both the volume number and page number(s) ( see "Citing Multivolume Works" on our in-text citations resource .)

Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria . Translated by H. E. Butler, Loeb-Harvard UP, 1980. 4 vols.

If the volume you are using has its own title, cite the book without referring to the other volumes as if it were an independent publication.

Churchill, Winston S. The Age of Revolution . Dodd, 1957.

An Introduction, Preface, Foreword, or Afterword

When citing an introduction, a preface, a foreword, or an afterword, write the name of the author(s) of the piece you are citing. Then give the name of the part being cited, which should not be italicized or enclosed in quotation marks; in italics, provide the name of the work and the name of the author of the introduction/preface/foreword/afterword. Finish the citation with the details of publication and page range.

Farrell, Thomas B. Introduction. Norms of Rhetorical Culture , by Farrell, Yale UP, 1993, pp. 1-13.

If the writer of the piece is different from the author of the complete work , then write the full name of the principal work's author after the word "By." For example, if you were to cite Hugh Dalziel Duncan’s introduction of Kenneth Burke’s book Permanence and Change, you would write the entry as follows:

Duncan, Hugh Dalziel. Introduction. Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose, by Kenneth Burke, 1935, 3rd ed., U of California P, 1984, pp. xiii-xliv.

Book Published Before 1900

Original copies of books published before 1900 are usually defined by their place of publication rather than the publisher. Unless you are using a newer edition, cite the city of publication where you would normally cite the publisher.

Thoreau, Henry David. Excursions . Boston, 1863.

Italicize “The Bible” and follow it with the version you are using. Remember that your in-text (parenthetical citation) should include the name of the specific edition of the Bible, followed by an abbreviation of the book, the chapter and verse(s). (See Citing the Bible at In-Text Citations: The Basics .)

The Bible. Authorized King James Version , Oxford UP, 1998.

The Bible. The New Oxford Annotated Version , 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2001.

The New Jerusalem Bible. Edited by Susan Jones, Doubleday, 1985.

A Government Publication

Cite the author of the publication if the author is identified. Otherwise, start with the name of the national government, followed by the agency (including any subdivisions or agencies) that serves as the organizational author. For congressional documents, be sure to include the number of the Congress and the session when the hearing was held or resolution passed as well as the report number. US government documents are typically published by the Government Printing Office.

United States, Congress, Senate, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Hearing on the Geopolitics of Oil . Government Printing Office, 2007. 110th Congress, 1st session, Senate Report 111-8.

United States, Government Accountability Office. Climate Change: EPA and DOE Should Do More to Encourage Progress Under Two Voluntary Programs . Government Printing Office, 2006.

Cite the title and publication information for the pamphlet just as you would a book without an author. Pamphlets and promotional materials commonly feature corporate authors (commissions, committees, or other groups that does not provide individual group member names). If the pamphlet you are citing has no author, cite as directed below. If your pamphlet has an author or a corporate author, put the name of the author (last name, first name format) or corporate author in the place where the author name typically appears at the beginning of the entry. (See also Books by a Corporate Author or Organization above.)

Women's Health: Problems of the Digestive System . American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2006.

Your Rights Under California Welfare Programs . California Department of Social Services, 2007.

Dissertations and Master's Theses

Dissertations and master's theses may be used as sources whether published or not. Unlike previous editions, MLA 8 specifies no difference in style for published/unpublished works.

The main elements of a dissertation citation are the same as those for a book: author name(s), title (italicized) , and publication date. Conclude with an indication of the document type (e.g., "PhD dissertation"). The degree-granting institution may be included before the document type (though this is not required). If the dissertation was accessed through an online repository, include it as the second container after all the other elements.

Bishop, Karen Lynn. Documenting Institutional Identity: Strategic Writing in the IUPUI Comprehensive Campaign . 2002. Purdue University, PhD dissertation.

Bile, Jeffrey. Ecology, Feminism, and a Revised Critical Rhetoric: Toward a Dialectical Partnership . 2005. Ohio University, PhD dissertation.

Mitchell, Mark. The Impact of Product Quality Reducing Events on the Value of Brand-Name Capital: Evidence from Airline Crashes and the 1982 Tylenol Poisonings.  1987. PhD dissertation.  ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

List the names of corporate authors in the place where an author’s name typically appears at the beginning of the entry if the author and publisher are not the same.

Fair Housing—Fair Lending. Aspen Law & Business, 1985.

TCK Publishing

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by Tom Corson-Knowles | 17 comments

How to Choose a Bestselling Book Title for Fiction or Nonfiction image

Choosing the title of your book is probably the most important decision you will make when it comes to selling more books. Your book title alone will be responsible for a large percentage of your sales—so choose your book title wisely!

Bestselling authors and publishers have known for hundreds of years that the title of the book will do more to increase sales than any other single decision you make about your book.

How to Choose a Great Book Title

Whether you’re a non-fiction writer or a novelist or anything in between, a good book title is as necessary as a good newspaper headline. Without a good title, no one is going to open the book in the first place (or click on the link for ebooks)!

For example, would you rather read “ Think and Grow Rich ” or “ Contemplate and Increase Your Wealth Gradually Over Time as You Become a More Successful Person? ”

You probably know that the first book has been a best-seller for almost a hundred years whereas the second one has such a long and boring title that it’s likely very few people would ever read it even if the content of the book was the same as Think and Grow Rich!

But why is the first title a “good title” and the second one not?

It’s all about what the customer wants! But what does the customer really want in a book title?

Luckily for us, someone already did the research!

Haldeman-Julius’ Book Title Testing

Emanuel Haldeman-Julius was an American author, editor and publisher in the early 1900s and he sold more than 200 million books in about 20 years. He had a unique way of testing his book marketing – he would change the titles of his books and see which titles sold better. In fact, Haldeman-Julius would take his books that didn’t sell well to “The Hospital” where he would change their name and republish them in hopes of attracting more sales.

So if you’ve already published a book with miserable sales figures, maybe it’s time to take it to The Hospital!

Here are some examples of name changes from The Hospital that dramatically improved book sales:

Los Precieuses Ridicules sold nearly zero books a year. When changed to Ridiculous Women , it sold over 10,000 copies a year.

Gautier’s Fleece of Gold sold 6,000 a year. When changed to The Quest for a Blonde Mistress , over 50,000 were sold annually.

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme when changed to The Show Off , took sales from slightly above zero to 10,000 annually.

The Mystery of the Iron Mask sold a respectable 11,000 a year but when changed to The Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask , over 30,000 were sold that year.

The King Enjoys Himself sold 8,000 but The Lustful King Enjoys Himself sold 38,000.

None Beneath the King sold 6,000 while None Beneath the King Shall Enjoy This Woman sold 34,000.

Ten O’clock sold 2,000 but What Art Should Mean To You sold 9,000.

Art of Controversy sold zero while How To Argue Logically sold 30,000.

Casanova and His Loves sold 8,000 but Casanova, History’s Greatest Lover sold more than 22,000.

Apothegems sold 2,000 while Terse Truths About the Riddle of Life sold 9,000.

Will o’ the Mill and Markheim (both in one volume) sold almost zero copies but Markheim’s Murder sold 7,000.

Pen, Pencil and Poison sold 5,000 while The Story of a Notorious Criminal sold 15,800.

Haldeman-Julius drew a few conclusions from his book titles that I think all authors should know and understand today:

Use Descriptive Titles, Not Poetic Titles

Pen, Pencil and Poison is a good example of this – it’s purely a poetic title and its sales were miserable. The Story of a Notorious Criminal is much more descriptive and the reader actually knows what the story is about before she opens the book. Your customer must have a basic understanding of what the book is about or they will not buy it!

Use Simple Language, Not Esoteric Words

Not sure what esoteric means? Then don’t use it in your book title! Avoid words that only a few people might understand. Instead, use simple words and clear language so that even the most humble readers can understand and relate to your book.

Even if you’re writing a book on rocket science, you can sell a lot more books by writing in plain English for curious readers like me. And if you’re not writing a book on rocket science, what’s your excuse for using big words no one can understand?

If a Book Doesn’t Sell Well, Change The Title

Haldeman-Julius and his incredible publishing career has proven, beyond a doubt, that a book title is crucial to making sales. If a book has distribution and marketing but is still not selling well, then the title should be changed thoughtfully to increase sales.

In this book, I’m going to teach you how to get the distribution and marketing. And if you try all the marketing strategies we’ll be discussing and your book still doesn’t sell well, then don’t be afraid to change your title! I think you will be delighted with the results.

Now let’s talk about a few other important ideas you should consider when choosing a best-selling title for your book.

Book Titles Are For Readers

You’ve probably heard the acronym WIIFM before – it stands for “What’s In It For Me?” and it’s the question every person asks when looking at a book and reading a book title. If the book title doesn’t immediately answer the question or at least give you a visual image of an answer, you are likely to move on.

At the core, each of us are lazy in our thinking when it comes to buying something. We would much rather read a book title and instantly decide to read it or not than spend a few precious seconds or even minutes wondering what it’s actually about. If your book title confuses your customer they won’t buy!

“The confused mind always says no” is an apt saying.

Think and Grow Rich immediately tells the reader “I’m going to help you get rich!” and the reader believes it instantly – only based on the title of the book! The book could contain absolutely useless information but the title alone will tell the customer that it’s going to help him get rich. Do you now see the power of a good book title? A good title provides instant credibility even before the customer reads the first page!

Even a worthless book with a good title will sell more copies than a book full of useful information with a bad title. And you can quote me on that!

For any non-fiction book, the book title (or subtitle) must immediately tell them what results the book will give them.

Make sure your book title answers the readers question WIIFM if your book is non-fiction. And even for fiction books, it can still be an important piece to choosing a best-selling title.

Use Mystery in Book Titles

Another important feature of a good book title is mystery. Mystery is more important for fiction than non-fiction but it can still be very useful for non-fiction.

For example, Think and Grow Rich has quite a bit of mystery to it. Even though the title makes you believe you will learn how to get rich, you must immediately be wondering questions like,

“Well how is thinking going to help me get rich?”

“Is thinking really what I need to get rich?”

“How rich is the author?”

…and a host of other questions about what the book is going to offer you.

Notice that every question you have about the book based on the title presupposes that the book will help you get rich. You ALREADY assume that the book will help you get rich – now you’re just wondering HOW! That’s the mystery – and the ONLY WAY to solve that mystery is to buy the book and read it!

This is, I believe, the most powerful combination for a best-selling non-fiction book – a title that tells the reader what’s in it for them and then gets the reader to think about the mystery of how it works and buy the book to find out!

Great Fiction Book Titles has a great tool for analyzing potential book titles and giving you a “percent chance of becoming a best-seller.” The tool is based on a study done by Lulu of over 700 best-selling novels and it’s incredibly accurate for predicting the success of novel titles.

You can access the book title generator here.

To use it, simply type in the potential title of your book and pick the correct options from the drop-down menus that best describe your book.

Although the tool is meant for novelists, I’ve found it incredibly useful for nonfiction authors like myself as well. There are universal principles that determine what makes an attractive book title regardless of the genre.

According to Lulu’s study of best-selling novels, the title “Sleeping Murder” is the best book title ever written with an 83% probability of becoming a best-seller.

Why is this title so powerful?

Again, I believe, because of the WIIFM/mystery combination. You know the book is about murder so anyone interested in murder mysteries or thrillers will be immediately interested. Second, there’s quite a bit of mystery to it (as there is in most good fiction titles).

How Long Should Your Book Title Be?

The Lulu study found that title length does NOT effect a book’s likelihood of becoming a best-seller. This means you can have a short title or a long title or something in between. The key is whether or not the title catches the reader’s interest and gives them that inner urge to buy it to satisfy their curiosity.

A great copywriter and marketing expert once told me that any headline you write should be as short as possible while still communicating the whole message. I believe book titles are the same way, with the exception that for Kindle books you want to add some keywords in your title if at all possible to improve search traffic internally from Amazon as well as from Google and other search engines.

The Process of Choosing a Book Title

Here’s the basic process we go through when choosing a book title.

1. Do Book Market Research

Find the top comparable book titles in your market. Create a list of their book titles and subtitles, and take careful note of:

Studying all these resources should give you a great list of key words and phrases you may want to include in your book title.

2. Brainstorm Title Ideas

After you’ve done your research, brainstorm as many book title ideas as you can.

3. Pick Your Best Ideas

Go through the notes in this article to make sure you weed out any book titles that won’t get you the best results and sales.

You should be left with at least 3-5 pretty good ideas. If you still don’t have enough good title ideas, keep brainstorming, do more market research, and ask for input from friends, colleagues, and anyone who’s creative.

4. Survey Your Audience

If you still haven’t found a clear winner for your new book title, consider surveying your readers or audience. You can use a free survey tool like SurveyMonkey or even just create a free Facebook poll and ask for input.

Trust the Process

Choosing a title for your book should be a process NOT a procedure. A process takes time. It takes iteration after iteration. You’ll probably have several working titles before you finally settle on the right one for your book. A procedure is something you do just once and it’s over with. That’s not how choosing a best-selling book title works most of the time!

Are there instances of an immediate perfect book title coming to an author like Archimedes’ Eureka moment in the bathtub? Absolutely! But they are few and far between.

Don’t worry about your book title! You WILL find the right title if you put your mind to it and take your time.

Take out a piece of paper or your journal and just write down some possible book titles. Typical of early brainstorming, you should not discard any possible titles at this stage – just let the potential titles flow onto the paper. At this stage, it’s good not just to think of titles but also phrases and keywords that could be good. For example, “How to sell more books,” “Become a best-seller” and “book business guru” all came to mind when I first started brainstorming the title for this book.

Many best-selling authors now recommend that you think of the title BEFORE you even write the book. I think this is complete bullshit to be quite honest with you.

For self-published writers like you and me, we don’t need to worry about finding the perfect title before writing our book. What we need to worry about is writing the book and getting that part done first and foremost!

Because I’ve found in my personal experience and in working with hundreds of self-published authors that the biggest obstacle we have to our success is actually writing the book. We procrastinate, delay, put it off and blame “writer’s block” for our lack of progress.

Don’t let finding the right book title be another stumbling block to your success! Write the book NOW and get it done with. There’s always time to figure out the right title. Choosing a book title is a creative process in itself just like writing the book, and it will take time to unfold.

Tom Corson-Knowles

Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.



Establishing a title for one’s books, i think is one of the hardest things to do. I’m struggling naming my completed edited book at the moment. It’s hard I have problems with covers as well, with the result I have yet after 10years to be a success in that area. At the moment I have embarked on a hopefully 5to 6 series or more who knows not my desire but imformation from my editor to have a series of my current book. I could do it, however I havent even decided what I’m going to name it. Its won 5stars and I have been told it’s unique, but that hasn’t helped me a bit nor has any of the 2 covers i had made for it thus far. Thinking of having a compition by giving away 100 free e-books in exchange for a name and a copy of a printed book for the person who’s title I think will be most appropiate. What do you think?

Kaelyn Barron

Hi Margaret, that sounds like a great idea to get inspiration, as well as to get the word out about your book :)

Naveen Sridhar

I had decided on a title even before I began writing my novel. It was rhyming with that of my previous book and had some historical terms in it (it is hist. fiction). I added a subtitle to make matters clear. Still, there was something missing. After months I hit upon one-word “secret” in the subtitle. Now, the whole title looks a lot better. Now, I’ll go ahead. The whole title+subtitle tells the reader what’s ahead. Thanks for the sound advice.

You’re very welcome, Naveen! We’re glad you found it helpful for your title :) Best of luck with your book!

Thomas Jolly

W and Trump—Dumb and Dumber (A parody)


Thanks for this help.I write literature for kids.I have financial issues publishing my work.getting title for a book is not that easy.Thanks all the same.

Hi Yemmy, I’m so glad you found this information helpful! Best of luck with your book.

Dennis McFadden

How do I sell my book titles without the book to authors looking for a catchy title?

Hi Dennis, so you mean coming up with titles for other authors’ books?

Linda Petersen

After reading this information I realized that my book title isn’t to long and it has the key words to attract the reader. And if it doesnt sell like I want it to, I can always change the title. You gave some excellent examples. I happen to have the book, Think and Grow Rich. Thank You for sharing this information. It is very helpful. Linda

We’re so glad you found this information helpful, Linda! Best of luck with your book :)


Thank you for this article! Very helpful. I totally agree, write the damn thing first!

So glad you found it helpful, Mary! Thanks for reading :)

Shavonda Brooks

This has been really helpful.I thought great minds think alike when you said your title doesn’t have to be thought of before writing your book.

Elizabeth Bamford

Thanks for this great article. Ive wrested with a title for some time. This article gave clarity and direction. Im still writing even though I havent found a title yet!

Hi Elizabeth, we’re so glad you found the post helpful! It’s definitely not easy to think up a great title, but the important thing is that you keep writing :) I’m sure you’ll find some inspiration along the way that will lead you to the right title!

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Table of Contents

Why Do Book Titles Matter?

The 5 attributes of a good book title.

Does Your Book Need A Subtitle?

More Ways to Read

How To Come Up With The Perfect Book Title [Ultimate Guide]

book author and title

Don’t Have Time Right Now?

Shockingly, there’s little useful guidance out there about book titling. What advice exists is usually of little help:

They’re all wrong.

Just like companies that spend millions on naming new products, and media companies that spend time testing different titles for blog posts , you should spend substantial time and energy finding a great title.

This is a very important decision, one you need to get right to ensure your book has the best possible chance of success.

In this comprehensive guide to picking the perfect book title, I will walk you through how to think about book titles, then tell you how to pick yours, and how to test it.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this Scribe Guide:

Specific Steps To Find The Perfect Book Title

Step 1: Get Clarity On Your Book Goals

Step 2: brainstorm several potential titles.

Step 3: Make Sure This Title Is Not Already Popular

Step 4: Pick Your Favorites & Test Them

Test #1: Imagine People Saying The Title

Test #2: See What People Click On

Your book title is the most important marketing decision you’ll make. Period.

The title is the first thing the potential reader sees or hears about your book—even before the cover in most cases—and getting it right is the single most important book marketing decision you’ll make. The title forms the basis of the reader’s judgment about your book.

Let’s be clear: A good title won’t make your book do well. But a bad title will almost certainly prevent it from doing well.

The iconic example of the importance of a book title is the title change that led to an obscure book becoming a #1 best seller.

In 1982 Naura Hayden released a book called “Astro-Logical Love.” It bombed.


She then took the exact same book, changed a small amount of the content, and changed the original title to a different title, “How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time…and Have Her Beg for More!”


That book became a massive cultural phenomenon and #1 best seller. Same book, same content, just a different title (I would argue a perfect title).

The takeaway for you is simple and clear: Spend time figuring out the best possible title for your book, because it will largely determine what people think about your book, and thus, your book’s success.

A good title should have all of these attributes:

1. Attention-Grabbing

There are a million things pulling on people’s attention. The right title helps you stand out and make that important first impression. A boring title is a killer.

There are many ways to grab attention. You can be provocative, controversial, exciting, make a promise, etc. The point is your title should make people stop and pay attention to it.

Here is what #1 best-selling author Tim Ferriss says about titles:

“The 4-Hour Workweek also bothered some people and was ridiculed by others, which I took as a positive indicator. It’s not accidental that Jay Leno parodied the book on-air—the title lends itself to it, and that was by design. You can’t have strong positive responses without strong negative responses, and beware—above all—the lukewarm reception from all. ‘Oh, that’s nice. I think it’s pretty good,’ is a death sentence. “

2. Memorable & Searchable

It’s much easier to get a reaction out of someone and then be forgotten, than it is to get a reaction and also be memorable.

Remember, a book’s title is not only the first thing a reader hears about your book, it’s the one piece of information that a potential reader has that leads them back to the book itself.

If your book is recommended to them by a friend, and they can’t remember the title, then they can’t go find it in a bookstore or on Amazon. Best-selling author Scott Berkun says it well:

“Often [the title] is all a potential buyer ever gets to see, and if they can draw interest the book crosses its first of many hurdles in the improbable struggle of getting noticed. But titles only help so much. Most people hear about books the same way they hear about new bands. Or new people to meet. A friend or trusted source tells them it was good and it was called  <NAME HERE>. The title at that point serves as a moniker. It’s the thing you need to remember to get the thing you want to get and little more. “

This also means you want the book title to be easily searchable. In the world we live in, search is how people find things now. If your title does not lend itself to easy memorization and searchability on Google and Amazon, that is very bad.

3. Informative (Gives an Idea of What the Book is About)

This is the least crucial aspect for fiction titles, but very important for non-fiction. The title, including the subtitle , should give the reader some sort of idea of what the book is about.

People aren’t going to do your work for you; the easier you make it for them to understand the subject, the more likely you are to draw in the people who’d find your book interesting.

A good test is to ask yourself this: If you were to tell someone the title of your book at a party, would they have to ask what it’s about?

If so, that’s probably a bad title.

Don’t out-think yourself on your title. A title that is overly clever or unclear signals the book is for people who immediately understand the word or phrase—which makes people who don’t get it right away feel dumb (and less likely to buy the book).

By using a word or phrase that is either not immediately understandable by your desired audience or doesn’t convey the point of the book, you’re putting a huge obstacle in front of your success.

Though your title should be informative and easily understood, it doesn’t need to spell out the entire book. Take Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling Outliers for example: this title does a great job of cuing the content of the book without describing it outright.

4. Easy & Not Embarrassing To Say

Having an easy to say title is a concept called cognitive fluency. It means people are more likely to remember and respond to words and phrases they can immediately understand and pronounce.

Without going too far into the psychological literature, the point is this: Don’t try to be sophisticated at the risk of being obscure.

It’s a basic fact of human psychology—people don’t like to feel socially awkward. If a book title is hard to pronounce, or more importantly, if it’s a phrase that sounds stupid when said out loud, it makes them far less likely to buy it, and chances are they won’t talk about it to other people.

One of the most important things to think about when picking your book title is word of mouth. Think about how people will feel about saying this book title out loud to their friends. Does it make them look smart or stupid?

The worst possible title is one that makes someone feel silly saying it out loud. For example, if the book title is something like “Why Racism Is Great,” no one is ever going to tell their friends about it, no matter how good the book is, because they have to then face the scrutiny of why they bought that book in the first place. Social context doesn’t just matter some; it matters a lot.

Take this list of bad book titles , and imagine saying any of them out loud to your friends in a serious way—you’d never do that.

Generally speaking, shorter titles are best. A short title is not only more memorable and easier to say for your target audience, it also gives space and flexibility for a better book cover. A one-word title is the best.

People get lured into crafting titles that are exacting and long-winded in an effort to make the title signal the book idea and audience. In the title, stick to the core idea. If you want to get wordy, then leave that to the subtitle.

If you can, aim to keep the main title around 5 words or less. The subtitle can offer context or tell a bit more about what the reader will learn. Cameron Herold’s book Meetings Suck has a pithy title, with a subtitle that helps the reader see why the need the book: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business into One of the Most Valuable.

Made to Stick

How To Come Up With A Book Title

Your goals for your book determine what type of title you pick.

If you want to build a brand out of your non-fiction book, your title options are quite different than if you want to publish a racy thriller.

Let’s examine all the functions your book title can serve, and the places for potential use, before we walk you through the precise process of thinking up title ideas:

How A Book Title Can Be Used

The point of this whole list is simple: Know which of these objectives apply to your book, and make sure your title can serve those objectives.

For example, if your goal is to build a brand, make sure your book title is your brand. Dave Asprey’s first diet book is called The Bulletproof Diet , because that’s his brand: Bulletproof. The book is about selling everything around the book, not just the book itself.

If your goal is authority in your field, make sure the book title sounds authoritative to whom you are trying to speak. Whimsical doesn’t work in serious academic fields, whereas serious doesn’t work in comedic fields.

If your goal is to get media attention and raise your visibility, make sure the book title l appeals to media and makes them want to cover you.

Brainstorming for titles is not a specific thing you do for an hour, but rather a long term process. It may take you months and hundreds of book title ideas to finalize your title.

But you start by simply brainstorming titles. Literally start a file and write down every working title you can think of for your book.

I know that telling someone to brainstorm is like telling someone to “be creative.” There is no best way to brainstorm, but there are a lot of best practices.

This is a list of every possible way we know of to find a good book title, complete with examples of book titles (remember, these techniques are not just for your main title, they will be the basis for your subtitles as well). Most of these are for nonfiction titles, though some can be used for novel titles.

Also, don’t be afraid to put bad titles on your brainstorm list. Bad titles actually help you–because they will get you to a good title. Here are some best practices:

Use Clever or Noteworthy Phrases From The Book

This is very common in fiction, and can work well with novel titles. It also works well with non-fiction books where the concept of the book can be summed up quickly or with one phrase.

Use Both Short and Long Phrases

We usually start with a really long title and work our way down to much a short title. The goal is the main title be as short as possible—no more than 5 words—and have the subtitle offer the context and put in important keywords.

Use Relevant Keywords

For non-fiction especially, search matters. You want to make sure that when someone searches for the subject or topic of your book, it will come up on Google and Amazon. But it’s a balancing act, because you don’t want to sacrifice the authenticity of the work for what looks and feels like a search string query.

If you are unsure of this, go look on Amazon and see how often subtitles and titles use additional keywords to attract more search engine traffic.

Make a Promise of a Benefit

Some of the best titles promise to help readers achieve a desired goal or get some wanted benefit. They specifically call out an end result that people want:

Be Simple and Direct

Some of the very best titles are just basic statements about what the book is. There is nothing wrong with this, it can work well, especially for strictly instructional books.

Target an Audience

As we said, people use titles to judge if the book is for them. Part of helping people understand this can be targeting them in your title. You can target specific audiences by naming them or by describing their characteristics. This works especially well if you have a series of books, and then do versions targeted to specific niches.

Offer a Specific Solution to a Problem

This is very popular in the self-help and diet spaces.

You tell the reader exactly what problem your book solves in the title. This is similar to the promise of a benefit, but not the exact same thing; a benefit is something additive, like being sexy. A solution to a problem takes away something negative, like losing weight.

Use Numbers to Add Credibility

Specifics, like numbers, add credibility and urgency to your titles. The can provide structure for your information, or they can make hard things seem easier. Specificity enables people to engage the idea in a more concrete way, and gives bounded limits and certainty on time frames as well.

Pique The Reader’s Curiosity (But Withhold The Answer)

Using statements that seem to be impossible, unusual contrasts, or paradoxes can make readers curious about what is in the book. The idea is to make a claim or statement that seems a little far-fetched or fantastical, but promises delivery. This is very popular now with headline writing on sites like UpWorthy and ViralNova.

The iconic recent example of this with books is one we already mentioned, The 4-Hour Workweek. Everyone wants to know how to work 4 hours a week, except it seems impossible, so you pick up the book to see what that guy is talking about.

Use Metaphors or Symbols Associated With The Themes in Your Book

Humans think in symbol and metaphor. Using these powerful devices can help you create a strong title that really resonates.

The iconic metaphor-based series is “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” The title signals the warm, nurturing feeling that our culture associates with chicken soup and connects it to something else–stories that nurture your soul.

Use Alliteration

Alliteration is the use of the same letter at the beginning of all or most of the words in your title. This makes things easier for humans to remember.

Alter a Popular Phrase

This is common in book titles and tends to work well—taking a famous phrase and altering it in a way that makes sense for you book. This works because it’s close to something people know, but not exactly the same thing.

Slang can work really well, especially if it’s used in a way that is non-intuitive but also novel.

Try cliche formats (or reversing them)

There are a ton of book-naming tropes that can work well if used correctly:

Done poorly, these kinds of titles can seem cliched and cloying instead of fresh. This technique is best used when it offers a twist—but isn’t so far out that it confuses the reader.

Consider Coining a Phrase or New Word

This is very helpful, especially if you want to create a brand or company or extended product line out of your book, or brand a character name. The problem with this is that it’s not an easy thing to do. Many authors try to create new words; few succeed, so try this sparingly. The most important element of this technique is that the word is easy to say and understand.

Use Amazon/Goodreads/Wikipedia For Inspiration

If you’re feeling stuck, you can always go look at how other books are named.

Use Copywriting Manuals For Ideas

If you are truly stuck and cannot think of anything, read some books about copywriting. They are not specifically about book titling, but copywriters have to understand the sell triggers, and they will give you tons and tons of examples. These are three of the best out there:

Step 3: Check Copyright, Trademark, Keywords and Popularity

First off, let me very clear about this: you cannot copyright titles.

Technically, you can call your book “To Kill A Mockingbird” or “Lord Of The Rings” or even “The Holy Bible.”

That being said, copying a popular book makes it VERY hard for your book to stand out, and pretty much guarantees a lot of negative reviews from people who are not getting the book they expected.

That being said, you can trademark a title, if it is part of a larger brand. For example, the term “Bulletproof” is trademarked in the health and fitness space by Dave Asprey. You (probably) can’t title a book “The Bulletproof Diet” because it infringes on a trademark (not the copyright ).

If this is confusing, and you have a book title you think might be a trademark infringement, then talk to an IP attorney.

Also, make sure you check that the title and subtitle have the right keywords you want to address your market, and aligns with any domain and brand issues you have.

Step 4: Pick Your Favorites

At this point, you should have a long list of title ideas. Once that’s done, you can move on to the next step: picking your titles.

I cannot emphasize how important this next step is:

Everyone has opinions on book titles. Most of those opinions are stupid and wrong.

Even people who get PAID to come up with book titles (editors, publishers, etc.) are usually bad at it.

Here’s a great test as to whether or not you have a good book title: imagine one of your readers talking about your book at a party to other people.

If you can see them confidently saying the book title aloud, and the people listening nodding and immediately either understanding what the book is about based on that (and perhaps a sentence or two of explanation), or asking for a further explanation because it sounds interesting, then you’ve got a good title.

If you imagine any other reaction than this one, you need to re-think your title, and probably change it.

Remember, so much of book marketing boils down to word of mouth, and word of mouth is all about people signaling things to other people. You want your book title to inspire and motivate the right people to talk about it, because it lets them signal the right things to their friends.

Test #2: (optional) Test Actual Clicks

Here’s one of the keys to testing your titles: test both the main title and subtitle and test them in many different iterations. Usually what you’ll find is most things test about the same, while there will be one thing that clearly tests better as a title and another that clearly tests best as a subtitle.

This is a great piece about the step-by-step process of using Google Adwords to test a title.

If you have a large audience already, you can also use Survey Monkey .

For real customer feedback, I recommend using Pickfu .

I would also recommend Google Survey . This is real market testing of real people and can be done fairly cheaply.

How Not To Test Your Book Title

Most of the things authors do to test their titles are very, very bad.

For example, posting on social media is NOT TESTING YOUR TITLE. In fact, posting on social media is about the worst possible way to test a title.

Why is this?

Well, your social media friends are probably not your audience, and a tweet about the title won’t help you. And even worse, everyone on your social media has an agenda relative to the author that will often put you off-kilter.

Friends and family don’t work. Generally speaking, they want to make you happy. They don’t want to give you an objective answer. Or they want to make sure you look good, but they don’t know what will actually make you look good.

Furthermore, oftentimes colleagues will be critical—because they are jealous. It happens a lot, and they will give you bad advice , even if only unconscious.

And some authors will go to their marketing teams for title advice, which can often lead you way off-kilter. Do you know the saying that a camel is a horse designed by committee? When you start getting opinions from lots of different sources, you get the “camel effect” hardcore.

If you’re doing a non-fiction book, yes, probably so.

The way we like to frame it is that the title is the hook, and the subtitle is the explanation. The subtitle is the promise of the book.

Books need a subtitle if it’s necessary to contextualize the subject alluded to in the main title. Typically, the subtitle tells the reader some combination of what the book’s central premise is, who the book is for, and what promise the book delivers on or need it meets.

Some examples where subtitles help contextualize the title and deliver the promise of the implied title:

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How can I get fewer results? If you use more than one keyword, our search engine will restrict the results to products that match all the keywords you enter.

How can I get more results? Too many keywords can constrain your search. Use fewer keywords to find more results, e.g. conduct a search for "O'Reilly" to find all titles by O'Reilly and Associates.

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About the Author Examples (That You'll Actually Want to Read)

We’ve all heard the cliché that writers have big egos — so it makes sense that there’s a section in every book where you’re required to talk about the author (meaning yourself).

That said, it’s crucial to get the About the Author right. Whether it appears on the back of your book, your Amazon Author page , your social media or all of the above, you should make every sentence count (and tailor it depending on where it will appear). For non-fiction authors, who you are can be more important than what you write about. For indie fiction writers, this is an opportunity to let your growing readership get to know you.

If you're here to learn the ropes, we’ve already published an extensive guide on how to write an author bio . In this post, we'll be looking at 13 About the Author examples to further illustrate what works (and what doesn't).

About the Author Examples: Fiction

For fiction writers (especially self-published ones), who you are matters little in comparison to the quality of the story you've written — and an attention grabbing synopsis . But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take full advantage when you’re encouraged to talk about yourself. Here are some examples of how to pull it off without soliloquizing.

1. Veronica Roth, Divergent

“ Veronica Roth is the New York Times bestselling author of Divergent, the first book in a trilogy that she began writing while still a college student. Now a full-time writer, Ms. Roth and her husband call the Chicago area home. You can visit her online at or on Twitter (@VeronicaRoth). ”

Why it works: Is this the flashiest bio in the world? Of course not. But that’s exactly why it works. Each word builds on the last, adding new information to her story: her name, her qualifications, her books, their history, her home life, and, finally, her online presence. It’s short and simple… but then again, a bestselling author can afford to be. 

2. Glynnis Campbell, Danger’s Kiss

“ Glynnis Campbell is a USA Today bestselling author of swashbuckling action-adventure romance. She’s the wife of a rock star, and the mother of two young adults, but she’s also been a ballerina, a typographer, a film composer, a piano player, a singer in an all-girl rock band, and a voice in those violent video games you won’t let your kids play. She does her best writing on cruise ships, in Scottish castles, on her husband’s tour bus, and at home in her sunny southern California garden. Glynnis loves to play medieval matchmaker, transporting readers to a place where the bold heroes have endearing flaws, the women are stronger than they look, the land is lush and untamed, and chivalry is alive and well! ”

Why it works: Glynnis Campbell isn’t a household name — but this will definitely make her readers remember her. Why talk about your books themselves, when you can make your whole life sound more interesting than a romance novel. This is the ideal approach for emerging genre authors who have plenty of exciting material, but might not be able to carry a bio off the strength of their work alone.

book author and title


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10 lessons to help you start your blog and boost your book sales.

3. Jomny Sun, Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too

“ Jonathan Sun is the author behind @jonnysun. He is an architect, designer, engineer, artist, playwright, and comedy writer. His work across multiple disciplines broadly addresses narratives of human experience. As a playwright, Jonathan has had his pieces performed at the Yale School of Drama, and in Toronto at Hart House Theatre and Factory Theatre. As an artist and illustrator, he has had his art exhibited at MIT, Yale, New Haven ArtSpace, and the University of Toronto. His work has appeared on NPR and BuzzFeed, as well as in Playboy, GQ, and McSweeney’s. In his other life, he is a doctoral student at MIT and a Berkman Klein fellow at Harvard. ”


Why it works: For authors better known by aliases than real names, this section can be instrumental in lifting the curtain to discover the person behind the account. Jomny Sun might have written some funny, irreverent Tweets (and a great book to boot), but here Jonathan covers all his bases. He has his fingers in plenty of pies, but the list still never runs too long — only about one sentence per accomplishment. This leaves a comprehensive list of his life’s work, not just his writing. 

4. Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

“ Min Jin Lee’s debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, was one of the “Top 10 Novels of the Year” for The Times (London), NPR’s Fresh Air, and USA Today. Her short fiction has been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts. Her writings have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, Condé Nast Traveler, The Times (London), Vogue, Travel+Leisure, Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, and Food & Wine. Her essays and literary criticism have been anthologized widely. She served as a columnist for the Chosun Ilbo, the leading paper on South Korea. She lives in New York with her family. ”

Why it works: On the flip side, you have this About the Author example from Min Jin Lee. She's not an artist/playwright/architect on the side, so instead, she doubles down on her extensive writing experience. While we surely haven’t all written for Vogue and the New York Times , a list of published works (no matter how small) can give a sense of your well-roundedness as a writer.

Psst — want to find out if you're 100% ready to self-publish your book? Take our short quiz below to discover what steps you might've missed. 

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5. Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar


“ Eric Carle invented writing, the airplane, and the internet. He was also the first person to reach the North Pole. He has flown to Mars and back in one day, and was enthusiastically greeted by the Martians. ‘Very strange beings,’ he reported on his return. He has written one thousand highly regarded books; a team of experts is presently attempting to grasp their meaning. ‘It might take a century,’ said the chief expert. Carle is also a great teller of stories — but not all of them are true, for instance those in this book. ”

Why it works: We might not all be Eric Carle, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a page out of his beautifully illustrated books. No matter who you are, a sense of humor will always set you aside from the pack — and the vivid (albeit surreal) imagery he uses here goes a long way towards establishing his writing chops, too.

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About the Author Examples: Nonfiction

When it comes to nonfiction, creativity is outweighed by certainty. The latter is a pretty hard thing to prove, but the About the Author is as good a place as any to give it a shot.

6. Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me


" Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of sixteen books about civil society, popular power, uprisings, art, environment, place, pleasure, politics, hope, and memory. She is a Harper’s contributing editor. ”

Why it works: This is an excellent About the Author example, fitting all four elements of a great one — start with a byline, state the theme of your work, mention your credentials, and include a personal touch — into two breezy sentences that can fit on a dust jacket.

7. Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise

“ Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for music criticism, a Holtzbrinck Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, a Fleck Fellowship from the Banff Centre, and a Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center for significant contributions to the field of contemporary music. The Rest is Noise is his first book. ”

Why it works: Most nonfiction authors will not have sixteen books under their belt. Alex Ross, for instance, has just one. So instead of listing his previous works, he uses this bio to establish why he's qualified to speak on the particular subject at hand — crucial for a form of writing that values facts above all else.

8. Michael Lewis, Moneyball

“ Michael Lewis, the author of Boomerang, Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game and The Big Short, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their three children. ”

Why it works: Even in nonfiction, where the author’s qualifications hold more weight, the simple approach works. Michael Lewis rattles off his writing in a workmanlike fashion. But when you've written as many well-known bestsellers Lewis has, you can start resting on your laurels too. This ends on just enough of a personal touch to give the reader a peek into his life, without ever distracting from his work itself.

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9. Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?

“ Mindy Kaling lives in rural New Hampshire and does not own a TV. ”

Why it works:  Not everyone is as funny as Mindy Kaling (and she may only get away with this  because  she's Mindy Kaling), but still… we can always try.


10. Samantha Irby, Meaty: Essays

“ Samantha Irby writes a blog called bitches gotta eat. ”

Why it works: Or, of course, you could go with this hilarious, deadpan approach that also tells you everything you need to know about the author. After this particularly memorable About the Author example, do you really need to know anything else about Samantha Irby?

About the Author Examples: Social Media

Social media bios don’t need to be about how much you love long walks on the beach or Netflix, especially if you’re a writer. Creativity is your selling point, so don’t shy away from some creative problem solving when it comes to filling the 160 character quota in your Twitter bio.

11. Joanna Penn, podcaster

“ NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Thriller Author Creative Entrepreneur. Podcaster. Professional speaker. INFJ. Travel junkie. ”

Why it works: This word count optimized bio cuts right to the point: qualifications, website, occupation, insight. It couldn’t get any more straightforward.

12. Joyce Carol Oates, author

“ Author. ”

Why it works: Guess it could get more straightforward. When working within a word count, filling it up isn’t always the best approach. Some prefer to take full advantage of the excuse to cut away excess information, leaving just enough room for the stuff that really matters.

13. Tom McLaughlin, poet

“ Please buy my book, I owe people money. ”

Why it works: Once again, humor always works for new authors who might not have the extensive qualifications, but have enough natural talent to carry their writing. Plus, no one has broken his kneecaps yet — so we’re just assuming it worked.

Contrary to popular belief, writing about yourself can be the hardest thing for authors. But hopefully, these About the Author examples demonstrate how to do it well enough that you’ll want to skip to the end to read it… and not just skip it entirely.

How would you write your bio? Short? Sweet? Side-splitting? We want to know! Show us in the comment box below.

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Book Title: Becoming a Confident Reader

Subtitle: Developing Interactive Reading, Writing, and Thinking Practices for College

Author: Dr. Susannah M. Givens

Cover image for Becoming a Confident Reader

Book Description: Becoming a Confident Reader focuses on the essential skills and practices needed upon entering the first semester of college composition, either with or without a co-requisite support course. Students will learn to build and maintain resilience as a student, apply an effective reading process to college texts, and summarize and respond to academic writing. Thematic readings are included for practice. Extension activities provide opportunities for making connections, conducting basic research, analyzing the techniques authors use in their writing, and evaluating the use of sources in a text.

Book Information

Becoming a Confident Reader by Dr. Susannah M. Givens is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Language learning: reading skills

American Psychological Association

Book/Ebook References

Use the same formats for both print books and ebooks. For ebooks, the format, platform, or device (e.g., Kindle) is not included in the reference.

This page contains reference examples for books, including the following:

1. Whole authored book

Jackson, L. M. (2019). The psychology of prejudice: From attitudes to social action (2nd ed.). American Psychological Association.

Sapolsky, R. M. (2017). Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst . Penguin Books.

Svendsen, S., & Løber, L. (2020). The big picture/Academic writing: The one-hour guide (3rd digital ed.). Hans Reitzel Forlag.

2. Whole edited book

Hygum, E., & Pedersen, P. M. (Eds.). (2010). Early childhood education: Values and practices in Denmark . Hans Reitzels Forlag.

Kesharwani, P. (Ed.). (2020). Nanotechnology based approaches for tuberculosis treatment . Academic Press.

Torino, G. C., Rivera, D. P., Capodilupo, C. M., Nadal, K. L., & Sue, D. W. (Eds.). (2019). Microaggression theory: Influence and implications . John Wiley & Sons.

3. Republished book, with editor

Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (2013). Conditioned emotional reactions: The case of Little Albert (D. Webb, Ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. (Original work published 1920)

4. Book published with new foreword by another author

Kübler-Ross, E. (with Byock, I.). (2014). On death & dying: What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy & their own families (50th anniversary ed.). Scribner. (Original work published 1969)

5. Several volumes of a multivolume work

Harris, K. R., Graham, S., & Urdan T. (Eds.). (2012). APA educational psychology handbook (Vols. 1–3). American Psychological Association.

book author and title

This guidance has been revised from the 6th edition.

How to Cite a Book in MLA Format

Jennifer Calonia

When citing a book in MLA format , include the author’s name, the title of the book, the publisher’s name, publication date, and sometimes the place of publication. The way you cite a book using MLA format can vary depending on the type of work you’re citing.

For example, an e-book citation requires additional elements, like the source URL. The format for citing a textbook with multiple authors also varies from a standard MLA book citation. Referencing classical works that don’t have a definitive publication date or author, like the Bible, also requires a different approach. Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly

How to cite a book in MLA format

A standard book citation in MLA format for a text with a single author looks like this:

Last name, First name of author. Book title. Place of publication, Publisher’s  name,  publication date.

An example of a standard book citation in MLA format looks like this:

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple . New York, Harcourt, 1992.

Note that the book title in a citation using MLA format is italicized and written in title case , meaning that all major words are capitalized. This typically includes nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

Here’s a tip: Citations can be difficult, but they don’t have to trip you up. Grammarly’s Citation Generator ensures your essays have flawless citations and no plagiarism. Try it for tricky MLA book citations like graphic novels , biographies , and Shakespeare .

Include the place of publication only if the work was published before 1900, is a rare book, or is published in different versions outside of the US; otherwise, don’t include this element.

For an in-text citation of a book in MLA format, include the author’s last name and the page number in parentheses. Below is an example:

(Winters 78)

How to cite a book with multiple authors in MLA format 

You can reference a work with more than one author by reworking the author element of the citation. For a book citation with two authors, use the following format:

Last name, First name, and First name Last name. Book title. Publisher’s name, Publication date.

Citing a book with two authors looks like this:

Cohn, Rachel, and David Levithan. Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares . Ember Publishing  House, 2011.

For an in-text citation, include the last names of both authors, separated by the word “and,” followed by the page number. These elements should be enclosed in parentheses:

(Cohn and Levithan 55)

The author format also changes when you’re citing a book with three or more authors. In this scenario, include the name of the first author listed in the book, followed by “et al.” to denote that multiple authors contributed to the work. Below is an example of this type of book citation in MLA format:

Last name, First name, et al. Book title. Publisher’s name, Publication date.

Below is an example of a citation for a book authored by three or more individuals:

Heffernan, James, et al. Writing: A College Handbook . 5th ed., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.

An in-text citation of a book with more than three authors is similar to that of a book with two authors. The difference is that instead of including all the authors’ last names, you include only the first author’s last name, followed by “et al.”:

(Morris et al. 37)

How to cite an e-book in MLA format

You might need to cite a digital version of a book that you accessed on your e-reader device. In this situation, you can include supplemental container information for the e-book citation. Below is an example of an e-book citation in MLA style:

Last name, First name of author. E-book title. E-book, Publisher’s name, Publication date. E-reader name.

Note that this citation includes “E-book” before the publisher’s name. Additionally, include the name of the e-reader used to access the source. Below is an example:

Harkness, Deborah. A Discovery of Witches: A Novel . E-book, Penguin Books, 2011.  Kindle.

When citing an e-book in your text, include the author’s last name and the chapter or section number that you’re referencing. For example: 

(Harkness, ch. 3)

How to cite an anthology in MLA format

When citing a source within a larger work, such as an anthology , MLA-style citations include an element for the title of the anthology or collection, referred to as the “container.” Additional supplemental information you can include when citing a work in an anthology includes:

Here is an example of an anthology book citation using MLA format: 

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Romanticism: An Anthology .  Edited by Duncan Wu, 4th ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 228–334.

For an in-text citation of the above poem in an anthology, include the author’s last name followed by the page number:

(Coleridge 331)

How to cite the Bible in MLA format

MLA style has rules for citing scriptures and other religious texts. As the Bible is a commonly cited text in academic writing, we’ve provided specific guidance and examples for it below. 

When you’re referencing a work with no known author, follow the basic elements of a standard book citation in MLA format. This situation might come up when you’re citing classic books or religious works. 

Leave out the author element and begin the citation with the title of the book, making sure to cite the version of the Bible that you’re referencing (e.g., the King James Version). Below is the formula for citing the Bible in MLA style on a works cited (or bibliography ) page:

Bible Title. Version. Edited by First name Last name, Publisher’s name, Publication date.

Here is how you’d cite a specific version of the Bible:

The Bible , American Standard Version. Edited by American Revision Committee, Star Bible  Publishers, 1901.

MLA in-text citations for the Bible

In-text references of different chapters or verses of the Bible are different from those of other books. On the first in-text reference, include the title of the book, the abbreviated chapter name, and the verse number or range. Use a period to separate chapters from verses. After the first mention, you can drop the title from the in-text citation. Below is an example of the first in-text citation for the Bible:

( The Holy Bible: King James Version , Ezek. 1.3)

Here is an example of a subsequent in-text citation for the same text:

(Ezek. 1.3)

book author and title

«Let me solve it for you»

Author of a satirical book whose title consists of five U.S. state abbreviations (and is hidden in this puzzle)

Today's crossword puzzle clue is a quick one: Author of a satirical book whose title consists of five U.S. state abbreviations (and is hidden in this puzzle) . We will try to find the right answer to this particular crossword clue. Here are the possible solutions for "Author of a satirical book whose title consists of five U.S. state abbreviations (and is hidden in this puzzle)" clue. It was last seen in American quick crossword. We have 1 possible answer in our database.

Possible answer:

Did you find this helpful, look for more clues & answers, this may also interest you.

Crossword Clues

We provide the likeliest answers for every crossword clue. Undoubtedly, there may be other solutions for Author of a satirical book whose title consists of five U.S. state abbreviations (and is hidden in this puzzle) . If you discover one of these, please send it to us, and we'll add it to our database of clues and answers, so others can benefit from your research.

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Book Title: EarlyEdU DEI Course Audit Guide

Author: EarlyEdU Alliance

Cover image for EarlyEdU DEI Course Audit Guide

Book Information

EarlyEdU DEI Course Audit Guide by EarlyEdU Alliance is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Early childhood care and education

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Book Title: Biology and the Citizen (2023)

Author: Colleen Jones

Cover image for Biology and the Citizen (2023)

Book Description: In this survey text, directed at those not majoring in biology, we dispel the assumption that a little learning is a dangerous thing. We hope that by skimming the surface of a very deep subject, biology, we may inspire you to drink more deeply and make more informed choices relating to your health, the environment, politics, and the greatest subject that all of us are entwined in, life itself. This text also includes interactive H5P activities that you can use to evaluate your understanding as you go.

Book Information

Book description.

In this survey text, directed at those not majoring in biology, we dispel the assumption that a little learning is a dangerous thing. We hope that by skimming the surface of a very deep subject, biology, we may inspire you to drink more deeply and make more informed choices relating to your health, the environment, politics, and the greatest subject that all of us are entwined in, life itself. This text also includes interactive H5P activities that you can use to evaluate your understanding as you go.

Book Source

This book is a cloned version of Biology and the Citizen by Colleen Jones, published using Pressbooks by USU under a CC BY (Attribution) license. It may differ from the original.

Biology and the Citizen (2023) by Utah State University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Biology, life sciences

© Utah State University

Concepts of Biology— was adapted by Colleen Jones and Elisa Taylor from the BCcampus’ Concepts of Biology- 1st Canadian Edition and OpenStax’s Concepts of Biology. For information about what was changed, refer to the copyright statement. In 2022, this book was created to incorporate the BCcampus version of H5P activities and build new H5P activities for the OpenStax version under a CC BY 4.0 Licence .

In 2022, # interactive H5P activities by Colleen Jones and Elisa Taylor were added to Chapters 11-18.

The CC licence permits you to retain, reuse, copy, redistribute, and revise this book—in whole or in part—for free providing the authors are attributed as follows:

If you redistribute all or part of this book, it is recommended the following statement be added to the copyright page so readers can access the original book at no cost:

Sample APA-style citation:

This textbook can be referenced. In APA citation style, it would appear as follows:

Cover image attribution:

Ebook ISBN:

Print ISBN:


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  1. How to Cite a Book

    To cite a book, you need a brief in-text citation and a corresponding reference listing the author's name, the title, the year of publication, and the publisher. The order and format of information depends on the citation style you're using. The most common styles are APA, MLA, and Chicago style.

  2. Formatting the Author and Title

    Formatting the Author. If no author given, skip the author and start with the title of source. Last Name, First Name. Smith, John. Last Name, First Name, and First Name Last Name. Smith, John, and Mary Fields. Use the name of the association or company as the author. If a work is written and published by an organization, list the organization ...

  3. Book Search: Search for books by title, author, or keyword

    BookBrowse is a selective website featuring some of the best books published in the past 15 years. If you don't find the book or author you're looking for in the first page of results the chances are it's because it is not one that we have featured. More about BookBrowse . Please select a title and/or author, or article in the search options.

  4. Advanced Book Search

    Title: Return books with the title: e.g. Books and Culture: Author: Return books written by: e.g. Hamilton Mabie or "Hamilton Wright Mabie" Publisher: Return books published by: e.g. O'Reilly: Subject: Return books on subject: e.g. Medieval History or "Medieval History" Publication Date:

  5. APA Style

    You must include all the authors up to 20 for individual items. For example, if you are using an article that has 19 authors you must list them all out on your reference page. Use initials for the first and middle names of authors. Use one space between initials. All names are inverted (last name, first initial).

  6. Author Book Lists

    Best First Book by New Author 1,398 books — 3,447 voters YA Novels by Goodreads Authors 1,779 books — 3,139 voters Best Kristen Ashley Books 71 books — 2,197 voters 2010 Debut Authors (Young Adult & Middle Grade Literature) 292 books — 2,032 voters Best Nicholas Sparks Books 22 books — 1,939 voters Favorite Book in the Harry Potter Series

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  8. Books Books has the world's largest selection of new and used titles to suit any reader's tastes. Find best-selling books, new releases, and classics in every category, from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird to the latest by Stephen King or the next installment in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid children's book series. Whatever you are looking for: popular fiction, cookbooks, mystery ...

  9. List of book titles taken from literature

    Many authors will use quotations from literature as the title for their works. This may be done as a conscious allusion to the themes of the older work or simply because the phrase seems memorable. The following is a partial list of book titles taken from literature. It does not include phrases altered for parody.

  10. Italics and Underlining: Titles of Works

    If you have two titles in one sentence (for example, a book title and a chapter title), the title of the larger work should be italicized, and the smaller work should be in quotation marks. See the example below: In Little Women, Beth March dies in Chapter 40, "The Valley of the Shadow.".

  11. How To Write Book Titles The Proper Way: A Complete Guide For Writers

    Coming up with a good title for your book is a challenging yet essential marketing decision. The right title can make your target audience choose your new book off of the shelf instead of another writer's work. Your book cover and your book title are quite possibly the most important marketing decisions you will make.

  12. 50 Famous Book Titles Taken From Literature

    Having a title which declares I'm taken from a famous work of literature, of course. Shakespeare and the Bible are, unsurprisingly, the greatest works of titular inspiration, but here are 50 famous book titles whose authors drew on a wide range of predecessors to name them.

  13. Book Title Ideas: Choosing Your Own & Generators to Use

    Here's a list of the best book title generators: Nonfiction - Title Generator - Check out this awesome Nonfiction Book Title Generator Tool from! Fantasy - Fantasy Novel Title Generator. Fiction - Create Your Own Story Title Generator. Science Fiction - Pulp Sci-Fi Title-O-Tron.

  14. How to Pick a Strong Book Title

    Goal #1 Evoke Curiosity. Your title should make the reader curious about your book. Online, you want the reader to click on the cover. At a physical bookstore, your title should compel them to pull it off the shelf. You want your readers to say, "I know something about that, but I want to know more.".

  15. How to Title a Book: 13 Steps to Choosing a Title That Sells

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  16. How to Cite a Book in APA Style

    The in-text citation for a book includes the author's last name, the year, and (if relevant) a page number. In the reference list, start with the author's last name and initials, followed by the year. The book title is written in sentence case (only capitalize the first word and any proper nouns ).

  17. MLA Works Cited Page: Books

    Works may include an essay in an edited collection or anthology, or a chapter of a book. The basic form is for this sort of citation is as follows: Last name, First name. "Title of Essay." Title of Collection, edited by Editor's Name (s), Publisher, Year, Page range of entry. Some examples: Harris, Muriel.

  18. How to Choose a Bestselling Book Title for Fiction or Nonfiction

    Here's the basic process we go through when choosing a book title. 1. Do Book Market Research. Find the top comparable book titles in your market. Create a list of their book titles and subtitles, and take careful note of: The words and phrases they use in their book titles and subtitles; The words and phrases used in their book descriptions

  19. How To Write The Perfect Book Title [Examples Included]

    Specific Steps To Find The Perfect Book Title Step 1: Get Clarity On Your Book Goals Step 2: Brainstorm Several Potential Titles Step 3: Make Sure This Title Is Not Already Popular Step 4: Pick Your Favorites & Test Them Test #1: Imagine People Saying The Title Test #2: See What People Click On Does Your Book Need A Subtitle?

  20. Spend less. Smile more

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  21. About the Author Examples (That You'll Actually Want to Read)

    " Veronica Roth is the New York Times bestselling author of Divergent, the first book in a trilogy that she began writing while still a college student. Now a full-time writer, Ms. Roth and her husband call the Chicago area home. You can visit her online at or on Twitter (@VeronicaRoth). "

  22. Jessica Soukup (she/her)

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  24. Book/ebook references

    Book/Ebook References. Use the same formats for both print books and ebooks. For ebooks, the format, platform, or device (e.g., Kindle) is not included in the reference. This page contains reference examples for books, including the following: Whole authored book. Whole edited book. Republished book, with editor.

  25. How to Cite a Book in MLA Format, with Examples

    A standard book citation in MLA format for a text with a single author looks like this: Last name, First name of author. Book title. Place of publication, Publisher's name, publication date. An example of a standard book citation in MLA format looks like this: Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York, Harcourt, 1992.

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    Author of a satirical book whose title consists of five U.S. state abbreviations (and is hidden in this puzzle) Today's crossword puzzle clue is a quick one: Author of a satirical book whose title consists of five U.S. state abbreviations (and is hidden in this puzzle).We will try to find the right answer to this particular crossword clue.

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  28. Biology and the Citizen (2023)

    Book Title: Biology and the Citizen (2023) Author: Colleen Jones. Book Description: In this survey text, directed at those not majoring in biology, we dispel the assumption that a little learning is a dangerous thing. We hope that by skimming the surface of a very deep subject, biology, we may inspire you to drink more deeply and make more ...