Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Do You Name Your Rose? by Sandra Ardoin

Has your attention been snagged by a book based solely on its title? Have you skimmed past books with titles you found blasé?

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

For Shakespeare’s Juliet that might make sense. But for a book title? Not so much. We don’t want to write sweet-smelling books and give them stinky titles.

Hardworking writers wrestle story ideas to the ground to find the one best deserving of our writing time and efforts. We get to know our characters—their goals, motivations, strengths and weaknesses. We write and rewrite and rewrite some more. Shouldn’t we put that same work into giving our books titles a reader can’t skim past?

So how do you go about catching the eye of the person with the power to say “yea” or “nay” to your submission or published book? Here are a few things to think about as you ponder ideas:

Dig deep and find something special. Maybe your setting or a character’s interest/hobby provides immediate interest to like-minded people. Work it into the title. (How many “cat” books have you seen?) Maybe you want to highlight the tone/emotion of the book. Give it something emotionally evocative. Maybe your title is a metaphor. I was asked in this interview why I chose A Reluctant Melody for the title of my latest release. Frankly, it seemed a natural match for the musically-inclined heroine’s feeling about reuniting with the hero years after he abandoned her.

Make it bold. You’ve studied the rules about passive writing and know you must grab the reader with specific nouns and active verbs. Do the same with your title.

Don’t shortchange your story. I’ve had titles elude me even after the book is written. In the latter case, it can be tempting to give up and slap any old title on a manuscript so we can get it off to an agent or publisher. After all, they’ll change it anyway, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Don’t rush the process and use the first title idea that comes to you. Take the time to brainstorm various possibilities and let them percolate for while. Find the one that will make an editor say, “Perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing!”

Avoid “A” and “The.” I’m speaking from personal experience. I titled my books A Reluctant Melody and The Yuletide Angel. If I were to do it again, I would take those words off. Readers do. The books still come up in a search, but I always feel inclined to say, “It’s A…” or “It’s The…”

Go for unique. You’ve come up with some ideas. Now, do an online search for other books by the same names. While you don’t want something so unique a reader can’t remember it, don’t make them scroll through a page of same-titled books on Amazon, looking for the one written by you. This goes along with the next point.

Be careful. Another reason to do an online search is to protect yourself from titling your book the same as something you have no desire to be associated with. Don’t shock your sweet-romance, Christian readers by sending them to a book page for an erotica title or a page for a song/album you find offensive. Don’t let another product tarnish your reputation in a reader’s eyes.

Of course, this is not a complete list of suggestions. I know you have more. So share your ideas for coming up with that perfect book title.



Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.


  1. Good morning Sandy. I'm so glad you are talking about titles, there doesn't seem to be many posts on this subject.

    I love coming up with titles for my stories. Sometimes the title is the first thing I have. Unfortunately, I'm no help to others when it comes to naming their books.

    Great suggestion about not using A or The. I'd never thought about that. I do have s novella that has given me fits titling. My working title has The as the first word. I'm going to go back to the drawing board and try renaming it.

    1. Thanks, Terri! Those titles can really stump us sometimes, can't they? I have a three-book series with individual, meaningful titles I love, but can't come up with a series title for anything.

      I hope you find the perfect fit for your novella!

  2. Great post, Sandy. Thanks for the reminder about the, "The." Just like Terri, my working title starts that way, too. I think I'll be able to drop it, though.

    You always teach me something. I look forward to your posts!

    1. That suggestion is simply that...a suggestion based on personal experience and weariness over feeling as if I have to correct it. :) But I've noticed a number of published titles where I probably would have used "A" or "The," but they work just as well (probably better) on their own.

      That said, my current project has "A" at the beginning of the title, which may work best in this case.

  3. Sandra, I enjoyed your interview, and I like the title A Reluctant Melody. My first book, Carolina in the Morning, seemed natural as the setting was in Charleston, and it always stuck. My latest book, This Side of Heaven, was a title I picked up when proofing a critique partners work and it sounded so good. I always try to find a place in my story where it can be used too. This is a good subject and I'm glad you shared your ideas. Blessings, Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. Anita Mae had some great questions.

      I like Carolina in the Morning. It reminds me of a song for some reason and says "calm and peaceful" like a vacation morning. (Maybe that's because I just spent vacation days in Charleston!) :)

      Don't you like reading a book and finding that moment where the title makes total sense? Either it's called out in the writing or you come to a place in the story where it's "Aha! I get it!" Such fun!

  4. Awesome post, Sandra! I really struggle with titles, so I need all the tips I can get!

    1. Thank you, Dawn. It's crazy how some pop up before the story idea and others hide long after it's written.


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!