Is naming your book harder than naming your first child?

Your book name has to be totally unique. And competition feels stiff…

Chicken Soup for the Soul. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. Who doesn’t want to read those books?

You wonder, “How can I find a name like a bestseller? What’s the secret formula?”

You want your book title to stand out against the plethora of non-fiction titles.

But you’re wracking your brain to find a clever name. Why are all the best names taken?

You feel pressured to be creative with your title. Nothing is coming to you. Frustration sets in. Another break isn’t going to help.

Finding a magnetic book title isn’t magic. Even bestselling authors try out different titles before settling on the final one.

Follow these steps to take the headache out of your name search.

Step 1: List your favorite titles

Take a look at what works for your genre. Head over to Amazon and find the genre for your book. Then make a list of a book titles in your genre that you like.

For example, if you’re writing a book on self-esteem, look at titles under the Self Help or Health categories. Which titles are you attracted to? Write them down. What do you like about the titles?

Step 2: Brainstorm words and phrases

A good way to start generating book titles is to brainstorm words related to your book.

Pull out a sheet of paper and write down lists of nouns, adjectives, and verbs. You might also jot down phrases or key expressions from your book.

Consider words you want your reader to think, feel, or do after reading your book. Pull words from your chapter titles. Use a Thesaurus to find variations.

Aim for lists of 25 words or more.

Step 3: Generate possible titles

Use your lists from step 2 to generate possible titles for your book. Get creative and write down as many titles as you can think of. To help, apply a formula, let the book name itself, use a play on words, or try a story.

Apply a formula

Here are six popular book title formulas. You might notice other formulas in your list of favorite titles from Amazon. Use whatever works.

One word formula

Think of a word that sums up or relates to the content of your book. One-word titles are easy to remember. Combine your one-word title with a subtitle to spell out the book’s benefit.

Example: Confidence

(Subtitle: Build Unbreakable, Unstoppable, Powerful Confidence in all Areas of Your Life)

Noun-adjective formula

Choose a noun from your list and combine it with different adjectives.

Example: (The) Confidence Gap

(Subtitle: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt)

Note: You can also try verb-adverb, verb-noun and other word combinations.

How to formula

The How to formula is popular for non-fiction books because it promises the steps to achieve a desired goal.

Example: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Note: Subtitles often use the How to formula

The List (or number) formula

Titles that include numbers are known to attract attention.

Example: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The x of y formula

Substitute nouns from your list into the x of y formula.

Example: The Gifts of Imperfection
(Subtitle: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are)

Let your book name itself

Sometimes the perfect title for a book is contained within the book’s text. Check your book for an expression, line, or phrase that stands out.

Use a play on words

A play on words is a comedic device which can work well for titles of books with a lighter or humorous tone.

Example: The 7 ½ Habits of Highly Humorous People

Try a story, metaphor, or fable

Some book titles are based on a story, metaphor, or fable that connects to the topic of the book.

Example: Chicken Soup for the Soul

Step 4: Select the candidates

Once you’ve generated a list of titles, narrow your list to your top 3 to 5 candidates.

Answer the following questions to decide which titles are keepers:

  • Does the title indicate who the book is for?
  • Does the title have a clear benefit for the reader?
  • Does the tone of the title match the tone of the book?
  • Is the subject of the book clear?
  • Does the title contain emotional or sensory words?
  • Is the title short, easy to understand, and memorable?
  • Is the title available? (Do a Google search to make sure it’s not already taken.)
  • Does the title contain a keyword your potential readers might use in a search?

Step 5: Get feedback and select a winner

Before you can choose a winner from your candidate list, get some feedback. You might send out your list to members of your target audience to have them rank your titles. You might also ask trusted advisors for input. Try reading your titles to gauge their reactions. You’re not trying to come up with new ideas at this point.

Once you have feedback, a clear winner might present itself. Several titles might tie for popularity. Or no clear winner may present itself. You get to decide on your book’s title. Hooray.

Maybe you named your first child after a grandparent.

The name isn’t original or trendy.

But the name suits your child, and you’ve honored a beloved family member.

You don’t have to be uber creative to find a name you love for your book.

Borrow the formula from book titles you love. Figure out what makes the titles work.

Change the formula to fit your book’s topic. Play with a few ideas. Have fun.

Test out your titles. Ultimately, the decision is yours. And unlike a child, you can always rename your book if your title isn’t magnetic.