For me, choosing a book title is one of the hardest parts of the writing process. And by hardest, I mean it makes me want to jump out my office window into oncoming traffic. The problem, generally, isn’t generating ideas. Usually, the ideas are the easy part. It’s deciding which are the good ideas. And which is the best title. Because, truly, how do you know? And what the hell does “best” mean anyway?
Should a title be short and catchy? Long and poetic? Metaphorical? Stunningly direct? Common and memorable? Abstract and unforgettable? A little bit of everything.
You see where I’m going with this. Conventional wisdom would have us believe that shorter is better. And I don’t necessarily disagree. After all, you want to have a book title that’s easy to grasp, remember, share, and explain. And yet, from where I’m sitting right this very moment, long titles abound. Here’s a selection of longer titles I can see on my bookshelves just from my desk chair:
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
- Me Talk Pretty One Day
- Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club
- A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Of course, I can see plenty of, and probably more, pithy and short titles as well. To boot:
I’m preoccupied by book titles right now because I’m trying to settle on the title for my forthcoming debut novel, which comes out summer, 2022 on Deep Hearts YA. To avoid confusion, I’m not going to share the working title here, but suffice to say, it’s on the long side. I’ve changed it many times, but keep going back to the original. Because I like it. And because it fits nicely with the book’s feel, content, and audience. But I can’t shake the nagging, and likely ill-founded, fear that’s it’s too long. Or something.
Ultimately, it probably matters less than I think it does. I doubt I would like The Great Gatsby or Beloved any less if they were called something else. Over time, we reimagine titles. We wrap them around the book as we imagine it to be. As we want it to be. If we love a book, chances are the title feels just right to us. If we hate a book, then it’s probably the opposite.
For the moment, I’ll keep making lists and checking them a thousand times. When the title is set, or when I likely give up and stick with my original title, I promise you’ll be the first to know.