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Your romance novel’s title is pretty important. In fact, it’s marketing copy. It’s how readers will search for your book online, ask for it in the bookstore, and recommend it to their friends. And it’s one piece of your book’s store page that readers will use to decide if your book is for them.
So how do you write a romance book title that sells? Over the years, I’ve learned of several places to start when it comes to naming a fiction story. Here are ten tips to keep in mind while brainstorming your romance novel title.
1. Get inspired by best-selling titles.
The first thing I do when naming anything—a company, a blog post, a story, etc.—is research what titles are working for other people. When it comes to romance books, you want to see what titles are selling (and therefore getting into the hands of readers).
Check out the Amazon Kindle Top 100 lists for romance and its subgenres, and similar lists on other sites like Kobo and Barnes & Noble. You can also go to the romance section at your local bookstore and peek at the spines.
Although it’s not possible to copyright a title, I am not recommending that you copy best-selling titles word for word. Aside from the fact that this just isn’t a good look, it’s better for you if your title is distinct so that it comes up in search results when potential buyers look for it.
Instead, look at selling titles’ structures and common characteristics and use those as a guide for coming up with your own romance title ideas.
2. Incorporate irony.
Irony is a handy device for piquing readers’ interests with unexpected ideas. Many successful book and movie titles pair words with opposite meanings or marry concepts that don’t usually go together. These titles work because they can lead readers to question how or why these opposing ideas will blend in the story. Some examples of ironic movie titles include The Virgin Suicides (based on the book by Jeffrey Eugenides), Eyes Wide Shut, and Legally Blonde.
Below are a few examples of ironic romance novel titles currently for sale on Amazon:
3. Include genre and/or subgenre words.
If you peruse the lists from tip 1, you’ll notice that certain words appear in many different titles. Genres and subgenres have these common words that will alert readers that these books are for them (or not for them). Though it’s not required that you include genre words in your title, it’s something to consider, especially if you write for the audience of a specific subgenre.
Words that often appear in romance titles include love, heart, fall/falling, and kiss.
Some examples of romance subgenre words include alpha, shifter, and wolf for paranormal romance; rake, earl, and heiress for historical romance; cruel, captured/captive, and ruthless for dark romance; alien and warrior for sci-fi romance; and king/kingdom, dragon, and mate for fantasy romance. There are many more words like these for the plethora of romance subgenres out there.
The below titles employ genre and/or subgenre words:
4. Keep it short and/or easy to spell.
Lately I’ve noticed a number of long, complicated titles on my local bookstore shelves, so some may disagree with this tip. Nevertheless, it remains true that short and easy-to-spell titles are the most convenient for readers to search for and remember.
Examples include the following:
5. Allude to tropes.
As I discuss in my book M/M Romance Tropes, tropes are a fantastic tool for signifying to readers whether your book is for them. Many successful titles reference the main trope of a story by using words associated with the trope or that suggest that content.
Examples include the following:
6. Consider a pun or play on words.
Romance titles in particular frequently feature puns and plays on words (I like to think it’s because the romance genre prioritizes joy in a way others do not).
For this reason, one way to brainstorm a title for your romance book is to use an idiom dictionary or slang dictionary to find phrases you like or that relate to your story in some way and then give them a twist, such as by modifying one of the words or adding a new word.
Here are a few examples of romance titles that use plays on words:
7. Use action words or descriptors.
If you’re at a loss for what words to include in your romance book title, consider verbs and adjectives. A book title has only a few words to make a big impression, and strong action words and evocative descriptors will make it more likely for your title to stick in readers’ minds.
Think about your book’s plot and characters. What words describe your hero? Your heroine? What actions do the characters take in the story?
Some titles that use strong verbs and adjectives are below:
8. Reference your hero and/or heroine.
Aside from describing your characters, as I mentioned in the last tip, you can reference your characters in your romance novel’s title by including characteristics, personality traits, professional titles, occupations, and more. These words will often be nouns that could stand in for your character. They can also signify certain tropes and subgenres, since many of these categories have to do with the types of characters that feature in the romance.
The below titles refer to their main characters in different ways:
9. Allude to your story’s hook or central idea.
The goal of many book titles is to encapsulate the story’s hook, theme, or central idea. At its core, what is your book really about? What’s the main thing that happens in your story? What kind of love and chemistry exists between your hero and heroine? What are your characters fighting against so that their love story can prevail? Come up with some words and phrases to answer these questions; one of them could be your book’s best title.
The below titles embody essential ideas of their stories:
10. Mention your book’s setting.
I could list about a million book and movie titles that simply name the story’s setting or include it in the title. This could refer to a macro setting like a country, state, or city, or it could refer to a micro setting like a coffee shop, a bookstore, a school, or a park. Some well-known examples are The Haunting of Hill House, The Wolf of Wall Street, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
Using your book’s setting in its title is appropriate when the story has a strong sense of place or when the plot or cast of characters surrounds a specific setting. Is naming your book after its setting or referring to the setting in some way (see tips 8 and 9) fitting for your romance novel?
The following romance titles incorporate setting:
Bonus Tip: Consider a subtitle.
If you browse the Amazon Kindle Top 100 for romance and its subgenres, you’ll notice many books have subtitles. Usually these subtitles mention specific tropes or genres. This is an additional place to reveal information about your story to e-book buyers and also to include keywords about your romance book.
What are some of your favorite romance titles? Have you noticed any trends I’ve missed?