What's In A Name?

Why is it that thinking up a title for your book is so hard?

This is something I have been thinking about this week, as I get ready to start sending out my work to agents and publishers.

It seems to me from talking to people on Twitter this week that there are a few ways of thinking about it.  There are those who say that titles are vitally important, even at this pre-published stage, and that putting the best possible title on your work will give it a great first impression.  But there are also others who say that titles, like covers, matter very little at this stage of the book progress, as they will be changed as part of the publication process anyway.  The trouble is that you have to get a publisher first.

Perhaps the truth of the matter lies somewhere in between these two, or perhaps it even depends, with factors such as the genre of your work, the publishing house you are working with, and what's already on the market all coming in to play.

At the moment, my work is called Between the Sleepers.  It's a title that I chose from a whole bunch of options a few years back, based on the comments that I got on a Facebook post I shared with friends.  Prior to that, the story began its life titled The Compound, which was also the title of an album by a band called Search/ Rescue, whose work I had been listening to when I first planned the book.  (I say planned-- it was a very loose plan as I am what's called a 'pantser' in writing circles.  The book of today bears no resemblance to that early plan.) That was never really a good title for the book, though it did speak to one of the themes that I was trying to build-- that not all prisons have bars.

Other titles I toyed with included The Boy on the Bicycle which I believe is the title of a novel published early last year, and Winston's Way.  But it was Between the Sleepers which best captured the wistful longing that I was going for, and seemed to fit in with other titles of books in my genre which I loved. Some of the best titles I have come across-- ones I wish I had come up with myself-- include The Light Between Oceans and We That Are Left.

I get mixed reactions to my title-- people either love it or they don't quite get it. Earlier this week, a beta reader suggested I try something like The Distance Between Us which is lovely, but not as unique as I had hoped.  But I think one of the things that is hardest to grapple with is the fact that I like my title, and I am hoping to either find a way to keep it, or to come up with something that I love even more.

I will continue to give it some thought in the time leading up to when I hit send...


  1. I usually go through several titles for short stories as well as novels, but usually don't find the right one until weeks after I've finished. It's hard work. I love the title, "The Light Between Oceans" as well. One I'd wish I'd thought of is: "All the Light we Cannot See."


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