BE MY GUEST: How To Choose An Apt Book Title By Karen Lenfestey

I will say this is an excellent article contributed by a successful author, who knows what she is talking about. If you want to be part of the writing industry, this information is a must for you especially if you are an author or want to be one. Learn from the expert as joining my blog today is an extremely talented author Karen Lenfestey (Author of "A Sister’s Promise" and "What Happiness Looks Like"), talking about the secret behind intriguing titles and how you can create one. Over to you, Karen!

Guest Post:
How to choose an apt book title 
By Karen Lenfestey 

“What’s the title of your novel?” the writing instructor asked. Proud of mine, I volunteered, “Small Town Colors.” I thought it was brilliant because my story included diverse cultures in a small, Midwestern town. On the cover, I pictured trees in the midst of their autumnal color change. So clever, I thought. The instructor emitted some sort of disapproving, unimpressed grunt. Then called on her next victim.

I went home and asked myself, “What is my book really about?” I made a list of words that described my novel: marriage, sisters, motherhood, childlessness, guilt, jealousy, promises, lupus, and secrets. As it turned out, diverse cultures had little to do with the story I’d actually written.

Who is my audience? Women who read for fun, women who are considering motherhood or are mothers, women who want to read about relationships and marriage.

What words speak to that audience? Along with the artwork on the cover, titles signal to the reader if a book is in their preferred genre. The word “sister” immediately designates my book as geared toward women. So many of us either have sisters or wish we had sisters. Ultimately, my story is about a sister’s promise and a wife’s promise. My protagonist, Kate, must break one. I decided on the title "A Sister’s Promise".

I have to admit, people have mixed reactions to the title of my second novel, "What Happiness Looks Like". It’s about how our lives don’t always turn out the way we envisioned. I heard a woman in a movie accused of being miserable say, “This is what happiness looks like.” I immediately thought it sounded like the title of a novel.

How many other books have that same title? Often when I think I’ve created the ultimate book title, I discover it’s not so original after all. For example, I thought “Forgotten Dreams” would be a great title. Well, so did a lot of other writers. Go to amazon.com and do a search for your book title. If several books already have that title, I suggest you alter it. You want your title to come up first when someone searches for it.

Is my title too long and complicated? When I tell friends and fans about my book, I don’t want them to say “Spell that for me” like they do when I tell them my last name is Lenfestey. I want my title to be memorable but simple. Recently I pulled up the titles of the New York Times bestselling hard covers for one week in February 2012. Most of them are fairly short and sweet. Maybe we can learn something from them: Home Front, Private #1 Suspect, Taken, Defending Jacob, and Death comes to Pemberly. Now look at the books on your shelf or on your e-reader. Study the titles and think about which ones you picked up on your own without a recommendation. Ask yourself what word(s) in the title intrigued you.

What if I can’t decide? Come up with a few possible titles and poll people through FaceBook, Twitter or your website. Ask those in your critique group or anyone familiar with your work. Everyone has an opinion and we love to be asked!

Basically, if your title works, readers will pick up your book rather than emitting some sort of disapproving, unimpressed grunt like my writing instructor did. (Although her lack of enthusiasm is what pushed me to work harder, so I’m thankful for that). Now that you’ve had my crash course in titles, see if you can match the book title from some of my favorite authors to its genre below:

Name that Book Quiz:

The Detroit Electric Scheme--by D.E. Johnson non-fiction

Pink Champagne--by Nicole Green urban fantasy

Declutter Your Diet--by Tanya Isch Caylor thriller

Prophecy Denied--by ML Rigdon historical fiction

Wolf’s Bane--by Judy Post romance

The Perfect Crime--by Les Edgerton fantasy

A Fatal Waltz--by Tasha Alexander mystery

Visit www.karensnovels.weebly.com to check your answers or to read the opening chapters of "A Sister’s Promise" or "What Happiness Looks Like".

About the Author:
Karen Lenfestey, a Midwest Writer’s Fellowship winner, writes women’s fiction with characters you care about. "A Sister's Promise" is currently #4 in Amazon's drama category and has sold over 26,000 copies. "What Happiness Looks Like" was recently released and is #11 today in Amazon's drama category. Her books are available as e-books and in paperback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

About her Books:

A Sister’s Promise:

Kate Hopper can list a million reasons why she doesn’t have kids. No, more like reasons why she shouldn’t have kids: genetics, a demanding career, and ultimately, the fear that she wasn’t cut out to be June Cleaver, Carol Brady or Claire Huxtable. TV moms always make it look so easy, but Kate knows better. When Kate’s sister faces death, Kate is willing to say anything to save her sister’s life—even promising to have a baby. Kate decides to keep her rash words a secret from her husband until she can figure out whether she really wants to be a mother. Especially since they agreed their marriage would remain childless. A sister’s promise and a wife’s promise: Kate must break one. Should she risk everything she has for the unknown?

To purchase this book, click here.

What Happiness Looks Like:

Joely Shupe had a vision of what her thirties would look like: she’d be the mother of two, finger painting with her kids during the day and cooking dinner for her loving husband at night. Instead she’s a single mother struggling to provide for her young daughter. To make matters worse, her ex-fiancĂ©, Jake, shows up--unemployed and reeling from a personal tragedy. He claims he’s ready to parent the daughter he abandoned five years ago. Joely is more interested in Dalton, a devoted father to his own son, who offers to take care of her the way no man ever has. Should Joely risk her daughter bonding with someone new or with the man who broke her heart? One thing is for sure: this is not the life Joely expected. Is it time to adjust her idea of what happiness looks like?

To purchase this book, click here.

How do you choose the titles of your books? Do you find it difficult to go for that perfect title? Did you find this article informative? Share your feedback in the comments section below.


  1. Great post! Titles are the hardest thing!!

  2. I agree--titles are hard work. You always manage to come up with great ones, though, Karen!

  3. Nice post on how to pick that great title! It's always a challenge.

  4. that was a frank n helpful article...... sort of deja vu as I went thru similar times when my book of poems was to b published....., after a lot of trial n errors of opinion I decided on the poem that summarised d theme most close to my heart..... so chose d title 'Frozen Smoulders'....thanx for guiding d amateurs like me.......


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