Sometimes when I’m lost for an idea, I check Google Trends to see what topics are on people’s minds. Today, I noticed under “Books”, the number one search was The Foreigner.  The odd thing about Google Trends, is it doesn’t really expand on what also might have been in the search field, like by a particular author or genre.  In this case, I think the search term was meant for the new Jackie Chan movie hitting theaters soon.  But there are also a handful of popular books with the same title. 

The Foreigner

That got me thinking about titles of various art forms, specifically books, since I’m an emerging author and all.  Titles are almost more important than the work within the pages, because if you have a lousy title, no one is going to pick up your book.  If the title is too common or familiar, it may confuse your work with others, even pigeonhole you into a genre unintentionally.  The last thing you want to do is send people away from your work!  It’s all about bringing them into the fold.


For example, it seems like every book out these days in the thriller or mystery genre, has the word “Girl” in it.  It started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which wasn’t even its original name.  With the popularity and success of that series, other titles came along.  A cursory glance at Amazon’s top reviewed books, I found no less than five with Girl in the title:  Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Lilac Girls, The Good Girl, The Girl who was Taken

Gone Girl book cover

In fact if you go to GoodReads and search for the word “Girl”, you’ll get over 700 hits!  I’m no data analyst, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  Especially, if you are trying to get noticed as a new artist. I’m sure some marketing genius will spout figures of how having that one word in your title guarantees more visibility or some other marketing magic, yet I caution you to follow what is popular and easy. 


Spend some time going through your manuscript.  Find common words in your summaries, or think about the overall theme.  A title should convey a small clue as to what your work is about without revealing too little or too much.  Use Google or Amazon to search for titles that might already exist with the one you have in mind.  You can always play around with adding some active nouns or more precise words.  Hit the thesaurus too!  It’s incredibly handy for keeping repetitive words at bay.  You could even be clever and try and find a title that has more than one meaning.

I realize many authors leave naming up to negotiations with their agent and/or publisher, especially if they are in some way contributing to marketing costs.  I also realize there are enough books in circulation that it may be nearly impossible to develop a title that is completely unique.  However, I think it lies in everyone’s best interest if popularity is replaced by ingenuity as much as possible.


What are your thoughts?  Know any other books with similar names or something like the “Girl” phenomenom?  Leave a comment below and let’s continue the discussion.

  — KT


Finding the Right Title for Your Novel
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